Be Transparent

One of the ways to leverage technology quite easily and inexpensively for significant impact and customer value is transparency.

Wikipedia, in part, defines transparency as, “Operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed.”

Transparency in business is a powerful thing. It creates an environment of trust and collaboration, both internally and externally. Transparency facilitates engagement and communication. Maybe most importantly it fosters customer loyalty.

Let’s first think about transparency independent of technology. An open kitchen at a restaurant is transparency. Who doesn’t feel better about their meal when the folks preparing it have nothing to hide and do it right in front of you?

Restaurants have taken transparency to a new level and found a way to monetize it. Chefs’ tables are all the rage. You get the privilege of dining in the kitchen area, where you can see your meal being prepared, and the restaurant charges you a premium for the privilege.

When you get a haircut or styling and the stylist sits you front of the mirror, the mirror isn’t for the stylist’s benefit. It is for your benefit, so you can see what is happening and you can have confidence in the work being performed before it is completed.

So how can you leverage technology to help with transparency in your business?

Referencing the Wikipedia definition of transparency, the more you can make visible what you do for a customer and how you do it, the more valuable you will be to the customer. For most of us, this is about managing and communicating the information we have in common with a customer. When thought of with this perspective, information technology, or IT, really is all about transparency.

Some of the ways you can leverage technology for transparency are:

Service/Project/Delivery Alignment
Regardless of whether you are a service or product-centric company, you should never be out of alignment with customers on your execution. This can be as simple as email notifications of order and shipping statuses or as robust as complete project visibility.

Even complete project visibility doesn’t have to be complicated. We, and many of our partners, use web applications, like Basecamp, to provide project transparency with our clients. We also use an application called Trello that provides a higher level project dashboard for internal and external visibility.

You should think about how applications like these can help you communicate better with your customers and never be of out alignment when you are working with them.

App Push Notifications
If you have a mobile app and haven’t incorporated push notifications, you are missing an opportunity to communicate with customers that have entrusted you enough to download and use your app. App push notifications provide an easy and quick way for you to add value to your customers, and for them to be engaged with you and your app.

A Portal
Providing your customers with a space of their own within your world is a powerful communication tool and loyalty strategy. A portal in this context is an area of your site or otherwise a place on the web you are providing to customers, partners, and other key stakeholders to communicate with them.

Portals often include some of the project collaboration referenced above, but they also include deeper and richer functionality such as document libraries and help/support communication channels, such as chat and online learning. Portals are often custom development projects, as portals are tuned to your −and your stakeholders’− specific needs.

Be open and be transparent with what you do and how you do it. You and your customers will benefit.