We’re big believers in being transparent. We advocate almost radical transparency. Often, we get pushback from clients. For example, last week a workshop participant told us, “We can’t let our customers know that we screwed up. They’d lose confidence in us.”
It’s hard to argue the point in the abstract, but last weekend I had an experience that helped me understand how transparency improves the customer experience and loyalty.
I’ve had my MacBook Pro for over two years now, and it’s a workhorse. It’s my constant companion, with close to 200,000 frequent flier miles. A couple of months ago, the Apple Store replaced the upper case for me (thanks, AppleCare!), but since then, the screws holding the case together have been falling out. When there were only two screws left, I thought I better take it back to the Genius Bar.
The Genius looked at it quickly, and then said something that might have gotten him fired at a less enlightened business. “When that happens, it usually means we used the wrong screws. Let me get the right ones in for you right away.”
As he took my computer away for its quick fix, I reflected on how that highly transparent comment felt. It’s true; I did have a negative feeling:
- Disappointment: “They used the wrong screws and wasted my time having to come back here. Some Geniuses.”
But, positive feelings quickly prevailed:
- Relief: “Good! They know exactly what went wrong.”
- Confidence: “Since they have an accurate diagnosis, they can fix it right the first time.”
- Trust: “Wow, they didn’t try to hide their mistake. They’re high-integrity and trustworthy. I like doing business with people like that.”
I think my reaction is typical. When something goes wrong, human nature is to look for someone to blame. (Those of you who have been through our coaching workshop may remember a great exercise that brings this home.) Your customers are going to blame your company for problems no matter what you say or do.
So, if your customers are inevitably a little disappointed in you, don’t you want to take the opportunity to bring relief, confidence, and trust, too? Try transparency. It worked for Apple; it can work for you, too.