Transparency is very often talked about in the context of social media but rarely is it present in brand activity and community management.
So what is the right level of transparency? That has been the big question lately. In the beginning of social, brands ignored the bad chatter and unwanted questions. Now that is not acceptable. There are too many ways for that message to be found. You all have been there or, at least, seen it happen.
Take a look at a service-industry brand’s Twitter feed. It is nauseating how many times they say “sorry.” But that doesn’t correct the problem or make the consumer feel better.
True transparency is telling them exactly what happened and then working towards a solution that works for both sides. Rarely will you get perfection but most every time you will get respect. Respect of the consumer as a person is the critical concept here. The consumer understands that perfection is not an option. They want to be heard and feel they are important enough to engage in conversation. Also, consider the idea that if one person has this problem odds are that hundreds of others have too. You addressing it with them shows the others you are a responsive and “human” brand. This, over time, creates advocates that will come to your defense in the social world.
Brands too often act as if they are perfect. We know this is never the case. They are assembled with humans and in that humans trying to impress their boss and make everything seem perfect. So for them to suggest guilt or fault is tough.
There are brands who use transparency as a core value. One of them is Zappos.com. The concept comes easy to them. Company culture facilitates honesty and human relationships. They are a customer-service brand that happens to sell shoes and apparel. If you are ever in Downtown Las Vegas you need to take the cultural tour. I say it’s worth planning a trip specifically for it if you are a manager of people or a brand.
At the end of my rant I am not suggesting we can all be 100% transparent right now. There are business situations where this will not be possible. However, small steps now can lead to that potential catastrophe being dealt with in a different way a year or 2 from now. And those small steps without a doubt will build customer loyalty now.