Corporate Transparency

I wanted to talk about another subject related to blogging today, but will save that for another time. Too much about blogs lately, so I’m going to talk about corporate transparency. I will mention blogs, but the blogosphere will not be the main subject.

Mainly due to a Wired Magazine article and a lot of follow up blogs posts, corporate transparency has been discussed a lot lately. Many, many organizations are not transparent. Very few are transparent and even the ones that seem transparent are usually not telling you much.

There is a happy medium between too transparent and just transparent enough. A few organizations can do it and have done it fairly well. Too transparent is bad because you may reveal operating or company secrets; aggravate employees, customers, partners, and/or competitors; or something of the sort. Bigger companies risk upsetting shareholders. Companies of all sizes may be concerned about law suits.

Being too “not transparent” (I’m not sure if the word opaque works) makes your company seem secretive and people don’t have an idea about what’s going on. Customers and employees are curious about what your company is going through. They want to be in the loop and have an idea about what’s going on behind the scenes.

Then, there are some companies that are pretty transparent internally, but not very transparent externally. I’ve worked with a couple of these companies and it works out fine for the employees, but the customers don’t know what’s going on. If you are a customer and ask what’s going on, they will usually tell you, but they certainly don’t volunteer much information.

So, how do you find the happy medium? Very carefully. Here are my suggestions:

  • Start a blog. Start a company blog and have different staff members post to it. Have someone that has a legal understanding (i. e. a business side of the house executive) look at posts for the first couple of weeks, but don’t let legal intervene beyond that. Do not let PR firms or employees read posts in advance.
  • Be honest and complete on your blog. Talk about what’s happening at your company, but do it fully. If you want to talk about the current state of your customer service, don’t only tell a part of a story. If you want to talk about something, talk about in full and honestly.
  • Publish a newsletter. Publish a newsletter and in your newsletter, be honest and complete as well. Don’t make the entire newsletter sales-oriented – talk about what’s going on in your company.
  • Don’t pad things with PR speak. Another advantage to not having PR people look over posts, is that they won’t be padded with PR speak. Don’t let executives that already speak PR to write the posts.
  • More on different employees. Have different employees contribute to being transparent. It can range from first level technical support to the CEO. Southwest’s blog is a good example of this. Meebo (a favorite corporate blog of mine) also does a good job of having different people write to the blog.
  • Ask for feedback. As you are trying to be transparent, ask your customers about what they want to know. Ask employees the same question. Use their feedback to decide where you want to take your transparency efforts and how transparent you should be.

It isn’t all the all inclusive guide to being transparent, but it should get you started. Being transparent is important in customer service. Don’t withhold information from customers or employees and you’ll find it a lot easier to keep the facts straight.

3 Responses to “Corporate Transparency”

  1. Jordan T. Cox said:

    Mar 30, 07 at 11:29 am

    I particularly like the part about not padding with PR speak. The kind of person interested in a blog will more than likely turn off as soon as PR speak is detected. Heck, my PR speak detection filtered out the priest at my wedding and I had to be prodded to respond.

    I also find that this is a great way to build loyalty in customers as they learn more about your company and what it stands for. When confronted with giant faceless corporation A and its generic widget 2000 OR Transparent Company B and the product that Joe and Sue wrote about for a month – Joe and Sue’s product will stick more.

    From a customer service perspective it makes a lot of sense, too. If there is an issue with a product, a nice blog posting will probably get found sooner than navigating a phone tree or a poorly designed support database.

  2. CustomersAreAlways said:

    Mar 30, 07 at 7:54 pm

    What Rainbows and Business Have In Common…

    “But I see your true colorsShining throughI see your true colorsAnd thats why I love youSo dont be afraid to let them showYour true colorsTrue colors are beautiful,Like a rainbow..”The lyrics of Phil Collins’ song runs through my mind…

  3. Service Untitled » By golly, I think Dell gets it! - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    May 02, 07 at 1:42 pm

    […] This is a related post (entitled: Corporate Transparency) here at Service Untitled that you might find interesting. […]