Is Transparency Required To Build Trust?

82% business executives believe there cannot be trust without transparency, as recently reported by Economist Impact.  If you were surveyed, you would most likely agree.  When I ask participants in workshops “What builds trust?”, one of the top responses is always “honesty.” 
As many of you have heard me say, nothing builds trust like the truth …the full truth.  

If your goal is to improve your business results, the full truth and transparency is key.  As a business owner or leader, you may be asking yourself, “What does it mean? How far do we take this?  Why is it important in business?  What is an example of transparency?” 

Obviously, we are not talking about giving away proprietary information on products, pricing, partnerships, margins, designs or IP.  It’s not about sharing information that increases risk or conflict for your company. Transparency is about sharing information that affects the relationship and the outcome for the company.    

My client Damian, the owner of a manufacturing company, searched for a few years for an ERP software program to manage inventory, provide accurate reports, and integrate with the accounting software. After carefully deciding on a vendor, his company went through months of turmoil and disruption to integrate the new software. It wasn’t as seamless as they said it would be.  Damian felt they misrepresented the product and the effort.  Many days he wondered if the pain was worth it. If he had known it would be so chaotic he would have added more staff to assist with the implementation. 

The software vendor could have managed his experience differently if they had been more transparent to let him know the integration would be this tough.

Some business people think if you are open and transparent it’s a form of weaknesses.  They don’t want to tell the customer that they need more time, the software has limitations, the delivery will be late, or an installation can’t take place as schedule because the customer didn’t do their part.  In fact, honesty and transparency is a form of confidence and strength.   

Being open, honest and transparent is Principle #3 in my Building Trust Model.  

Here are 3 tips and 3 examples of how to be transparent in your business:

  1. Let them know the full picture.  Share the project plan, the timeline, contact information of project participants, the impact window, critical success factors, risks etc.  Anticipate what people are wondering but are afraid to ask, or don’t know what to ask.   Whether it’s team member or a customer, we all want to know what to expect, what’s required from us, what’s going to take place, how things are going to roll out and long it takes.  
  2. Share your intentions.  If you want to increase sales, retain customers and gain referrals, sharing the real agenda is key. For example, if you are going into a sales call and your intention is to promote a new product, let the prospect know that’s why you’re there.  If you tell your prospect, you’re just there to stay connected and this truly isn’t your intention, they’ll detect this hidden agenda.  Agendas with mutual benefit build trust. 
  3. Give proactive updates.  For example, share upcoming delivery interruptions and how you are addressing them.  Customers are asking, “What’s really going on here? What else should I know? What are they not telling me?” Keeping people informed and involved builds trust and empowers customers and employees. For serious issues, the message should come from senior leadership. 
    There are tools and technologies that can help keep customers informed (think of Domino’s pizza tracker).  

However, make no mistake, it comes down to your people. Specifically, how they communicate, behave, and how they serve customers.

We trust people who are authentic, who are open and honest.  Building a culture of transparency is another way to show your confidence and your strength.  Customers want to buy from and work with people they have confidence in.  

When customer facing people learn how to communicate and behave with transparency relationships improve.  You’ll be rewarded with smoother projects, higher satisfaction levels, referrals and repeat sales. 

At Success Through Trust, we’re on a mission to help companies grow their business by increasing the trust and loyalty their customers have in them.  

If you want your colleagues to communicate with confidence, and you know they don’t have the skills and the tools to do so, please contact me.  This is exactly the type of people we work with.