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The value of transparent communication in business

Committing to being more transparent in your company operations and communication is becoming more important. It's one thing for a company to celebrate their wins in public, but it takes a lot more to show and tell clients and employees how things are really being done and admit if something hasn't gone as planned. Why is it important and what should we keep in mind when making our actions more visible?

Why is transparency so important?

Transparency doesn't mean sharing intellectual property, classified documents or company specific internal information with the public. As The Economist points out, customers and governments are not interested in more information, more numbers, more reports or more sophisticated press briefings. Nobody needs to see every single detail about every aspect of absolutely everything.

However, what civil society is seeking, is trustworthy, relevant and understandable information about how a company runs its business and the features of the products and services it offers to the market. Access to this information helps with creating trust and engagement between your clients, employees, investors and everyone else involved, and trust is the base layer of every successful relationship.

Giving your clients the information they need

Try and take a proactive approach to sharing information to your clients rather than a reactive one - have as much information as you can readily available about your product or service, including how to use it and where to get help if it's needed. Include useful information for helping your customers navigate your product and make informed decisions. Content creating and sharing is also a good way to inform your clients - share relevant news and topics with your clients and give advice if you can.

Another thing to consider is keeping your clients informed about what you're currently working on - we mentioned in our article about improving customer relationships how important it is to constantly let your clients and any other relevant people know what you're doing for them, whether in the form of a newsletter or even a phone call. Whatever you do, the key is letting your clients know about the progress you're making (or not making).

Sharing honest client feedback

Clients don't only need to be informed, but they also need to be able to actually participate in what your company does, and this includes being able to voice their opinion about everything going on, regardless of whether the feedback is negative or positive. It's not the fact that you're getting a few negative reviews or opinions - nobody's perfect- , it's how you choose to deal with it.

Information Week pointed out a great example of handling negative criticism - Domino's Pizza got a lot of criticism for its Domino's Pizza Turnaround campaign back in 2009 - some said it was being too transparent by basically admitting that its pizza hadn't been up to par. Domino's even created a website to syndicate and solicit feedback--both good and bad. It didn't try to cover honest customer feedback or launch into a bunch of marketing fluff, though that would have been the far easier move.

They took the feedback and used it to improve its products. Domino's was smart enough to know that the feedback it was seeing was already rampant on the web and informing purchase decisions. It was smart enough to listen and make changes based on what its customers valued, admit its mistakes and move forward with improvements.

Admitting to your flaws

Fortune has made an excellent point about the fact that loosening tight control and exposing vulnerabilities can increase loyalty and deepen relationships, reveal problems companies aren’t yet aware of, spur innovation, increase the value of a core product or service, and enable participants to take independent actions that serve a common goal. Sounds pretty good, right?

Also, by becoming vulnerable and talking about the issues they have struggled with and haven’t been able to solve, companies can develop deeper relationships with those often kept at arm’s length, even other groups within the same company. Through this exposure, the company can learn about problems they don’t know they have and get help solving those issues. Everyone makes mistakes, but like we previously stated - it's not the mistakes, it's how you choose to deal with the aftermath.

Transparency within the organization

Your clients aren't the only people who need to be involved in your efforts to make your business more transparent – your employees are a massively important part of the equation, as well.

Forbes has written a great article on transparency within the organization, and they know that in order to feel engaged, employees need to see what’s happening at their organization. Do your best people understand company goals? Do they know how well the company is doing? Do they understand the organization’s biggest challenges?

If you’re not keeping your people in the loop, your corporate transparency could use a little work. Forbes also offers a good rule of thumb when taking the first steps down the road to transparency - keep efforts focused on work and productivity. Let employees know how large-scale decisions are made, what goals they’re working towards, and maybe even empower them to track their progress.

As a bonus, check out this awesome roadmap for improving organizational transparency compiled by ClearCompany:

It's important to remember boundaries when dealing with transparency - complete, forced visibility of anything, including a business, doesn't do anyone any good. However, as The Guardian put it - if done strategically and appropriately, particularly in response to customer concerns, transparency can leave the public better informed and more trusting as a result.

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