How transparency helps business

Janine Popick · January 15, 2010 · Short URL:

Five examples of how being transparent is good for business

Years ago businesses would scoff at the idea of being transparent. Businesses were scared to air any dirty laundry even though we all know every business has some. If you read the post Your Brand is Everything You Do, you understand that ultimately consumers are in total control of businesses they patron. With the proliferation of online platforms and forums, your customers can pretty much tell the world how they feel about you, and they do.

How do you combat this? You don't, you help it by being transparent. Don't be scared, check out how these companies are being pretty transparent with the world and we think it's working for them.

1. On the GM blog, they write about repayments to the government, the recent CEO's resignation and introducing us to new corporate hires. This type of communication is giving us access to important information and showing that even a behemoth company like General Motors can be transparent.

2.'s Trust site shows if there are any up-to-the-minute system outages with their online CRM services. You can check if the server you rely on for your customer data is up and running and you can see how fast your connection times are. Comcast also has an outage check if you are experiencing any issues with your service.

3. When AT&T had a fiber cut in the San Francisco Bay Area, they turned to Twitter to get the word out about the issue, then had multiple Tweets even if there was no update so that their 2400 followers knew exactly what was going on. They now have over 20,000 followers.

4. KIVA, a micro lending non-profit that helps match lenders and entrepreneurs in 3rd world countries, tells you at any given point where your loans go and how much have been paid back. On their site they prominently say:

Kiva is a grassroots project started by a team with a big idea: one-to-one, real-time lending on the internet to alleviate poverty.

We have proven this concept as well as our model, and are in the process of taking this idea to the next level. This requires funding. To be clear, 100% of loan funding raised on our website goes to the Kiva entrepreneurs we feature.

When I was researching some larger non-profit organizations, it was tough to find this type of information anywhere on their site. It could make a donor nervous to donate!

5.Zappos has been the poster-child for being a successful and transparent company. When Amazon purchased them, the CEO posted his letter to the employees for the world to see. I'd say that's pretty transparent. They also have an entire employee-written blogosphere for everything from Inside Zappos, Running and even Zappos TV where employees take videos and write fun posts about their day and their passions.

These are all great examples of companies being transparent, however you definitely don't want to go too far. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey usually publishes his blog when there is something newsworthy at Whole Foods to talk about. A recent entry was an explanation of why he decided to rid himself of "Chairman of the Board" title. However, he may have gone a bit too far when he stated in a New Yorker article that "no scientific consensus exists" regarding the causes of climate change. Ouch. He definitely may have lost a bunch of supporters for that one.

Transparency also has to be real, and has to be correct in order to gain trust. That big company called the US has a CEO called President Obama and he promised to be transparent in his stint as our President with the newly revamped White House website. The number one job of this site is to publish information that HAS to be correct. If someone finds information that isn't, it's can be a field day for the media and his ratings.

Companies that aren't transparent or don't answer their customer's issues can easily be outed by their customers with platforms like Twitter, Facebook , Angie's List, Yelp, and the millions of forums that allow them to tell their stories. The bottom line is, the more transparent you are, the more likely you'll be trusted.

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