The benefits of operational transparency and how to achieve it

Consumers shop from all different types of businesses and are naturally curious about their purchases. This curiosity is heightened among ethically conscious shoppers who want to know how a business supplied a product, where it came from, and the materials used in production.

These factors showcase the hard work it took for the product to reach the consumer. Yet, some businesses still create a barrier between consumers and their operational processes. This can make the company appear secretive.

Instead, businesses should exercise operational transparency. Operational transparency is when businesses purposefully allow customers to view and appreciate their operations.

An example of operational transparency sparking customer satisfaction and appreciation is the difference between ATMs and bank tellers. According to the Harvard Business Review, customers’ satisfaction with their banks decreased as ATMs became popular. Since customers couldn’t see how the ATM identified them and accessed their account information, all while maintaining privacy, they took the work being done for granted. Customers prefer to interact with a bank teller as they can appreciate the labour involved in face-to-face interactions.  

Even though some businesses use technology for its speed and efficiency, customers appreciate businesses that allow customers to see how hard they work.

However, implementing operational transparency does not mean a business must sacrifice efficiency. On the contrary, operational transparency boosts efficiency. This is because when customers know more about the business, their feedback on customer surveys will be far more accurate.

Customers are more likely to pay a higher price and return even if they have to wait in lines or online queues, as long as the business lets them see what it is working on.

Moreover, another benefit of operational transparency is the loyalty and trust that both customers and employees experience. When employees clearly understand their tasks and how the business is expected to run, they feel more comfortable sharing information, asking for help and updating others about their work.

Customers’ trust and loyalty grow from knowing the businesses they support have nothing to hide. For example, customers often want to return to restaurants when employees share extensive knowledge of the menu and ingredients. When customers know more about a business, they continue to return because they are comfortable.

Therefore, operational transparency ethically and financially enhances any business and can be implemented in small ways.

Here are some ways that businesses can exercise operational transparency.

Clarify the suppliers of the business 

When businesses are transparent about where their products are from, it tells customers that they set high standards regarding where they source products, which increases trust and brand reputation. Consumers expect the fashion and food industries, in particular, to share where they receive their products.

One of the ways to do this is through origin labelling, which involves labelling products with the country manufacturer. In the food industry, origin labelling can be incorporated into restaurant menus or advertisements. Origin labels can also be placed on products like takeaway coffee cups or wine bottles.

Consider an open-concept floor plan

If you are still in the process of setting up a space for a coffee shop or restaurant, creating an open-concept floor plan will help customers see how employees work and how busy they are.

A strong example of a successful open-concept floor plan is Starbucks. When customers can see everything a barista is doing and how busy they are, the barista is more likely to be thorough in their work. Additionally, the customers will be more forgiving about waiting if the workers are busy.

Open concept spaces can be achieved by eliminating visual barricades between the customer and employee as long as it does not interfere with safety measures. Other furniture items, such as chairs and tables, can be organized to allow customers to interact with and see employees.

Utilize technology on company websites

Not only do employees work hard, but technology does too. When people shop through company websites, they may get impatient while waiting for a page to load or for product information to appear on the screen. Meanwhile, the computer is working hard to provide clear pictures, think of suggestions and memorize recently viewed items.

To make it clear to customers that the website is working hard, business websites should have software indicating what’s happening as the page loads. For example, Harvard Business Review found that the Kayak website shows customers the airlines it searched for as the page loaded.

This also works for tracking shipments. Businesses should have a page on their website where customers can enter their order number to see how long it will take for their package to arrive and the steps it goes through before getting to their front door.

Ultimately, letting customers learn more about a business’s operations positively affects marketing, brand reputation, employee productivity and sales. It also builds trust and fosters connections while making shopping feel less like an emotionless transaction and more like a long-term relationship. It’s time businesses drop the veil and knock down any walls between them and their customers.

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