We've lived with a double standard for decades now. As consumers, we order and expect real-time information about our order status. We opt for text notifications when our package ships and is delivered on our doorstep. And, frankly, if something goes wrong, we're ready to hop onto social media and indulge ourselves in customer service shaming of the company we did business with—because we expect speed, accountability and transparency.
When we step in the office, our expectations have typically been lower. As B2B customers, we realized real-time information is hard to come by. We held our B2B suppliers to a lower standard. And that double standard has evaporated. B2B consumers want the service they've come to expect from companies like Amazon or Zappos.
According to a Robert Craven article in Entrepreneur magazine, "a recent study from Harvard Business School took a look at the concept of transparency in a restaurant setting where the cooks and customers could literally see each other during the food prep and dining experience.
The results showed a striking improvement of 17 percent in customer satisfaction and 13 percent faster service when customers and cooks can see each other. This is a fascinating look at the power of transparency, and it indicates that customers are happier when they feel they've been made part of the process."
As marketers, we are surely aware of the emerging demand for transparency. So powerful is the push for it that radical transparency has been named one of the top marketing trends for 2016.
What this means is that we need to engage the customer, realize the relationships we have with our customers or those who want to do business with us is all there is. We no longer control our brands; social media took care of that in one dramatic flourish. The only choice is to embrace transparency, make sure it permeates every department, every decision, every customer interaction—and to be authentic, empathetic, and honest. Those who embrace the era of radical transparency stand to rise above the pack; those who resist, I'm afraid, stand to be swallowed by that pack.
Be aware this represents a fundamental shift in the role of marketing within an organization. No longer a department where products are sent to find a message and audience, it now must drive operational decisions throughout the organization. Marketing becomes a critical role in the C-Suite. How prepared is your organization to think holistically from the point of view of the customer and ensure radical transparency?