Transparency: The Emperor’s New(er) Clothes

By Christopher E. Carter, P.E.

With all due respect to Hans Christian Andersen and his popular fable, the emperor’s strut down the aisle at the royal fashion show was a bit of a shocker. His subjects came out to see the latest in imperial finery, and instead, they saw his Highness in all his eminence! In fact, if I remember correctly, the emperor’s son says, “Dude, where’s your clothes?” (or something to that effect).

Anyway, behind the often closed doors of inner business, there continues a debate on how much access customers should have to internal corporate practices and processes. Before answering this question, two more important ones should be addressed: “how much do you trust your customers?” and, “do you trust them enough to show how you operate?”

To illustrate, let’s consider, from the homeowner’s eyes, an identical home warranty claim handled by two different builders: Builder Dark and Builder Light.

Builder Dark

Homeowner sends in notice of claim. Homeowner hears nothing back, and wonders if claim was received. Homeowner resends it. Homeowner gets no response, and begins calling to reach someone. Homeowner gets recorded messages from various departments, then gets cut off. Homeowner drives out to corporate office, and is denied access to warranty personnel, as they are all out or busy. Homeowner calls their attorney.

Builder Light

Homeowner sends in notice of claim. Warranty representative calls immediately to set up an appointment, and proceeds to explain how their claim process works. The explanation includes a step by step description of who, when and why various personnel, contractors, and experts will be involved, how the investigation and decision process will be conducted, and what the homeowner’s options will be until resolution. This is then followed up in a summary letter which invites the homeowner to call anytime for status updates. Warranty rep also calls every two weeks to update homeowner on progress. Homeowner recommends builder to family, friends and their entire village.

By allowing customers to see relevent operations, you will extend the hand of trust, and make it easier for them to trust you. What they see is what they should get – with no sleight of hand. And if you’re doing things right, you should have no worries from any litigation discovery down the road.

Being transparent, however, does not mean being naked – you get to keep your underwear, and your private things private. In doing this, you will foster a relationship with your customer you both desire, and not just a transaction of money and property changing hands.