I recently used Uber to get from our office to an auto repair shop where my car was being serviced. Our offices can be tricky to find. The first driver who accepted my request turned one street too early, turned around, and then went right past the correct street. That driver chose to abandon my order. A second driver accepted my request. She, too, turned too early and had to pull into a retail parking lot to turn around. Fortunately, she stopped and called me, and I was able to walk to her car.
Of course, thanks to Uber’s app and GPS technology, I was able to watch these drivers struggle to deliver their services in real-time. I could actually see their cars spinning 360o to take another stab at finding me.
What if customers could see inside our businesses in the same way we can watch an Uber driver maneuver to pick us up? What would they observe about the routes that their orders, products, and services take before we deliver them? Would they be dazzled at our efficiency? Or would they start to have doubts about our ability to meet their long-term needs?
Here are five areas of our business in which transparency might cause us to change our habits and processes.
5 Areas of our Business in which Transparency Would Force Us to Re-think Our Approach
People are always the front line of customer satisfaction, and most companies claim that their people are their most important asset. However, if customers were able to peer down into our employee relations practices, we might see the need to make the following changes:
Training. We might choose to develop and follow individualized training plans, set clearer expectations and accountability for outcomes, eliminate “fluff” courses, and create stronger linkage between training and customer service.
Performance Feedback. We would likely be more proactive in response to poor performance and toxic behaviors by our staff. We would hold managers more accountable for prompt, corrective action and follow-up.
Incentives. Our customers would demand that we pay people fairly and reward them for ideas and results that created extraordinary value.
Like our proclamations about the importance of our people, most companies pledge their allegiance to safety. What if instead of just handing customers our written policies and procedures on safety, they could actually see our approach to safety on a daily basis? We would ensure that customers be able to observe our daily enforcement of safety procedures and correction of bad habits and shortcuts. We would have to be honest in reporting safety incidents. Finally, we would invest in up-to-date equipment and training to prevent accidents and preserve the health and welfare of our workforce.
Customers understand we have multiple priorities, and most reasonable customers understand we have more than one customer. But what if customers could peer onto desktops, calendars, and to-do lists and observe how we prioritize our work? We would begin to eliminate time wasters, unproductive meetings, and menial tasks that get in the way of proper planning/execution of customer work, employee development, safety, and other high-value activities that drive excellence into the organization.
Would our customers be stunned at our outdated processes if they could observe them in real time? Are we still doing manual, swivel-chair work and making our customers pay for it, when we could be investing in systems and processes to enable us to focus on higher-value work and solving more important problems for customers? Is “heroic effort” an embedded process in our organization such that nearly every project or sales order has to be “pulled out of the fire” at some point and rescued by our go-to player? Most companies have processes that we would no longer tolerate if they were exposed to the same transparency as the Uber driver on the way to the next pickup.
If customers had a bird’s eye view of their projects moving through our company from order entry to final delivery, would they observe a relatively straight line toward the final destination, or would the project stop from time to time with no one touching it or even thinking about it? Worse yet, would customers observe their project backing up or spinning around like a motor boat with no driver? Great project management is not another overhead cost with uncertain benefits; it is a win/win for both our customers and our company.
While your business is probably not headed toward the ultra-transparent environment of Uber, most industries are going to have to face a higher level of transparency in the future. We can respond to these market demands by choosing to make improvements now, or we can watch as competitors who respond more quickly grab the prize of market share ahead of us.