By Carrie R. Dagenhard (Tech Writer)
Savvy tech entrepreneurs understand that the key to winning the customer relationships game is to be transparent and therefore manage expectations.
If one is to take this concept to its logical conclusion, then one could say that the key to creating better client relationships is through a business philosophy of radical transparency.
But how, in this age of spin and litigation, can MSPs and tech entrepreneurs keep transparency at the forefront of their operations?
The trick is to think about your customers and their needs (what a novel concept!) and to try harder at developing a work philosophy of thinking like your customers, and what's best for them.
Customers don't like being left in the dark — especially when they’re paying for a product or service. When an MSP fails to disclose pertinent information, strings customers along, or keeps their operations in a black box, it becomes harder and harder for the customer to trust them. After all, how do you know a company’s marketing claims aren’t just lip service? And how can you be sure they’ll deliver the quality they’ve promised?
This isn’t revolutionary information. We all know MSP customers desire greater transparency because we would want it, too. Today, consumers in all walks of life want to know where and under what conditions the products they buy are made, where their food is sourced, and when their online orders will be shipped. As a society, we’ve become more judicious with our spending, and the same holds true for your MSP customers.
But in spite of all the evidence that customers demand more clarity, IT and MSP providers have been historically bad with transparency.
In this IT world of low expectations when it comes to transparency, the MSP entrepreneurs that are more open and honest will reap the benefits and quickly earn their customers' trust, foster loyalty, and outperform their competitors.
So what's not to like about being transparent as an MSP?
Let's explore how tech entrepreneurs can embrace transparency in order to lead in their industry.
What Is Radical Transparency?
Radical transparency refers to any actions or approaches an organization can take that radically increases its openness about its decision-making, supply chain, pricing, financials, challenges, diversity and inclusion data, and internal culture. In other words, it’s a practice that goes beyond traditional transparency and shares more than your average company.
According to professional speaker and strategic advisor Gene Hammett, “‘Radical transparency’ is creating a culture that is direct and honest in communication and sharing of company strategies so that all people are trusting and loyal to the continuous evolution of the organization.”
At first, this can sound scary. That’s because, for many decades, business leaders have been encouraged to keep everything close to the vest. For example, choosing not to publish your pricing on your website was thought to drive more leads. (Never mind the fact that every prospect’s first question is, inevitably, “how much does it cost?”). Also, disclosing challenges within a company (to clients and even employees) was considered improper. After all, why invite criticism when you could simply remain quiet?
The problem with avoiding transparency is that it gives your audience the impression that you’re trying to hide something – even if you aren’t. And if something unsavory does come to light, it could irrevocably ruin your reputation.
What Are The Benefits Of Radical Transparency?
When all the information an MSP prospect or customer wants to know about your IT helpdesk business is easily accessible, it fosters a sense of trust from the first interaction.
One of the most challenging aspects of transparency is also one of its greatest strengths. When you’re open about things, you invite criticism and feedback, which can be tough to handle. On the flip side, these insights can help you continue to improve your MSP business and innovate beyond your competition.
Ensures Long-Term Retention
When your techs are kept in the loop and have an opportunity to share their ideas, they’re more likely to stick around. This holds true for employees as well as clients.
Creates Realistic Expectations
When you’re upfront about your costs, operations, business strategies, internal expertise, and even shortcomings, it ensures customers don’t enter the relationship with unrealistic expectations. It also puts you in the position to delight them when you overdeliver.
How Can you Become A More Transparent Organization?
If becoming more transparent as an MSP was easy, everyone would be doing it. Instead, there are still only a handful of organizations in the tech industry that have achieved radical transparency. But those who put in the work are seeing massive returns.
Here are a few things you can do as a tech professional to become more transparent with your MSP clients:
Establish Transparency Internally
Your relationships with your customers are highly dependent upon employee engagement and satisfaction. If your employees feel seen, heard, and valued, they’ll be more likely to make your clients feel seen, heard, and valued too. When transparency becomes a part of your culture, it’ll naturally become a part of customer relationships. If you haven’t already, invest in professional services automation software that supports better and more consistent communication with your MSP clients and among your IT techs.
Be Clear About Your Limits
There’s no use promoting outcomes you can’t achieve. Not only does it set prospects up for disappointment, but it can negatively impact your brand reputation when word inevitably gets out. When you’re honest and open about what you’re capable of doing, it leads to a more genuine and trusting relationship with your clients.
Openly Live Your Values
If you claim your organization is focused on diversity and inclusion efforts, share what you’re doing within hiring practices to meet these goals. If you say you’re dedicated to environmental sustainability, give concrete examples of what you’ve done and what you’re planning to do in the future to support that mission. Always back up your organizational values with real action, and give prospects and existing customers insight into those actions.
Show Clients Behind The Scenes
While you can’t necessarily expose things like proprietary algorithms and customer data, it’s helpful to give prospective and existing customers a peek behind the curtains. Show them how your organization is set up to meet their needs, including the hierarchy, employee expertise, technology you rely upon, and processes you’ve developed.
Make Candid Conversations A Norm
It’s essential you behave with professionalism in every interaction, but you also need to be genuine. The more you break down your walls and talk to customers human-to-human, the more likely you are to build highly lucrative, authentic, and long-term relationships.
For example, if you notice an effort isn’t driving the sorts of outcomes you wanted or expected, approach your client and share what happened and how you’re course-correcting. Regardless of the situation, being sincere and straightforward will help you earn trust and loyalty.
Radical transparency isn’t something you can achieve overnight, but by taking small steps today, you can create an organization that prioritizes transparency from the inside out.