Business relationships work most harmoniously when there’s transparency, but how is that best achieved?
In a business environment that is increasingly looking to outsource certain elements of the fleet management process, the way in which services operate and communicate within an organisation changes. But that service provision could still be a vital touchpoint for your business, with customers or staff, so an open relationship in terms of information sharing is still important, even if it’s no longer a purely internal function.
“The key thing people are looking for in a relationship is to have the same sense of control as if they were providing a service or product in-house,” says Calum Slowther, commercial director at vehicle movement expert Engineius. “But with the flexibility and cost saving that comes with out-sourcing.”
The benefits of transparency are two-fold, in both establishing a stronger relationship through increased openness and driving business improvement (see below).
“Openness builds trust with a customer; a client gets the sense that you are being truthful, open and honest with them, that they have got all the information that you have got, and that you’re not hiding anything,” says Slowther.
He says the responsibility is with the supplier to ensure there is the opportunity for a transparent relationship, but the onus is on the customer to understand the data.
“They need to be willing to work as a genuine partnership rather than transactionally; that genuinely unlocks really big advantages,” continues Slowther.
“The responsibility for the customer is to engage with the data provided; it allows them to unlock the benefits. Otherwise there’s no chance of getting those benefits because they’re not engaged.”
TRANSPARENCY: THE KEY ELEMENTS
● Accurate: information has to be accurate and be a true reflection of what is happening
● Timely: the customer needs to see what is happening in real time, or at least at a point that is useful to them
● Relevant: less is more – you lose the value of the information if it’s buried among a mountain of other detail
● Accessible: both parties need to be able to access the platform to interact with the info.
FEEDBACK FUELLING IMPROVEMENT
Sharing information can be a slightly dangerous game if the information isn’t showing quite what it should be, and highlights areas requiring improvement from a service supplier.
“It’s quite easy to look at the sharing of data and see a percentage improvement here and there, taking some cost out,” says Engineius’s commercial boss, Calum Slowther. “But I think that the much bigger advantage is that you can change the way you operate or offer a fundamentally better product.”
Slowther also said that the relationship can prosper through being open about issues. “A lot of the time, customers feel like no news is bad news, and there’s no such thing as bad news,” he says, which means knowing about a problem is preferable to not being informed of an impending issue until it has had an impact.
TOP TIPS TRANSPARENCY
Engineius commercial director Calum Slowther shares his thoughts on ensuring an open business partnership
1. The whole picture
Don’t present a part picture – it’s potentially misleading and erodes trust.
2.Data positioning is as important as delivery
Education and conversation between a customer and supplier is vital. If the performance data has been explained to the customer and they understand what it is showing, then they can see what needs addressing and why.
3. Driving improvement
As a supplier, you have to be prepared for data sharing to highlight issues, and be of the mindset of continual improvement to address them rather than thinking about a service or relationship as a fixed product. A company shouldn’t believe it is the best and get defensive about transparency.
4. Quality over quantity.
You’ve got to be careful that you’re not sharing too much and it’s all just noise, because then you can miss the things that are important. A supplier has got to be skilled in thinking about what a customer genuinely wants to see. The information has to be comprehensive, accurate and timely, but delivered in a way that is not confusing or overwhelming, or so complex that the customer doesn’t engage with it.
5.Don’t let information replace human interaction.
Having the data is great, but don’t become so clinical in the numbers that you don’t think about the individual instance. It’s no use if everything has been great, but you have one spectacular failure. As tempting as it is to look at analytics, transparency shouldn’t replace attention to detail and human-led customer service.