Does creating a window into an organization's operations really help elevate customers' appreciation? There is understandable doubt and uncertainty for companies when it comes to revealing a deep level of their operations as well as a fear it might dampen existing efficiencies. But when customers are kept in the dark, they are less likely to appreciate the hard work going on behind the scenes and more likely to make unrealistic demands. Untangling the barriers that separate customers from work processes can actually promote greater loyalty and satisfaction.
Every customer understands that products are not made in a vacuum, and there is a specific process in place before goods and services arrive on their loading docks. But, in the data center realm, many customers have unique needs that require products, such as rack power distribution units (PDUs), to be customized to fit ever-changing needs. Minor changes do not need anything more than a revised mechanical drawing and are quickly approved by the customer for production. However, major changes involve serious redesigns that often require working closely with customers on more complicated drawings, nonfunctional mechanical equipment, and even functional engineering samples — working closely with customers at this level also promotes innovation and creativity. Through the customization process, it is not uncommon for customers to feel they may have innovated something new and take ownership of the product by labeling it with their company name. Elevating the customer’s involvement to this level of operational transparency increases their confidence in the product and the company while solidifying deeper loyalty.
Raising the confidence bar by operational transparency is easier than many companies may perceive. Customers will start showing a deeper appreciation for production processes if they have a better understanding of the inner workings. Using the PDU example again, most customers are unaware of ordering complexities — they don’t give much thought about ordering 10 rack PDUs or 500 rack PDUs. By opening a window into the ordering process, customers become more invested and typically show greater appreciation for the hard work and supply chain logistics that go into development and order fulfillment. Domino's new pizza tracker is a perfect example of how exposing an organizational process can lead to financial gains and increased customer loyalty.
The Sweet Spot
Although operational transparency is having a positive impact on businesses, there are limitations that also must be observed. Nobody wants Big Brother watching over their shoulder all the time, so it’s important to find a sweet spot. Companies need to clearly define why they want to open windows for customers to be involved before a successful operational transparency process can be created. After all, companies should not implement a strategy if they do not know exactly what it is and how it may impact the business model; intentions must be clearly defined prior to embarking upon this journey.
Oftentimes, filling out a request for proposal (RFP) can help define operational transparency parameters by revealing a lot about what customers may need greater visibility into. For example, many of these RFP questions include the following.
- How many manufacturing facilities do you operate?
- Where are they located?
- Where do you source your components from?
Companies need to convey supply chain complexities enough for customers to understand and appreciate the process but not reveal so much that competitors can replicate. Using an RFP as an operational transparency template helps companies set up the correct visibility balance ahead of time.
Customers form relationships with companies — not products. The more transparency shared, the less likelihood of paranoia and distrust. Operational transparency involves identifying what customers do not understand about your engagement and revealing processes in order to dissipate concerns.