Last month at Crunchers we uploaded our client feedback collected through CustomerSure to our website.

I have been talking about the power of feedback in general and the usefulness of CustomerSure in particular to clients.  I have also known we were getting good feedback from clients by logging on to their website see results, but something shifted powerfully in this final step of publishing the results.

The obvious element to this psychological shift is that prospective customers would be able to see transparently what kind of service we deliver to clients.  The system is automatic and bad feedback will be published just the same as good feedback, so there is now an edge to delivering what we promise that did not exist before.

The experience got me thinking about the power of transparency in business.

Business is often seen as a zero sum game with winners and losers.  The salesman fools the buyer, the buyer tries to get one over on the salesman.  The boss pretends to be committed to his workforce, the workers pretend to be committed to the company.

Already the mood in business is away from this way of operating and it seems to me that there is a much longer term gain to being open and transparent.  Previously we have blogged about the power of trust in business and the clear advantage to utter transparency is that no effort is wasted on pretense and in the end clients and staff are relieved of playing games and empowered to get on with the job.

Ebay traders and other online businesses have already experienced the straightening effect of having independently collected customers feedback form part of the marketing.  In more enlightened workplaces, managers and managed staff perform 360 degree appraisals.

The equivalent of the online five star rating could theoretically be applied to employers and employees.  Imagine going for a job interview and being able to see your potential employers ratings from existing and past employees!

Almost certainly some entrepreneur is already building the online platform which will enable this.

What I have noticed in sales conversations and management conversations that as openness and transparency increase, the focus moves from trying to persuade, impress or even inspire, to an exploration and a collaboration on the correct course of action.

You meet a new prospective client.  In the old model, this is someone to ‘convert’ into a sale.  However in the new model you only want to convert to a sale if you are pretty sure this is going to turn out to be the right service for them.  Otherwise you can be certain they will turn up a negative feedback on your five star rating which gets published to prospective clients.  So instead of saying whatever needs to be said to get them to buy now, the focus becomes ‘is this the right service for them?’

Another effect is that it forces you the business owner to really understand what is important to your customers and work on that.  You will quickly be told what clients don’t like and there becomes an imperative to deal with whatever does not work.

Ultimately the name of the game becomes doing things that work for everyone.