Consequences of honesty

Consequences of honesty

Last week, I attended a launch event by a well-known vendor in the telecoms industry with a view of partnering with them. Since I have never worked with them before, I was in research mode.

The event was aimed at channel partners and attended by their existing partners as well as prospects. The Channel Director started by acknowledging feedback they had received over the last few years regarding the short-comings of their channel program, some of which were quite damning, largely arising from their lack of channel focus as an organisation. That was a surprise to me, not that I expected them to be perfect; I was surprised because I was expecting a sales pitch and not a full scale confession.

During coffee break, I talked to an existing partner of theirs and he confirmed that everything mentioned in the confession was true and only time would tell if they could truly focus on channels. As a prospective partner, that gave me an interesting dilemma - they have a great product offering and are successful in the enterprise space, so they are clearly competent as an organisation which is a positive point, but will they learn from past mistakes and improve their channel performance? I came away with doubts that I didn't have before the event.

The event led me to think about how we go to market and communicate with our prospects and customers. I always believe that it's best to be upfront and honest with customers and that is also how I have been directing my teams over the years - but what if the honesty could lead to lost business or damaged reputation? Reflecting on the event, if they had put on a great sales pitch that wowed the audience, would I have come away with a different feeling? The answer is yes, definitely a different feeling - a worse feeling with even more serious doubts. This is because we would not have signed up with a partner based on one sales pitch, the conversation with their existing partner during the coffee break would still have taken place and I would have found out the truth anyway. The difference would be deeper scepticism on my part about their integrity as an organisation and whether they were capable of learning.

So my conclusion is that it definitely serves to be honest with your customers even if it involves openly acknowledging mistakes. In fact, one of the benefits of the Internet and social media is that it forces organisations to be open and honest because user feedback is so accessible and any companies living in denial would only appear foolish. It makes life much harder for managers of businesses to keep on top of feedback and make improvements where appropriate; continuous improvement is no longer about ticking boxes, it has real impact on an organisation's reputation and should enhance user experience - that can only be a good thing for everyone.

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