Transparent CITY | Why Business Transparency Matters
In a world where all information is at our fingertips, it is no wonder customers have come to expect business transparency as a matter of critical importance.
Advertising scams or skilled sales representatives have affected many consumers. For example, a typical sales cycle starts with a business impacting a customer through advertising or a sales call, but unfortunately, advertising and sales have a past dubious reputation, which causes consumers to be skeptical of businesses.
In fact, only about half of Americans trust corporations, according to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer.
Fortunately, in today’s online connected society, businesses don’t have anywhere to hide. Because social media connects more people than ever before, most deceitful sales and advertising tactics end up exposed to the public eye. Social media also allows consumers to interact directly with a brand online to express their thoughts.
Consumers are becoming increasingly sharp because they rely heavily on the fact that most information is readily available online. It takes one simple Internet search to discover a brand’s reputation. One comment can start a chain reaction that could ultimately change the course of a business’s future, both positively or negatively.
Online Ratings and Reviews
85 percent of consumers consider online reviews to be as trustworthy as talking to a close friend, according to this Local Consumer Survey. Therefore, customers have come to rely heavily on such reviews when deciding which businesses to trust.
It may be one of the oldest marketing tactics, but word-of-month is still so important for the reputation of a company. One positive review from a high status individual within an industry can spark exponential new opportunities.
“We live in a world where information is readily available, but when people don’t make information readily available, there’s a level of trust broken there,” CITY President Colin Wetlaufer said. “For a lot of businesses, transparency is all about creating that trust for your clients and also with your employees. It’s important to create that culture.”
77 percent of the U.S. population having personal social media profiles; therefore, it’s imperative for a business to take advantage of the ability to easily engage with customers and to use social media as an avenue to promote its transparency. Today, most companies have at least one social media profile, with 88 percent of companies using social media to advertise.
“Being transparent and upfront as a whole makes my career more fulfilling,” CITY Marketing Manager Emily Novotny said. “There is sense of pride knowing it is my responsibility to promote our genuine people and transparent approach to business.”
MEANING OF TRANSPARENCY
Transparency is a business’s ability to show its consumers key information about the company, including their “business’s goals, history, performance, and operations.”
“It’s about giving customers information that they didn’t even know they wanted,” Wetlaufer said. “The more information you can give someone about why they should do business with you, the better your relationship will be.”
- shows you are not afraid. When your business is openly available and customers know about your operations, it proves you’re not afraid of what a customer may find.
- shows you have nothing to hide. Being open and upfront about your business practices shows your true goal and mission as a company.
- shows you are authentic. By not hiding behind a curtain of gimmicks, you are much more personable as a business.
Benefits of Transparency
True transparency that is genuine and doesn’t appear as an afterthought will greatly benefit your business in the following ways:
- Improves customer trust. No one likes to be deceived, especially when they are spending their hard-earned money on a product or service. Businesses strengthen customer trust by being transparent with their goals, performance, as well as their product or service offerings.
“Customers care. People want to know what they’re spending their money on, and they want to know exactly what they’re getting,” Wetlaufer said. “I think nowadays there are so many expenses and so many things you have to pay as a business owner, that when you can understand why you have to spend that money, it makes things a lot easier.”
- Improves customer loyalty. 94 percent of consumers are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency, according to Label Insight’s 2016 Transparency ROI Study. When customers trust you, they are more likely to do business with you as well as do repeat business with you.
“We want to have partners, we don’t just want to have accounts,” Corey Ruff, CITY’s service manager, said. “I think if you want to have a long term relationship with someone, that’d you want to be able to trust them. If a business is not transparent, then there’s no trust there and it would be hard for a customer to continue to do business with you.”
- Improves customer satisfaction. If you can follow through with your promises, the customer’s experience will be more rewarding. But if for some reason complications arise, a customer will be much more willing to forgive if you are transparent and work to resolve the problem with honesty, seek forgiveness, and provide a quick resolution.
For example, when the company Nurse Next Door, (headquartered in Vancouver, Canada) messes up, they send their customers a freshly baked pie as part of their apology. Not any old pie—they send a humble pie, with a note that says, “We are very humbled by our mistake and sincerely apologize for the poor service.”
The company spends an average of $1,500 a year in fresh pies, but by doing so they save about $100,000 in sales.
“It’s more about keeping clients than a question of whose fault it is. The value of lost clients is very high,” John DeHart, co-founder of Nurse Next Door, said in a Small Business Trends article. “And satisfied customers share their experience with friends and family.”
- Improves employee engagement. Employees who trust the leaders in their organization and believe the company is on a successful course have a higher level of engagement. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 2015 Job Satisfaction, “trust between employees and senior management” registered 64 percent in importance.
Here are a few tips to help businesses become more transparent:
- Transparency from the start. Every time you start a project or campaign, keep all aspects as openly available as possible. This ensures that nothing is hidden from the start, and nothing can suddenly become unintentionally revealed.
- Personal transparency. By using social media platforms, you can connect with customers on a more personal level. Customers often share their opinions and experiences online, making it easy for you to directly communicate with them. Your transparency efforts are even more effective if you handle your social media accounts personally instead of hiring a firm to manage it for you.
- Internal transparency. Transparency starts from within, according to Robert Craven, CEO of MegaFood. Keeping “open lines of communication with employees and remaining honest about company operations” will help everyone display transparency throughout the workplace, which will then extend beyond to your customers.
- Over-share. As previously stated, make everything accessible. Be transparent about being transparent. For example, the online shoe and clothing retailer called Zappos encourages campus tours and even facilitates Q&A sessions with specific departments within the company, including customer service, user experience, and marketing.
- Encourage customer feedback. It’s important to always be transparent, not just when you make a mistake. By soliciting feedback from customers, you can use that information to build a better relationship through trust and honesty.
One example is Domino’s 2008 survey, which asked customers what they like or dislike about the pizza. After reviewing the poor results, Domino’s revealed the findings and asked its customers for help to fix the problems. As of 2017, Domino’s stock rose 5,000 percent.
- Don’t tell – show. Transparency only works if you can prove it through your actions. If you make claims or guarantees, it’s imperative that you deliver on those promises; otherwise, your customers will soon lose confidence in the reliability of the business.
TRANSPARENCY IN THE TEXTILE BUSINESS
The textile laundering industry was established over a century ago. Although most laundries started out as privately owned family businesses, the laundry industry has gone through many transitions. The core of the industry has always comprised of picking up soiled garments or items and returning freshly cleaned and laundered garments; however, as the industry has evolved, so have customer expectations.
The top five laundry industry issues that customers cope with include:
- Shortages – turning in more items than you receive back
- Repairs – needing an item repaired, but the item is returned without being repaired
- Billing – having billing fluctuations, surprise fees, or incorrect invoices
- Replacement – having an item that is past its lifespan but the item is still left in service and not replaced OR receiving a replacement that wasn’t necessary
- Responsiveness – receiving poor customer service from a business that won’t return your call
At CITY, we are increasingly finding prospects that express frustration in many of these five key areas.
“After receiving such poor service from our past uniform companies, we didn’t think that we had any options and just thought that this was the ‘normal’ of today,” Scott’s Automotive in Des Moines, Iowa said. “After much research was done, we were able to find CITY. We couldn’t be happier as we are always given absolutely the best service anywhere.”
We know these are the areas that cause the most pain. Therefore, instead of avoiding these issues, we directly address them.
“We have a route service representative who had worked in this industry in the past. By now working at CITY, the difference is how mistakes are resolved. Before they were just avoided, now they are resolved and resolved quickly,” Wetlaufer said.
What Transparency Looks Like
CITY identified the above five areas and has built custom programs to resolve these concerns for our clientele. We offer our clients a 24-hour responsive service that is reinforced by our ultra-high frequency (UHF) technology, our CITY Quality Management (CQM) System, and our industry specific billing programs, such as CITY Asset Management (CAM) and our usage vs. inventory billing approach.
With these exclusive, handcrafted programs, CITY offers transparent operating and billing structures which are explained upfront to each client during the sales process.
It is CITY’s clean, simple, and transparent service that resolves the common industry frustrations leaving clients to focus more on their business.
CITY understands that customers are increasingly focusing on transparency. Because we believe in being honest about our facility’s operations, we have implemented a number of transparent processes and programs.
“It’s really hard to say to someone that, ‘CITY is the most responsive’ when other companies say the same thing. But to be able to say, ‘this is how you know’ – that’s what really matters,” Wetlaufer said.
CITY Quality Management (CQM) System
Our CQM system is completely visible and our process is available on our website. Our clients know exactly what happens to their garments from the moment it leaves their facility and enters ours. CITY’s clients know what to expect, and this transparency ensures we always provide a high-quality service.
The CQM system actually encompasses many departments, including operations, production, maintenance, and service.
- Our process starts with ensuring every garment is sorted and then assigned appropriate soil and garment classifications so that each one is washed, dried, and steamed properly.
- All employees are trained in our quality management process so that they understand their responsibilities and how they impact business objectives. We also track every metric within production to maintain suitable production speeds while producing a quality product.
- Equipment, grounds, and fleet maintenance are very important for sustaining a quality management system. Everything within our facility is monitored and kept well maintained to make sure things are running smoothly.
- Our route service representatives (RSRs) are all service-minded individuals that provide our clients with professional account management. Clients have the peace-of-mind they deserve because we provide a service that is completely managed by us.
“The CQM System is not just a process for our workflow, but it’s a system for how we’re going to run the operations of our business,” Wetlaufer said. “It’s easy to do the big things right, I think it’s hard to do the little things right, day-in and day-out every day, and that’s what this is all about.”
With our ultra-high frequency (UHF) tracking technology, we are able to track every single uniform throughout the entire laundering process ensuring what you turn in will be returned. Our system also tracks the following:
- The location of the garment within the laundry facility
- The client to which the uniform belongs
- The individual wearer to which the uniform belongs
- The garment’s delivery schedule
- The garment’s life cycle history, including number of washings, mends, and repairs
We have a clean and simple approach to pricing that is unique to the industry. We believe our clients should receive fair and accurate invoicing based on the industry they are in.
- The CAM Program
The CAM program was developed because of our desire to provide a transparent service. Based on our client’s operational needs, the quantity of items they have in service, and their business operations, we calculate a customized billing solution.
“CAM is an all-inclusive program that covers the typical industry grey-areas,” said Chriss Carsello, CITY’s sales manager. “There are typical fees that our competition charges an employer for, such as missing garments, misplaced garments, damaged garments, you name it. The issue with that system is that clients often never received those uniforms in the first place, so they are paying fees they shouldn’t be. CAM is a program that essentially gives CITY the ability to simplify the billing process for our clients. It also doubles as an accountability system on our end, because it helps us to be transparent and honest throughout the invoicing process.”
- Usage vs. Inventory Billing
We do things differently than others, particularly for the food processing industry, which helps contribute to our simple and transparent service. We offer bulk inventory clients the opportunity to only pay for actual usage rather than a percentage of their inventory. CITY clients typically save approximately 30 percent when compared to inventory-based billing systems.
“Because of our unique billing, it really sets us apart from our competition in the food processing industry because it allows us to make sure that our clients have what they need at no extra cost,” Director of Operations Ken Schnor said. “But with traditional billing, people will pay for at least half of their inventory regardless of whether they use it or not.”
Aside from CITY’s internally handled inspections, CITY also had two, third-party audits that ensure consistent garment processing quality.
Hygienically Clean Food Safety Certification
With our Hygienically Clean Food Safety Certification (certified and regularly audited by TRSA), we prove a commitment to maintain garments with a zero-presence of harmful bacteria for the food processing industry.
Our CQM system enables us to meet the certification requirements including the establishment of critical control points, the validation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system effectiveness, and quality documentation of ongoing certification performance.
Additionally, all CITY employees are trained to understand HACCP-minded systems, including proper washing/drying procedures, garment inspection, transportations of textiles, and appropriate personal protection equipment to avoid garment and linen contamination. CITY’s service department is also required to take a HACCP training to understand procedures within a food processing facility.
“We recognize the importance of food safety and understand that proper uniform laundering is a critical control point in minimizing cross contamination,” Wetlaufer said in CITY’s recent press release about the certification. “We’ve made investments in our equipment and technology for the food processing industry, and the TRSA certification is a testament to that commitment. We want to put our customers in the best position to succeed.”
Complete Wash Aisle Chemistry
Norchem Corp., a clean technology engineering firm based out of Los Angeles, conducts a third-party audit every three weeks to ensure that CITY’s UltraPure water purification system, water recycling system, and wash chemistry solutions are maintained.
“Additionally, the system allows us to reuse over 70 percent of our water and be chemical-free with our water treatment,” Wetlaufer said.
CITY clients are also welcome to receive our wash chemistry and water recycling information upon request.
COME SEE FOR YOURSELF
We live true to our tagline, and it is CITY’s mission to keep it clean and simple. The best way we know how to do that is to be 100 percent transparent.
“At the end of the day, it is all about doing the right thing,” Schnor said. “We don’t want clients to do business with us because of an agreement, we want clients to do business with us because they WANT to do business with us.”
We have solved many common industry frustrations with our customized CITY programs, and we encourage clients, prospects, or other businesses to get a front row seat to see exactly how we operate. CITY invites clients and prospects on a monthly basis for a facility tour in which CITY President Colin Wetlaufer leads the tour. Tours typically last one hour with a constructive Q&A session at the conclusion.
We also offer pre-scheduled private tours for individuals upon request.
“When you’re in the service industry and you’re actually part of someone’s business, as intimate as the clothes that they wear, transparency is really important,” Wetlaufer said. “I think for us that’s really important. Customers want to know how things are handled, how their clothes are washed correctly and that each individual is receiving the right uniforms. There’s a lot of questions that people want an answer to, and it’s rightfully so.”
To sign up for CITY’s monthly tour or to schedule a private viewing, please call or email Marketing Manager Emily Novotny. She can be reached at 800.798.5621 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Customers can see everything behind the scenes that we typically don’t tell them on a weekly basis,” Ruff said. “Our goal is to provide value to our clients, and sometimes that means showing a customer something that they didn’t even realize they wanted to know.”
What Drives Transparent CITY?
As a multi-generational, family-owned company, we have forged partnerships with clients and employees that last. The relationship we have built drives us to provide a service that everyone can appreciate and trust.
“There are a lot of people I care about at CITY,” said Schnor. “Slowly but surely they became family, and when someone is family, you tend to work harder for them and care more about the business. The same goes for clients. You end up caring a great deal about the clients we service to the point where they consider you a friend instead of a vendor.”
Transparency in business, simply put, can help you grow, open your audience base, drive sales, improve your customer experience, and give you the confidence and pride in where you work.
Clean and simple.