In case you missed it, here’s a look at Cathy’s most recent Knoxville News-Sentinel column from Sunday, April 22:
What do customers want more than anything else from the people and the companies they choose to do business with? I believe they want to be associated with and to buy things from people of high integrity.
So, let’s break that down a little. Integrity means more than just honesty (although honesty is certainly a big part of it). Integrity is sometimes used synonymously with the word “ethical,” implying that a business stays between the lines and follows agreed-upon rules that govern acceptable behavior.
Our team discussed what integrity really means to businesses in a recent meeting in which we explored the factors and attributes that cause clients to stay with us for the long term and to be delighted with our relationship with them and our work on their behalf.
What it boiled down to more than anything else were the following attributes which we think define integrity:
Do what you promise.
This matters even more than brilliant ideas. When clients/customers decide to work with you and buy your products or services, they are making a pact with you. They promise to pay you money for your services, and you promise to deliver exactly what you told them you would, including high quality products, timely delivery and a fair price. People of integrity deliver on their promises – period.
Your customers’ best interests should be at the heart of everything you do for them.
This may seem obvious, but it doesn’t always happen. Every business, of course, has to make a profit (or else they will soon be out of business), but not at the expense of what is best for your customers. Your profit margin has to peacefully co-exist with your customers’ needs.
Do your best – always.
Every customer or client deserves your best thinking and your best work. No slacking! If you agree to accept a new client or to sell something to a new customer, they deserve your very best effort, every time. This doesn’t mean that every campaign has to be award-winning or that every product has to be life-changing. But it does mean that you try as hard as you can to provide the highest value that you possibly can throughout the lifetime of that customer contract or relationship.
Tell the truth, no matter what.
We’ve all had to be the occasional bearers of bad news, when a great idea just didn’t work or when extenuating circumstances caused a missed deadline or a mistake of some kind. We are only human, and we therefore aren’t perfect. But when these things happen, own them, notify your client as soon as possible, and offer a solution that will solve the problem or at least mitigate the circumstances. Never sweep mistakes under the rug. Quickly expose them to the light of day, be completely honest about how and why they happened, and then fix them.
Be a good person.
As Pollyanna-ish as this sounds, it is where true integrity always begins. Good people surround themselves with other good people, and they instantly recognize when a decision or circumstance is going off-track. Because they understand and fully internalize the virtues of kindness, empathy, generosity and selflessness, they know how to build meaningful, lasting relationships. They instill trust because they come from a place of sincerity and authenticity.
As customers have increasing choices relative to how they do business and who they do it with, these five attributes of integrity become increasingly important to the sustainability of our organizations.