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ONLINE BUSINESS HELP

How to Be Transparent Online
By: terri
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    2011-12-22

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    You've probably heard that if you want to develop a good relationship with your customers and the general public, your company needs to be transparent. That's especially true if you get into social media. But what exactly is meant by being transparent? It's simpler than you think.

    Mike Moran gives a great example that explains both what “transparency” is in this context, and why you need it. In his post for Search Engine Guide, he discusses autonomous robots. These wonderful creations move around by themselves, but sometimes run into difficulties when confronting obstacles such as an unfamiliar door. Then they need to scan the door, figure out which kind of doorknob it uses (often by consulting a selection of knobs programmed into their memory), and then work out how to move their arm to open the door.

    These robots actually do fine on their own, but with humans around, they run into difficulties. You see, it can take a little time to work all this out, during which the robot just sits there. A human watching the mechanical device might assume it's frozen up or can't open the door at all, and may try to “help” by resetting or moving the robot, or even opening the door for it. None of that is necessary, but humans can't tell that when all they see is a sort of “black box” that isn't doing anything.

    So how do you solve this problem? Robotic engineers realized that if they made the robot display behaviors that allow humans to interpret what they're doing – even if the robot doesn't really need to do them to carry out the task – then humans and robots might be able to interact better. In Moran's example, the robot moves its head while it's scanning the door and trying to figure out how to open it. Humans attach the correct meaning to this behavior, and let the device get on with what it needs to do.

    So how does this apply to helping your company be more transparent and relate to your customers better? Say that a popular blogger has just published a post which accuses your company of a serious problem. What's your first response? If it's either getting defensive or ignoring it in the hopes that the whole thing will go away, you need to rethink it.

    Moran suggests that you should respond to it immediately, even before you determine whether or not the blogger's story is true. “If you don't know what is going on, how can you respond? Just say something! Say that this sounds terrible and that you'll get to the bottom of it,” he advises. “That way, everyone can see that you are scanning the unfamiliar door and figuring out what to do.” Of course, once you find out what's going on, you share that as well. That's true transparency. But you need to make that initial response to show that you're not just sitting there like a black box. If you don't, you'll just frustrate everyone who can't see in...and they'll jump to the wrong conclusions, just like the humans interacting with the “frozen” robot.


    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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