A sure-fire way to lose business

If your website content isn’t so transparent it’s see-through, you could be losing business. Here’s why.

Big Bee is a startup. It’s my first start up to be exact, and I’m not ashamed to admit that when it comes to accounts, I’m pretty much clueless. So recently I did what any startup without a clue does – I sought an accountant.

I went to my trusted network of entrepreneurs and asked for recommendations, then I went to Google. Prepped with my network’s list of go-to accountants I researched the most compatible with my business.

I ruled out a few straight away due to location, then I found a firm that looked like a good fit. It was local, had a sleek website and it specialised in small businesses. Importantly, its fees looked reasonable and, unlike others, they were listed on the website. ‘Great!’ I thought, so I picked up the phone to ask a few questions.

From acceptance to rejection

We had a good old chat. The accountant seemed nice and I was just about to sign on the dotted line…then we got talking about fees. The conversation went something like this:

“Cool, so it’s £35 a month, yeah?” Based on the price shown on the website.

“Well… it’s £35 per month and then £10 per month for the required software and then if you are VAT registered it’s an extra £15 per month. Then there’s the VAT…”

In one conversation the cost had nearly doubled from the price shown on the website. What made it worse was that the software that the firm said was a necessary requirement (earlier advising that “we wouldn’t deal with a client who didn’t use the software”) was actually itemised within the price on the website, where there were no details of the additional costs. Deal breaker.

While the new higher price wasn’t appealing, it was the lack of credibility that really lost my custom. I no longer felt I could trust a firm that wasn’t providing the full picture upfront. I felt tricked, tempted in with a false price.

Look at it this way – you wouldn’t be happy in a shop if the price wrung up at the till was double the price on the tag, would you?

Trust builds loyalty

Trust is the difference between winning a customer and losing a customer. It’s also the difference between a one-off customer, and a long-term customer, and between one customer and many. In his 2012 MIT-published study ‘The Trust Imperative‘, marketing professor Dr Glen L. Urban said:

“Trust means advocating for the customer’s long-term interests. Trust is hard to earn – and easy to lose — but when a company gets it, there are sustained benefits. Trust increases customer loyalty, as satisfied customers return to buy repeatedly and widen the range of their product purchases.”

What he falls short of saying is that they also tell their friends, write positive reviews and contribute to further custom.

A transparency checklist

Transparency is a fundamental pillar of trust, a byword for ‘honesty’. And it’s especially important when it comes to pricing, because as Oscar Wilde said: “When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in the world. Now that I’m old I know that it is.”

Here’s a checklist to ask yourself before publishing a price on your website:

  1. Is the price on my website the final price the customer will be paying?
  2. Have I clearly listed any ‘extras’ they may have to pay for?
  3. Are the terms and conditions freely available?

The accountant would have answered no to each of these.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to entice your customer with an appealing price. But without honesty you jeopardize the relationship with your customers and risk damage to your brand, not to mention falling foul of pricing regulations, depending on your sector. So if in doubt, honesty is always the best policy.

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