Ethical businesses can form tight relationships with their customers due to their strong principles and trust in their partners. Business ethics can be directly related as the values of businesses color the relations with their customers. Companies with great integrity and truthfulness will tighten the bonds with customers.
Conflicts of Interest
A key ethical question when dealing with customers is the potential for conflicts of interest. The potential is so strong that there are many laws and regulations governing this area. For example, stock brokers have the fiduciary responsibility to advise their clients on what makes the most sense for their situations, not what creates the most fees for themselves. For stock brokers, the most lucrative accounts are the ones that trade the most often. However, it may be in the clients' interests to be in long term investments. Siding with the customers and avoiding conflicts of interest will serve to strengthen relationships over the long term.
Fair warning in business dealings is another important concept for ethics and customer relations. Be honest with customers about your firm's policies and the amount of leeway that you can provide them. For example, advise the clients before the sales are made that there is a no return policy. You can also let them know up front whether there are fees for late payments. Again, this fair warning will provide better customer relations.
Pricing is a very sensitive customer relations issue, but it is also an ethical issue. Sales managers should provide fair prices. They should not take advantage of desperate or uniformed customers. The classic example of pricing power is when bottled water merchants sell their products in the middle of deserts. They have the power to charge whatever they want and desperate customers will be forced to pay. However, a more ethical approach would be to sell the water at cost plus reasonable premiums for personal profits.
Use a values-based approach to interact with clients. For example, chief executive officers should tell employees to "treat customers with dignity and respect." No specific rule could account for all the different types of situations. The managers and CEOs should lead by example, treating customers fairly and generously when issues arise. Values-based leadership can help better connect with customers and form tighter relationships with them.
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