Better Business by Robb Hicken: Think outside suggestion box to build relationships

ROBB HICKEN, chief storyteller for the Better Business Bureau serving the Snake River RegionJuly 2, 2013 

Robb Hicken

On a recent visit to a doctor's office in Nampa, I saw an unusual sight - one that may be common in many businesses throughout the Treasure Valley.

Walking past an open doorway to what could have been a closet but was the business manager's office, I saw a peculiar gray box. Tucked behind the door, in the corner, above the copier machine, the small box had the picture of a puppy and the words: "I'm waiting for your suggestion."

After I left, I was certain that if I had run my finger across the top of the box, where the opening for suggestions was located, I would have found dust.

Well-meaning managers want to know what employees think, but few really want to take the time to look at the results. Countless "suggestion" boxes lie in wait, tucked neatly away.

Most management teams want success and understand the layers of influence, both internal and external, that have to be peeled away to build a trusted business.

One of the founding principles of the Better Business Bureau is establishing trust with employees, vendors, customers and the community.

The ever-changing marketplace requires attention to more than just operations. It requires building strong relationships, internally and externally, to make success.

There are no golden keys except one: Begin today.

An empty suggestion box could mean the employees trust you enough to come forward with ideas, or conversely, they are terrified of even making suggestions.

Take steps to see what side of the box your employees, vendors and customers are on.

To help businesses strengthen relationships and build trust, BBB offers these six tips:

1. Start from the inside out. Focus on your employees. Employees are the backbone of a business and taking time to communicate with them daily could help foster a positive company culture. Remember, employee respect is just as important as customer respect.

2. Get to know your vendors. To help build trusting relationships with vendors right from the start, review lists of BBB accredited vendor companies at http:// snake-river.bbb.org/Find-Business-Reviews. Choosing vendors who are committed to ethical behavior will help create strong, lasting relationships that could, over time, ensure you are getting the best service for your buck.

3. Protect your customers' identities. Make sure all customer information is handled properly and securely. Ensure your business is protected from a security breach by having the right security measures in place.

4. Advertise honestly. Adhere to established standards of advertising and selling, and always represent products and services truthfully, including clear and adequate disclosures of all terms and conditions.

5. Connect on social media. While many businesses use social media for marketing, these platforms provide great opportunity for engaging the online community. Connecting with consumers and organizations on social media can create awareness about your brand and help build trust.

6. Be a community advocate. Participate in the betterment of the community.

Customers are loyal to businesses that are involved in programs that support their local community, such as philanthropic groups, chamber organizations and business networks.

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rhicken@boise.bbb.org, 947-2115

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