transparency and Human Flaws

My father told me a story once about a man who gifted one of his sons N100K. The son was very grateful, thanked his father and was happy with an additional N100K in his pocket. However, the next day, the same son found out that his father had given his other son N150K and was upset and hurt by this; he felt short changed and that the N100K no longer held the same weight. He was no longer happy with his N100K. Upon confronting his father about the N50K discrepancy, his father replied, “How do you know that I gifted him an extra 50K? I might well have been repaying him that sum. Or indeed, I might have been loaning him that sum. You do not know the structure of the final total, only the sum total”.

I think about and refer back to this story periodically; the issue for the first son was not only jealousy, it was essentially lack of transparency. He made an assumption that his father had given his brother N50K more than him, and felt aggrieved. But he didn’t have all the data points to hand in order to come to an accurate conclusion — he had incomplete information. He needed a more transparent route to making a sound conclusion and was at the mercy of a human flaw and lack of information.

This week, we launched something at Sparkle that could potentially be quite controversial. Or a game changer, depending on your perspective when it comes to customer-focussed products and services. As we continue to execute on our own transparency-first mantra, we launched a real-time Sparkle Status tracker — a platform where we continuously monitor and report on any issues with our service.

Our form of transparency doesn’t come just in a passive tweet format “Sorry Sparkle is down, we apologise for any inconvenience”. No — our transparency is granular; what’s wrong, what day did the outage happen, what actual part of the Sparkle app underperformed and for how long? This means that our users are given all the data points they need to figure out what went wrong. If they can’t access the Sparkle site, why is that? Is it on our end [if so, we apologise and are working frantically to recity] but it might also be their network playing up… but either way, our Sparklers know what went wrong and can eliminate / sort through issues in a logical way. In a world where there’s multiple opportunities for failure, we feel that it’s critical to be transparent so that customers know where they are; we’re removing the need for assumptions.

Digital infrastructure allows for transparency IF a company is willing to accept that problems happen, and that being open and honest with customers is the right thing to do, as well as a long-term strategy for building trust with a user base. Customers tire of opaqueness from institutions — they get weary of veiled or half hearted apologies or, even worse, simply being ignored. So with the digital infrastructure we’ve been building at Sparkle, we’re able to narrow down where the problems exist, and we actively choose to share this information with our customers — we see the sharing of information as a partnership. It also makes us want to do better. In an ideal world, we too will eliminate issues and drive those little red and yellow markers from the service dashboard. Through our own transparency, we can reveal — and continue to work — to fix flaws.