Trend Tracking


Two-Way Transparency

Content Specialist

Several times a week, I stop by Pret A Manger for a pre-work cup of coffee. I’ve been doing this for a year now, so I know Nico, Roxana, James and Erin all pretty well. And they know me, too. We’re at that level of familiarity that’s past just talking about the weather but still not quite a full-fledged friendship. In other words, it’s the perfect consumer–employee relationship. Because of my frequency, and our familiarity, any one of those four sometimes gives me my coffee for free or throws in a croissant on the house. Pret works in the spirit of two-way transparency, and it keeps me coming back, again and again.

The idea behind two-way transparency is that a brand can rate a customer just as a customer rates a brand. This is an “Uber effect” that doesn’t get as much press as some of the other consequences brought about by the on-demand ride service. Passenger ratings (on a scale of 0.0 to 5.0, just as for drivers) were designed to alert drivers of customers who’ve shown a pattern of rude, unruly or abusive behavior. If drivers weren’t up to the task, or the challenge, they could opt not to pick that passenger up. It was a form of self-policing, and the concept was surprising in one major regard—customers actually enjoyed being rated.

The concept was surprising in one major regard—customers actually enjoyed being rated.

At its best, two-way transparency creates a cycle of good customer behavior and excellent vendor service. The element of knowing what you’re going to get, of having an idea of exactly what you’re dealing with ahead of time, can create a more positive experience for everyone. It also makes room for perks. That’s what Pret does when they give me a free cup of coffee. They’ve rated me a good customer, appreciate my business and want to keep it. All Pret staffers are given a “freebie allowance” that enables them to give coffee and the occasional pastry to valued customers. The initiative has been proven to drive repeat business.

Two-way transparency has the potential to move far beyond basic retail. Last summer, Liberty Mutual and American Family Insurance began giving discounts to customers who installed a Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector, an alarm that sends in-home data directly to the respective insurance companies. So if you let your ‘self’ (i.e., home) be rated, you receive a 5% discount on your monthly insurance premium. Currently, savings average over $50 per month. The Nest Protect sells for $99, but that amount is refunded when signing up for the program with either insurance provider. It’s almost too easy.

Pret’s ‘freebie allowance’ has been proven to drive repeat business.

We’ve seen workplaces apply two-way transparency when they provide employees with wearables. Employees allow certain aspects of their health to be monitored, and health insurance premiums go down for both the individual and the company. In a similar manner, a healthcare provider might leave a patient with a set of wearables that would relay vital information to clinicians, giving them a real-time look into the patient’s health. This, in turn, could result in more personalized, more preventive care.

There are many angles from which to approach two-way transparency. This trend doesn’t just benefit brands. Customers see the value in letting themselves be rated, judged and tracked. With benefits that range from a free cup of coffee to improved personal health, two-way transparency is a win-win.

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