Purpose – In an attempt to gain insight into the effects of transparent communication on critical performances, this paper aims to explore performance measures and communication of a large‐scale service organization, i.e. the Dutch Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, (NS)). Design/methodology/approach – Semi‐structured interviews with employees of NS and external stakeholders were analyzed to study which performances are measured by NS, why they are measured, and how they are communicated to the employees and stakeholders. Findings – An ambiguous view on transparency was observed. Although transparency is advocated by most employees and stakeholders, this study revealed the complexity of performance communication of a service organization. In this case, NS used to fully disclose performances but emphasized positive performances. This transparent communication strategy seemed to backfire and yielded a counterbalanced societal response from customer organizations which resulted in a strained relationship. Research limitations/implications – The findings are based on qualitative data of a limited number of interviews. Several types of actors were interviewed but not passengers of NS themselves. Practical implications – From a communicative point of view, it might be wise to publish negative aspects as well as the positive ones to promote trust and corporate credibility. Building trust involves investing in positive experiences for customers and promotion of realistic expectations. To enhance trust, organizations must not only inform stakeholders and citizens about their performances but also invest in direct communication with their stakeholders. Originality/value – This study explores performance communication of a service organization, and the ambivalent role of transparency of (internal and external) performance communication.
- Performance levels
- The Netherlands