Customers are creature of habits.
They like the comfort and convenience of predictable customer experiences. For all of the talk about WOWing customers, it is consistency that is the secret sauce in customer experience.
In fact, consistency is one of the three aspects of Hero-Class® customer service that I outlined in Be Your Customer’s Hero.
Because consistency is incredibly difficult to achieve, which means that those who can deliver it can differentiate their organization from the competition.Consistency is one of the best ways to differentiate through customer service. Click To Tweet
In the book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal, the author contends that 40% of what we do each day is based in habit.
Habits can be extremely powerful. They operate at a subconscious level, causing us to function on auto-pilot. If you can addict a customer (in a win-win, good for everyone kind of way), you can keep that customer for a very long time.
To create those habits however, you must first deliver an experience that meets or exceeds expectations.
A great first experience lays the groundwork for a second experience, and a second experience begins the establishment of a pattern.
And patterns eventually become habits.
The importance of consistency struck me during a recent trip through the Orlando airport.
Customer experience experts often talk about how Starbucks fosters an experience that transcends mere coffee. It has almost become a meme that Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee, it sells an experience.
But that’s because it’s a truism that is actually true.
If you delve beneath the surface of the Starbucks experience, it’s not just about creating an experience that’s better than it’s competitors. We’ve likely all been to at least a few other coffee shops that had environments or coffee that were equally as good.
Much of the Starbucks success formula comes down to consistency, predictability, and the de-risking of a simple transaction.Much of @starbucks' success comes from consistency, predictability, and de-risking its #custexp. Click To Tweet
You can see the power of de-risking in this picture of an Orlando airport Starbucks. There were other coffee options nearby, many of them less expensive.
Yet, there was almost a 20 minute line for Starbucks, which I will shamefully admit my wife and I both stood in.
There were cheaper options, faster options, and possibly cheaper and faster options.
So why did we stand in line?
Because we know our drinks, we know how to order them, we know what Starbucks will do if there is a mistake — in short, we know the experience we are likely to get when we get to the counter.
Starbucks has minimized the uncertainty of the coffee buying experience — and we, and hundreds of millions of others, are willing to pay more in money and time to stack the odds of a predictable product and experience in our favor.
Creating customer loyalty is a process. It does not happen overnight and rarely happens after one experience. You might get repeat business after the first experience, but it has not solidified into loyalty yet.
To do that, you need consistent experiences over time. Here are three tips for improving consistency in your customer experiences:
Focus on Message Consistency
In too many organizations, different departments and different mediums send different messages to customers. Your brand is impacted by every email sent, every phone answered, and every customer greeted.
What does your brand stand for and is that being communicated consistently across the entire customer journey?
Improve Touch Point Consistency
How many times have you gone to a business and the sales department was great but the service department was terrible. The retail store was impeccable but the website was a hot mess?
Each touch point represents your brand, and it is incumbent to start with making sure you are first delivering consistent experiences at the pressure points (the make or break touch points) and then throughout the entire customer journey.
Train Regularly for Human Consistency
Let’s face it; we humans are the least consistent part of any customer experience we’re involved in.
Going back to our Starbucks example. I’m guessing if you went to Starbucks 10,000 times and had 50 experiences that weren’t great (0.5%), 48 of those would be caused by the people in the green aprons.
Customer experiences may involve many types of touch points — technological, for instance — but where humans are a key part of the experience, consistent and effective customer service training is incredibly important.
Consistency is mentioned plenty in customer experience, but it is not focused on in proportion to its importance. The reason for this disconnect, in my humble opinion, is that consistency is hard. It is complicated. And it often involves changing human behavior.
And let’s face it, it’s a lot easier to add a few new buttons to your app than to try to get people to deliver great customer experiences. However, consistency is one of the three cornerstones of creating Hero-Class® customer experiences which will result in customer loyalty.
It is important to make sure you are always assessing and improving the consistency of your customer’s journey.
Remember, there’s always a cheaper cup of coffee somewhere; get your customers addicted to the predictability of yours, and they will be loyal forever.
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.