DOES PROVIDING EXCELLENT SERVICE MEAN BEING CONSISTENT?
Before we can identify how to be consistent, we first need to answer the question “does providing excellent service mean being consistent?” My answer to this is yes and no, and here is why. Consistent is defined as not contradictory; uniform in thought and action.
Consider the definition for a moment in relation to customer service. It is important for customers to get a sense of business integrity, to feel the employee they are talking to is knowledgeable, and to feel that there is a sense of understanding and information sharing between departments. It is also important that customers feel a sense of value every time they interact with you. In these respects, here are some areas where it is important to be consistent:
Processes and standards, which create a consistent first impression (i.e., greeting the customer, transferring calls, placing callers on hold, standards for following up with emails, voice messages, general follow up when we are working on finding solutions, etc.).
Understanding and executing policies (flexible policies and non-flexible policies).
Information sharing (it is important that the customer not get one answer when dealing with employee A, and a different answer to the same question when dealing with employee B).
Common understanding around the company’s customer service philosophies (and how to execute these daily during interactions).
Consider the Disney experience. Everyone knows the customer service philosophy, every employee plays their role in delivering an exceptional experience and every time you go back to visit, you will have the same experience. Consistency is important.
Now we have to explore the other side. When shouldn’t we be consistent? Isn’t excellent customer service treating every single customer exactly the same way? Customers want to feel valued in their interaction, and care about how you are going to meet their needs in the moment, not how you are trying to meet everyone’s needs the same way. After all, a customer’s intangible (motives) and tangible needs are not the same. Here is where we need to use our business understanding and our skills. The inconsistency really relates to your mindset, and how this is executed. If you set out to treat everyone exactly the same, with the same answers, executing every policy the same way, etc. you might ignore or miss what this customer, in this moment is saying (words, tone, body language). What she is asking for and, through questioning, why she is asking for it. The result will be a transaction versus an interaction, leaving the customer feeling undervalued.
Here is something else to consider. Whether your business has formally done this or not, there are different valuations for your customers. Some of your customers might be long-term, with many transactions, they provide feedback and referrals to your business. Other customers might have a lot of potential growth within your business, and some might only do business with you once or twice per year. Are you going to treat each of these different customers groupings the same? You want to apply different strategies to different segments to meet their different needs. Examples: whether a customer has a dedicated account manager, how often you communicate and how you communicate, whether a customer goes through the regular phone queue or has been assigned to a priority line, return guidelines for larger volume customers versus single-purchase customers.
HOW DO YOU ENSURE CONSISTENCY?
Determine the areas where you want to provide a consistent experience.
Document your philosophies, standards, processes, and policies.
Train employees so they have an initial understanding of what the philosophies, standards, processes, and policies are AND WHY. Reinforce daily application through coaching and mentoring.
If you will have different strategies for different types of customers, document these, and communicate what and why to employees who will be responsible for execution.
Set up the foundation for a consistent experience by documenting your operation.
Enable “inconsistency” by treating customers as unique, human beings.