What Did You Expect? The Importance of Consistency


This article is a day late.

If you’re a regular reader of my weekly ramblings on sales, service, and leadership, you know that I publish every Monday morning. Many of you have come to expect my familiar voice in your email box at a specific day and time. So, some of you took notice when I didn’t show up yesterday.

We humans are creatures of habit. We like predictability. We crave structure and routine. We like knowing what to expect. It gives us a sense of security and stability. And when it comes to dealing with other people that predictability leads to trust; a key characteristic of healthy relationships.

As service providers, we need to pay close attention to the idea of consistency. Customers come to expect a certain level of service from us. They come to expect a particular set of behaviors during an interaction. It gives them that sense of familiarity and trust. And provided they like what they come to expect, it keeps them coming back.

But when that routine is broken – when we fail to meet expectations, even if it’s slight and only once – that trust is shaken. Doubt is introduced to the relationship. The customer can’t help but wonder “What’s going on?” Suddenly they no longer know what to expect and the relationship is in jeopardy.

Think about the last time your favorite restaurant changed up their menu. Or the time the grocery store altered the floor layout. It threw you for a loop, didn’t it?

A select few will speak up. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of people who asked me about yesterday’s article. But most won’t. They’ll remain silent while they wait to see what happens next. If the service slip proves to be a fluke, the relationship probably continues. But if things don’t return to “normal” quickly, most of them will write you off. They’ll quietly look for another source of stability and the relationship is lost. It’s only later, after the opportunity to fix things has passed, that you realize they’re gone.

Top organizations are always looking for ways to enhance and improve the customer experience. They seek out innovative ways to draw in new customers and raise the bar for their competition. But too few pay attention to the importance of consistency. They fail to ensure the new level of service can be maintained for the long-haul. They get complacent and forget that the customer is always watching – and evaluating their options.

It’s a delicate balance: innovation vs. predictability. Getting it right means everything.

Take a look at your routines. What aspects of doing business with you have your customers come to rely on? What parts of the relationship are most dependent on consistency? How will you ensure your customers continue to receive what they expect?


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