When discussing customer service, people usually focus on the more flashy elements. You’ll see lots of advice online about going above and beyond for your customers, providing hyper-personalized experiences, and properly utilizing modern technology. We’ve written some of these articles here too. Many people find it easier to focus on these elements of customer service because they are exciting (or as exciting as customer service can be). They are about driving action and using a mixture of new ideas and traditional ideas to take your customer service to the next level.
However, with customer service, you must get the basics right first. Consistency is one of these basic fundamentals of customer service, along with being friendly and prompt. While hyper-personalized experiences are great, they can only go so far if you haven’t nailed the basics. What use is personalization if your customers have to wait days for a reply to their query? They will simply give up and move on, even if your product initially caught their eye because it was relevant to their wants and needs. The same is true for consistency.
Humans are creatures of habit. As much as we feel excited and enthralled by new experiences, adventure, and shiny new products that promise to give us everything we want and more, we also crave consistency. Today we’re going to be looking at the importance of consistency in customer service as well as 7 things you can do to deliver the exact experience your customers want. Let’s take a look.
If you want to give your customers a superior customer experience, then you need to focus on consistency. Why? It mostly comes down to expectations.
Have you ever been in a situation where a friend tells you that they received a great experience from a company, so you feel compelled to try the same thing yourself? Now have you ever done that, but then had a much worse experience? The feeling you get from this is significantly worse than if you tried it yourself and were told it wasn’t possible.
Consider this example. You attend a conference and receive some free gifts. You get some pens, a notepad, some charging cables, a flash drive, a laptop bag, and a T-Shirt. You came from out of town for the conference, so you took a flight. Since you were only going for a few days, you decided to just take hand luggage with you to make the journey easier. But now you have all this extra stuff that won’t fit into your luggage for the flight home. You consider shipping the package yourself by using the postal service, but then a friend comes to you with a better suggestion.
He tells you that he’s in the same situation as you, but he took his package to the front desk of the hotel and asked if they could ship it to his house. They greeted him with a warm welcome and said “of course, we’d be happy to help with this”. His package is already on the way to his house as you are speaking.
Thinking this is a great idea, you take your package to the front desk to ask for the same. Only, you have an entirely different experience. There’s a different hotel employee at the front desk this time, and they say “Sorry sir, but we’re not a shipping company, we’re a hotel. You’ll have to find a way to ship this yourself”. You grumble and walk away, deciding to use the postal service instead.
In this scenario, you would have been satisfied using the postal service if you hadn’t spoken to your friend. If you had gone to the front desk first, or if your friend had tried unsuccessfully, that wouldn’t have been too disappointing either. Sure, it might have been a little frustrating that you didn’t get what you want. But equally, you would have understood that you were asking for something extra, something that the hotel never offered you, and something you never expected to get (even if you wanted it).
The inconsistency in your experiences is what causes you to become annoyed and have a bad experience. You will most likely walk away having negative feelings about this hotel and may even vow to never stay there again.
This inconsistency in experiences can apply to so many business situations and always causes some customers to feel that they are left behind. For example, some shops or leisure places have rules or codes of conduct, particularly during the pandemic we are currently living through. Most reasonable people are happy to comply with rules, but they become resistant when they feel singled out. Have you ever been in a situation where you were asked to do something, but you saw lots of people around you breaking the rules with no consequences? That made you feel bad, right?
People can’t help but take these situations personally because they feel personal even if they are not. In our hotel example, you likely would have also had your package shipped if you came across the same employee as your friend did. It wasn’t that they wanted to do it for your friend, but not for you. Instead, it was that employee number 1 had a more customer service focused outlook than employee 2. Either way, people will take this personally and it will sour their experience.
When people believe these inconsistencies are personal, they start to look for reasons that this happened to them but no other people. When this happens, you can get into some seriously dangerous territory that can harm your reputation. Using the hotel example again, if you are black but your friend is white, you might come away believing the hotel hires racist employees. If a small woman is asked to follow a new protocol but sees lots of men not following the protocol in the same place, they might assume that they were singled out because they were an easy target.
With that in mind, here’s a summary of why consistency is so important in customer service:
So, how do you deliver consistent customer service? How do you ensure that your customers are treated fairly and get the experience they want? Here are our top 7 tips.
Many small and medium-sized businesses overlook the importance of creating a mission statement. A mission statement is a great way to create concrete customer experience goals and to hold yourself accountable to your customers. When your agents are in doubt about how they should behave, they can refer to the mission statement for guidance. To be effective, mission statements need to be short, concise, and full of meaning. Here are a few examples of mission statements:
Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
American Express: We work hard every day to make American Express the world’s most respected service brand.
IKEA: To create a better everyday life for the many people. Our business idea supports this vision by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.
If you promise that you will respond to all customers within 24 hours, then you must do this regardless of the communication channel. Customers must have the same experience whether they call you, email you, or Tweet you. In recent years, many consumers have noticed that they get a much quicker response if they tweet a company than if they use other channels. This is not a good thing.
If you let your customers with an email preference wait several days for a reply but respond to tweets within minutes, then you are showing clear favoritism. Not only that, but you are showing that you care more about your reputation than about individual customer experiences. This doesn’t mean that you should leave the Tweets until you can reply to emails, but rather than you need to bring the other areas of customer service up to the standard you provide on social media.
Don’t be afraid to tell customers what they can expect from your company. Many companies are afraid to do this in case they encounter busy periods where they can’t meet these expectations. However, you lose more by not setting expectations than you do by setting them.
Tell your customers when they can expect a reply, what your resolution times are, and what you do to solve their problems. This builds a higher level of trust with your customers.
Consistency often falls down when agents have different ideas about what they should and can do for customers. To combat this, you should have a robust training program for new agents, as well as continually communicating new expectations with more experienced agents.
Know what your customers want and expect from your company. What are you known for? Make sure you work on this to position your company as a leader in your industry. You can’t give customers what they want without knowing who they are.
You should standardize your customer service processes so that agents understand what is within their power. It also keeps agents on track and ensures that they provide the same experience to all customers. You should standardize greetings, the use of emojis, what agents speak to what customers, and so on. When you standardize, you ensure that customers will have the same experience every time they get in touch.
Mistakes happen in customer service; it’s how you rectify them that’s important. Maybe an agent mistakenly told a customer something wasn’t possible when actually it is. If this happens, you should reach out to the customer with an apology and a solution. This will reduce any tensions with the customer, and also give them more confidence in your company.
We’re extremely excited to announce that we have changed our company name to CommBox. It’s still the same company with the same awesome people! just a new name, a fresh look, and a brighter future.Read full story