ServiceExperts™ is a series of contributing articles from recognized industry professionals offering their thoughts, viewpoints and opinions on the latest trends impacting the service industry. Elizabeth Dixon is a winsome business leader and serial entrepreneur who connects with executives and their teams, integrating strategy, innovation, leadership and personal development in speeches that ignite conversation and inspire purposeful action. She has founded, operated and sold several small businesses as well as actively coaches emerging entrepreneurs toward success in achieving their business goals. Her experience includes many recognizable brands, including Chick-fil-A, Disney World, The Gap, YMCA, and Cooper Aerobics Center.
As with most things in life, consistency is key for Customer Experience.
Without consistency, you don’t have a differentiator; you have a one-time occurrence. Then, it’s not a quality of your brand that customers can expect; it’s just something that happened a few times. It’s not a promise; it’s just an event.
Consistency makes the difference here. It brings validity to both you and the brand you represent. What makes up a customer’s experience with you is the consistency with which you deliver. What you say is one thing, but delivering on that plan time and again is what sets you apart.
Think about this on a personal level. If I asked you to describe the qualities you love about your best friend, your parents, your spouse, or your kids, what would you talk about: the characteristics on display once or twice or the characteristics you’ve experienced consistently?
When your best friend is kind once, it’s a nice thing. But when they’re consistently kind, it sets them apart from others. When your spouse is thoughtful once, it’s an unexpected surprise. But when they’re consistently thoughtful, it’s something you come to love about who they are. When your parents are strict one time, it’s a frustrating moment. But when they’re strict from the start, it becomes part of the boundaries you expect from them.
This Christmas, I had a sweet moment with our son. There’s something about the holidays that brings memories of those who aren’t with us anymore, and on this night, David was missing his great-grandmother. He didn’t know her for many years, as she passed away when he was seven. But as we sat tearfully talking about what we loved about her, he said through sniffles, “She sent us birthday cards every year.” Though my son didn’t get to know my grandmother well, he remembered what was consistent about her and that left a lasting impact.
That’s because the behaviors that are consistent are the behaviors you remember about someone. They become the defining qualities of who that person is to you. And ultimately, they’re the things that build trust, loyalty, and love between you and them.
The same is true in the customer experience. What we do consistently is what customers will come to expect from their interaction with us and our brands. We’re ambassadors for the brands and deliverers of their differentiators.
The best brand ambassadors out there? They take pride in setting themselves apart from the competition. They want to be the best in the business, and they work hard to make sure the elements that set their company apart—the differentiators for their customer experience—are delivered on with consistency.
If Linda stopped by another Nordstrom location and saw the employees not using the signature tissue paper in every single bag, I have no doubt it would bother her! Because she knows that the experience customers have at that one store with that one employee is a reflection on the brand as a whole and the people who represent it (like her!). If the differentiators aren’t defined and delivered, the customer experience will suffer across the board.
How can we practically ensure consistency across our business? To answer this, let’s look at what threatens consistency:
- Scale – the larger we get the more challenging it is to be consistent on the very thing that got us there. My friend Ryan sent me Seth Godin’s blog that powerfully addresses this – a great read that’s worth your time! As we grow, how can we think like we are small?
- Culture – pretty much everything in an organization is impacted by culture. What are the norms that the people within the organization know and understand and align themselves with? Many of us want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, so is our culture allowing for that to happen? What is the purpose the culture and people can rally around and align themselves to?
- Communication – a favorite quote regarding clarity and communication is “A mist in the pulpit means a fog in the crowd”. If it is slightly unclear from the stage or from the office of the leaders of the organization then it is going to be extremely confusing to the reset of the organization. What are the messages the front lines are hearing and applying?
Continue learning and growing with Elizabeth Dixon’s book, The Power of Customer Experience: 5 Elements to Make an Impact.