09 Jun The Boring Secret to Customer Satisfaction: Consistency

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It’s hard to get excited about consistency. Oscar Wilde disparaged it as the “hallmark of the unimaginative.” Aldous Huxley called it “contrary to life.” The only completely consistent people, he said “are the dead.” To his very short list he probably should have added the successful, for without consistency, without discipline, without daily application, not much happens.

According to a 2014 McKinsey study, this is particularly the case when it comes to making customers happy. Customer service, it turns out, is often more than the sum of its parts.

“It’s not enough to make customers happy with each individual interaction,” McKinsey concluded, citing its own survey of more than 27,000 American consumers. Maximizing the customer’s experience across the whole “journey” has the potential not only to increase customer satisfaction by 20 percent but also to lift revenue by up to 15 percent while lowering the cost of serving customers by as much as 20 percent, it estimated.

This focus is particularly important given that the customer journey, even for the smallest company, has broadened across channels and touchpoints (from the first contact on the Internet to after-sales service).

McKinsey says “simple math” explains the multiplying power of consistency:

“Assume a customer interacts six times with a pay-TV company, starting when he or she undertakes online research into providers and ending when the first bill is received 30 days after service is installed. Assuming a 95 percent satisfaction rate for each individual interaction, even this level of performance means that up to one in four customers will have a poor experience during the on-boarding journey.”

The McKinsey research identified three keys to consistency:


Guidance. Superior service requires clear policies, rules, and supporting mechanisms for every business area to ensure consistency during each interaction.


Emotional consistency. The consultancy said one of the most illuminating results of its survey was that positive customer-experience emotions —encompassed by a feeling of trust — were the biggest drivers of satisfaction and loyalty. This, it said, made it imperative to fix areas where negative experiences are common. “Because a single negative experience has four to five times greater relative impact than a positive one, companies should focus on reducing poor customer experiences, especially in those areas in which customers come into contact with the organization most often.” As an example, it advises training frontline service representatives to identify and address specific customer issues through role-playing and script guidelines, “which will go a long way toward engendering deeper customer trust.”


Ensuring customers recognize the delivery of your promises. This requires proactively shaping communications and key messages that consistently highlight delivery as well as themes. To be sure, you’re not Southwest Airlines so trumpeting your no-frills, low-cost record in a large corporate campaign is not an option, but it is still possible to modestly let your customers know that you do what you say you will do.

Final thing, take action now! According to McKinsey’s research, customers since 2009 are valuing an “average” experience less and have even less patience for variability in delivery. “Making additional investments to improve the customer experience without tightening the consistency of experience is just throwing good money after bad.”

For the record, it’s worth noting that Oscar Wilde had a colorful life. But he also died destitute at the age of 46.

Last modified on Tuesday, 09 June 2015 05:54
Chris Burslem

Chris Burslem is the group managing editor of INSTORE. He loves it when good ideas triumph.

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