One of the problems that processes and systems solve is being consistent when working with your customers or partners. All too often, a company’s interaction with the outside world depends on the individual who is communicating. So, a person will call up customer support multiple times and have a different experience each time. This can be frustrating for the customer. In addition to being told different things, a person can be treated differently depending on the individual and possibly the individual’s mood.
There are a few personal examples that I would like to use to illustrate this.
A few weeks ago my son, who had come home for a weekend, went back to Toronto to continue his religious studies at a school there. He has a visa and this was the third time that he was entering Canada with this visa. The customs agent told him that everything was wrong and he should not have even been let into the country back in October. He sent my son to “the back” for processing. The next person to talk to my son looked at his documentation and told him that everything was in order and that it was OK for him to continue. He also helped him understand his situation and what he needed for the future.
Consistency, consistency, consistency! I was not there, so I don’t know if the original customs agent was having a bad day, if he was new and not properly trained, or if there was another “excuse” for mishandling the situation. However, if customs were a competitive environment, they would have lost a customer! I would tell my son to try the competition next time.
Apple App Review Team
Another example happened to me recently. At Sound World Solutions, we have been working on a beta version of an app to customize the CS50 personal sound amplifier (you can follow the link if you want more information). Since the app cannot be used without the hardware, I have had a note in the Notes box since the first beta submission that mentions that we will submit a demo video when we release the app. For 6 submissions, the reviewer had no problem letting the app go through for our beta users without a video. On the 7th submission, the reviewer decided that he will not let the app through and we need to submit a video.
Did something change?? I don’t know. However, I suspect that the reviewer was not properly trained. The instructions that he gave to add the video didn’t even work.
Consistency, consistency, consistency!
Starbucks has a reward system where after earning a certain level you can get free refills on your brewed coffee or tea. Here are the rules:
“You must use your registered Starbucks Card to purchase a beverage and then present that same Starbucks Card for refills of hot or iced brewed coffee or tea during the same store visit at participating Starbucks® and Teavana® stores”
Here is an article that explains the benefit in more detail.
However, there is plenty of room for inconsistency from store to store. In this post, there is the following question:
Can I get a free refill if I went outside and had my beverage on the store’s patio?
I don’t know the exact answer to this. I’ve actually heard baristas say both yes and no to this. It would seem to me that since you’re still on the store’s property, you should be able to get a free refill. This appears to be another area of ambiguity.
(the underline is my own)
In addition to free refills, you can get a free beverage loaded on your card for every 12 stars if you are a Gold Level member. But, did you know that not all locations participate in this reward? I went to a Starbucks in Target and was charged the full cost of my latte, even though I used the card with the reward “loaded” on it.
So, now I am confused about where and when I can get a free refill or free beverage. Obviously, I don’t feel like I am getting a consistent customer experience and I don’t know what to expect the next time I walk into a Starbucks and try to use the benefits of the rewards program.
As a small or medium sized business, we do not have the luxury to give our customers an inconsistent experience when working with our brand. Unlike Canadian Customs, our customers can go elsewhere. Unlike Apple, we aren’t the gatekeepers to other companies customers. Unlike Starbucks, we don’t have an overwhelming presence that keeps our customers coming to us, despite the inconsistencies.
If you haven’t already started writing a customer service manual or at least documenting the proper customer facing processes or systems, I highly recommend that you get moving. You don’t want to lose customers to your competition because they are treated differently every time they interact with you or your brand.