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Imagine you are driving to work on Monday, following the same route you've driven for the last five years. You see a traffic light change from green to yellow, and for just a split-second, you think about hitting the gas pedal to get through the intersection before the light changes to red. Instead you slow down and stop because you know the light will stay red for two minutes, and that will not disrupt your arrival time. 

Now imagine that the following day, the light remains red for three minutes instead of two. At this, you might begin to get a bit impatient going into that third minute, feeling the noticeably longer wait time. Imagine that the same thing happens the following day, only with a four-minute red light. But on Thursday, much to your delight, the red light only lasts 45 seconds. So Friday comes, you’re at that same light, and green turns to yellow―so what do you do? Slow down hoping for a short red light, or speed up at the likelihood of four-minute (or longer) wait time for the green light?

Inconsistent experiences drive inconsistent, unsettling expectations. 

Setting The Right Expectations

When experiences align with expectations, we clearly know what to expect, and this allows us to make plans accordingly without surprises. For example, if you know that when you e-mail a technical support question to your equipment supplier, they always take between 1 and 1.5 hours to respond, so you reach out to them and then go to lunch, knowing their response will arrive in your inbox soon after you finish eating.

But what happens if they are inconsistent with their response time? You contact tech support when you know you will be at the equipment for at least two hours (based on previous experience). Before tech support reaches out to you, your boss asks you to come to her office. She has a new and important project to turn over to you. You go to her office, but in the back of your mind you are worrying that you will miss the return call from tech support, resulting in the dreaded game of telephone tag. Stress mounds, causing you to have uncertainty with the equipment supplier.

How Consistency Impacts Customer Loyalty

So far, nothing major results from the inconsistency. But what if the new project requires purchasing a new piece of equipment? While the incumbent has an advantage because you know how to use the equipment, you may feel that another supplier’s product may also be easy to use and that their tech support group may have its stuff together and provide an overall better experience. The trade-off s begin as you struggle between the short-term pain of learning a new piece of equipment and the long-term stress caused by uncertainty with tech support.

Do you want to be the tech support manager when your sales vice president reports to the CEO that a long-time customer purchased a competitor’s product because your tech support is unsatisfactory? Not likely. Consistency is the one answer that absolutely and completely solves this dilemma. Customer loyalty is built on the foundation of consistency. Don’t let them down―drive your consistency, drive customer loyalty.

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Dennis Gershowitz

About Author Dennis Gershowitz

Dennis Gershowitz is the founder and president of DG Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in driving service revenues and profits through the development and implementation of customer experience management (CEM) strategy and service operations improvements. DG Associates is a TSIA Consulting Alliance Partner.