Consistency: The secret ingredient for creating customer loyalty


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As a CX consultant, I spend my workdays helping companies understand, improve, and even reinvent their customer experiences. As a result, I’ve become a much more discerning customer in my off time. I really pay attention to how I’m treated, what the communications feel like, and whether I feel good, bad, or indifferent after trying to get what I need, when I need it.

It’s made me realize what the real ‘secret sauce’ is for building customer loyalty:   Consistency.

3 reasons why consistency is critical to customer experience

1. People

Every business should know their customer experience starts with their people. All employees are a steward for the brand in some way, which means they need to consistently deliver experiences that make a great impression. But that rarely happens.

For example, when I go to my neighborhood Peets coffeehouse, I’m treated like family. We know each other’s names, ask about our weekends, and they know my drink and get it right every time. I know the managers at that location carefully engender that culture so everyone feels welcome. But when I visit a Peets in a strange ‘hood, train station or airport… forget about it.

Sure, other locations may have work overloads or accelerated pace. But as a loyal customer, I expect the Peets “brand” to always include an experience where I’m treated as warmly as the coffee – wherever that may be. When both I and my drink are handled with glum indifference, it never tastes as good.

It’s not enough to delight the customers you know best; you also need to delight the ones you rarely see. Every interaction makes an impression, and when those impressions are consistently great, it adds up to loyalty.

2. Places

How many times have you had a good experience with a brand on their website, but things went downhill in the store? Or you were promised something delightful in one interaction, and your eager anticipation turned to bitter disappointment when it fell through?

To build the trust that leads to loyalty, the customer journey needs consistency. Each experience is like traveling from place to place, and each place should deliver the same exceptional level of insight, care, and attention as the last one.

Too often, it doesn’t – and that’s part of why it’s so hard to earn customer loyalty.

Recently, I cashed in a zillion hard-earned United Airlines miles to fly first class overseas. I carefully chose my seats online, excited to treat myself to the luxurious recliners. In that “place” on my customer journey I was delighted. On the next place (my actual trip), the first flight offered lush seats that exceeded my expectations, but the service of the “unfriendly skies” threw a shadow of inconsistency over my experience. The real shocker came when I stepped onto the second flight, expecting even fancier recliners I had been promised, to see United switched my flight to an antiquated 747 that was like something out of 1983. Burning up precious loyalty miles for that bait-and-switch has left me leery, not loyal.

In an ironic twist, United just announced they’re retiring their 747s. Was mine one of the last flights? If so, they missed a great loyalty opportunity. What if they’d invited passengers to celebrate the final voyage with a free drink? That might’ve rescued the experience by turning disappointment into nostalgia.

3. Things

Too often, businesses are so focused on one aspect of the customer experience – like a product or venue design – that they forget it’s a holistic phenomenon.

As customers, we rarely have tunnel vision. Most of us don’t go into a restaurant and stare into our plate the entire time. We take in the scene, we assess the comfort of the seats and view, we consider the noise level and lighting, all while trying to read the menu, engage our waiter, taste our food, and enjoy conversation with our dining companions. Because each of those “things” is part of the overall customer experience, any one of them can make or break a good impression that influences loyalty.

Restaurants are a good example that not every element has to be topnotch, but the business still needs to keep a keen eye on consistency. How often have you dined out and later don’t remember the food, because the noise was deafening and service spotty? Or returned to a place hoping to relive a wonderful experience and your second visit paled in comparison?  Those are just some of the ways consistency impacts customer retention and loyalty.

Unlocking the secret of loyalty

Earning customer loyalty can be a complex puzzle. But it gets easier when you have a clear vision of the picture on the box. That picture is what it looks like when all the pieces come together consistently to create an ideal experience.

By considering all the people, places, and things that influence the customer journey, businesses set the stage for delivering a consistent level of quality across all of them — unlocking a vital secret to solving the loyalty puzzle.

Gavin James
Gavin James is passionate about helping companies build winning relationships by creating customer-focused solutions. As Beyond the Arc's Director of Creative Services, Communications Lead, and a CX consultant, she brings 25+ years of expertise in customer experience strategy, writing and design. Gavin specializes in writing clear, compelling communications, and visual design for ease of use and emotional appeal. She also rocks at helping companies build a customer-centric culture to deliver on their brand promise.


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