How Critical Is Consistency?

We all like to try different things.  In business, however, being consistent is important … unless you don’t care if customers come back.

Pizza DeliveryThink about a pizza joint as an example.  Assume you order your favorite toppings and crust for delivery.  When it shows up, within the promised time frame, it is hot and prepared to perfection.  Your expectation has been established for the next time.  The bar is set.

Two weeks later, you order the same pizza from the same establishment.  It shows up hot and on time, but the crust is a bit overdone and the taste is different somehow.  Maybe they forgot to spice it the same way.  Okay, you can tolerate that, but now your expectations have been altered, maybe even reduced.  You may even call the pizza parlor to ask the manager why there’s a difference.

The next few pizzas you order are tolerable but still not as good as the first.  The joint seems to be having a hard time with consistency but still within a tolerable range fro delivered food.  Then the bomb drops.

You order again and the person answering the phone is rude, asks you to hold, and rather than wait, you hang up and have someone else call it in.  Same thing happens to them, and it takes five minutes to get back to you. If you are emotionally tied to ordering from that pizza place, you wait and place your order.

Thirty minutes after your pizza should have arrived, you call to find out if the driver got lost or what’s going on with it.  No apology, just some line about being backed up and your pie is just coming out of the oven, so it should be there within a few minutes.

You expect a fresh, hot pizza that meets your standard for this pizza parlor.  You’re hungrier than ever since you were ready to eat when it was due to be delivered.  Instead, it arrives cold, the whole pie looks burnt – especially the crispy crust, and it tastes horrible.  This is unequivocally not acceptable.  Yet you’ve still paid good money for your dinner.

As the owner of this business, what would you anticipate the customer would do if you were them?  Shut up and eat the pizza without complaining?  Eat it but call to complain?  Bring it back and demand a refund?  Or the more likely scenario:  Never order pizza from you again and tell everyone they know how horrible your pizza was?

The lesson for any business owner:  What does it take to deliver a consistent product or service to your customers?  In this case, making a pizza should be relatively simple:  make a crust using your signature ingredients, put it in a cooking pan, add your signature sauce, top it with consistent ingredients and spices, and cook it in an oven set to the right temperature for the specified amount of time.  Then box it up and get it delivered within the promised time frame.

Walk through that exercise with whatever product or service you offer to consumers.  Assess what it takes to be consistent.  The steps should be relatively simple and easy to identify.  Those steps should be your normal and your staff should clearly understand that “normal” is the minimal standard to achieve.  Nothing less than that should be tolerated.

What goes along with delivering a consistent product or service is the customer service side of the process.  Back to the pizza example:  How difficult would it be for someone in the business, preferably a manager, to call a customer back, apologize, and let them know the pizza is going to be delivered later than previously stated?  Find the order slip, pick up the phone, and call the client.  The point is to retain customer loyalty if possible.  Unless you have enough business that you can afford to have only one-time customers.

For some business owners, it may be essential to have a business consultant come in and analyze what’s going on when it comes to processes and consistency.  The solutions are often simple but may involve changing a company’s existing culture.  There are firms, Brand Irons comes to mind, that can help assess those challenges and create options.

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