I recently stayed for a few days at a fabulous five-star oceanfront hotel. On the first morning, I ordered a side bowl of fruit for breakfast. Much to my delight, the waitress delivered a beautiful bowl of mixed fruit in a generously sized soup bowl. The next morning, I decided to order the fruit again, but this time the fruit was served in a fairly small cup. Picky? A little thing? No! Consistency or lack thereof is a BIG thing!
I am certain that had I complained about the inconsistency of my two “identical” orders, I would have received an apology and likely more fruit. It really didn’t seem worth my time because in reality, the smaller sized portion was adequate; however it did affect my overall experience.
This event did trigger a memory of a former client who operates a string of budget motels in the Midwest. He insisted that the breakfast bars in his establishments be consistently arranged every morning. One day, I asked him if he was being too rigid with his policies and his employees. Couldn’t they be creative and change how the coffee and bagels were presented to the guests? But, his rationale made sense: regular guests (and there were many) expect the decaf coffee to be in the second pot, not the first; and, they didn’t want to search for their breakfast items.
I thought it was interesting that a manager of a budget hotel who provides a free breakfast was more in tune with consistency than the manager of a luxury hotel in which the typical breakfast costs more than $25.00!
There are three aspects of any business – product, service and setting – that require consistency. Most organizations are most consistent with their product; they had policies and procedures for creating and/or preparing their product. However, in my fruit cup example, the quality and selection of the fruit was consistent but the quantity varied. Even if you are selling a product that is consistently manufactured, the packaging must also be consistent. Do you always put your customers’ purchases in paper bags, or do you use boxes or shopping bags at certain times?
Let’s consider consistency in service. How many times have you walked into the same store and received mixed levels of greetings – sometimes a warm “hello” and other times you are totally ignored. Eric Lane, retired president of Men’s Wearhouse, told me that for hours on end, they would walk through the customer experience: “When they come in the store, what we should say, how will they (the customer) respond. It is choreographed at the highest level.”
The last aspect is consistency in the setting. A “big box” home improvement store, that shall remain nameless, constantly rearranges the layout of their stores. Maybe the merchandizing staff is trying to force customers to see other offerings, but for me it is frustrating. When stores make these changes, they need to make an extra effort to greet their customers and help guide them to their favorite products.
You may think that consistency is of minimal importance to creating the overall experience or “show,” such as my stay at the luxury hotel on the Atlantic Ocean. But, those “little things” are part of that “show” and will set you apart from your competition. So, make sure your product is consistently delivered, that you choreograph the customer experience and that your setting complements the mood you are trying to set for your customers.