It has been ingrained in many managers that customers want high levels of accuracy and fast turnaround times from their service providers. Those of us in the business of serving customers – both B2C and B2B – have translated that commitment to our clients into a service level agreement (SLA’s). Yes, having an appropriate target level is important for things like call answer time, aging of work items, error rate and so on. However, in my over 20 years serving customers, I have found that consistency is even more important, especially in this age of change & disruption.
What does consistency mean, in the context of a service organization?
This definition of consistency from the Oxford English Dictionary really resonates with me: “The quality of achieving a level of performance which does not vary greatly over time.” The word derives from the Latin ‘consistere’ from con- ‘together’ + sistere ‘stand (still)’. In other words, stand firm together, by acting in the same way over time. For a service organization, this means the customer should have a consistent experience regardless of who they reach, how they connect with us (i.e., phone, chat or email), why they are contacting us, or when. In all cases, we need to be consistent in our soft skills (e.g., respect, active listening), and consistent in our approach to responding to their inquiry: Our first contact resolution rate should be at a consistent level, and the customer should have a very good idea how long they will have to wait if the inquiry requires more research.
Following are three things every manager can do to help ensure greater consistency with their customers. These are all practices I have actively promoted at companies like Nasdaq and Fidelity Investments, and which have resulted in a steady uptick in Client Satisfaction and NPS scores.
1) Watch the aging of research items carefully: Every time interval of variance from the standard time to research and resolve is an inconsistent – and oftentimes frustrating – customer experience.
2) Pay attention to associate-level variance: In some cases, inconsistency can be tracked to a few associates who either received sub-optimal training, have not fully embraced the team’s standards and protocols, or are new to the organization and still learning.
3) Listen to customer feedback: There are multiple ways to find out if your customers’ experience is as consistent as you think it is – online surveys, client forums, conference calls, face to face meetings – and trends will emerge from the feedback that will unearth inconsistencies you might not otherwise find out about.