The secret sauce behind a strong service culture (Part 2)

This is the second of a three part series where I'll share the three main ingredients that make up the secret sauce behind a strong service culture. The first ingredient was clarity (read that post here). The second ingredient is consistency.

Consistency impacts a service culture in two ways.  First, organizations have to consistently deliver outstanding experiences. Second, organizations have to deliver service that is consistent with what their customers should expect of them.

Consistently Outstanding
I recently had hardwood floors installed in my home.  (Geneva Flooring did the job – they are terrific.)  The project caused me to make quite a few trips to my local hardware store, San Carlos TrueValue, to get various supplies throughout the project.  Every time I went to the store, I was greeted with, “What can I help you find today?”  All of the associates I encountered were friendly, helpful, and didn’t make me feel bad about my lack of home improvement knowledge.  Best of all, their recommendations were spot on and I got in and out quickly with as little damage to my wallet as possible.

Getting it right every time requires individuals to be consistent, but it also requires every employee to step up to the same level. For example, Gallup did a study on a major telecommunications provide and found they enjoyed an 88% overall satisfaction rating among customers who called their call centers. They dug a little deeper and found that the bottom 10% of the company's reps had a customer satisfaction rating of only 43%. The 88% overall score clearly didn't matter too much to the unfortunate customers who happened to get one of the 'bottom 10%' on the phone!

Consistent with Expectations
Let me risk a short, but instructive tangent.  Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s toughness and dedication was widely criticized during the 2011 NFC Championship when he came out of the game and was seen standing on the sideline in full uniform.  It turned out that Cutler had suffered a sprained MCL and was truly unable to play, but his behavior was inconsistent with what the fans expected.  If you look like you can play, you should be playing.

Compare that to Green Bay Packers defensive back Charles Woodson who was injured during the 2011 Super Bowl.  He has been widely hailed as an inspiration to his team rather than facing the same criticism as Cutler.  Why?  Because Woodson reappeared on the sideline in street clothes and his arm in a sling.  He looked injured so fans didn't expect him to re-enter the game.

Bringing this back to the business world, employees' behaviors need to align with what companies tell their customers to expect. A company that advertises amazing service better have employees who are able to do just that, or they'll risk alienated customers.