I’m the world’s worst consumer.  I don’t buy much myself and I don’t spend any time shopping for fun, because for me it’s not fun, so when I do shop, I take notice, and that truly does make me the worst consumer.

This means I have high expectations. And I expect ‘things’ to happen all the time, every time. Because if this, I thought I would share a story with you about the value of consistency, and the impact it has on your sales, both directly and indirectly.

Consistency in business affects all of us everyday in some way, it’s just that we usually call it something else, like service or poor product or something other than the fact that our customers compare one visit to the next.

But consider this:

If your doctor gives you an incorrect diagnosis, is it poor service?

If you go to your usual restaurant and the food is bad, is it poor product?

If your favorite dry cleaner suddenly damages one of your garments, is it poor product knowledge?

In all cases the answer would be yes, on that occasion at least.  However, it may have been just a once off event.  They were having a bad day, a product was tainted, a new employee, whatever.  In short, they were inconsistent, that’s all, and they slipped up, once.

With that in mind consider this:

Would you go back to the doctor when he’s playing with your life?

Would you risk taking some friends to the restaurant again when you don’t really know if it’s going to be OK, leaving you to look silly?

Would you risk the new suit you bought at the dry cleaners again on the off chance they make the same mistake twice?

You see, service, product, location, value, and all of the things we have learned are important in business are important. BUT if all of these things are not present in your business EVERYDAY, then you are losing customers EVERYDAY that they don’t appear.

So what if it doesn’t appear EVERYDAY, how do you combat that?

First you put performance indicators in your business to make sure you have a checklist of some kind that these things are present, something with which you can gauge the effectiveness of the elements of your business that directly affect your customers.

Second, make sure you have a plan in place to help you out if something does go wrong. If you do have a day when the wheels fall off, make sure you know how to ‘make good’ and at least salvage the situation.

Which leads me to my story.

After a decade of travelling the world, I have got myself into a pattern.  I know what I like, and I know what I like to expect.

Last month I stayed in my usual hotel in Sydney. With one exception, this time it was an unusual disaster!

The air conditioning in my room was intermittent, and then nonexistent. The phone didn’t work, and the drain in the sink in the bathroom didn’t drain, and to make it worse the reception didn’t really have any answers as to when all of this was going to be fixed other than, ‘we’re working to have it fixed as soon as possible.’ Disappointingly for me the hotel was booked out with a convention in the venue so they could not change my room, and to be frank I was just too tired when I got in to be bothered finding another hotel.

So I stayed the night and, in the absence of a real solution or timeline to a solution, checked out the next day to another hotel.

I decided to make a case of the experience to the hotel management. I sent back a note to the (new) manager explaining the events.  To his credit, the duty manager did write back to offer me an apology for the event, and a complimentary meal next time I was staying in the hotel.

For me, given the amount of money I spend in their hotels around the world that was not enough pain for him.

I wrote another note back offering him two options.

  1. To make himself a hero and give me free night’s accommodation in compensation of the disaster I just experienced so we could continue our relationship.
  2.  He could stick to his guns on his offer.

He chose option two.

Not only did this guy offer me ONE inconsistent event to turn me away, he pushed me out the door and didn’t mind if it hit me on the backside on the way out!

His reason, there was no record of my complaint in the diary. Hmmmmm.

A classic example of the impact of inconsistency.

Not only has he lost me as a customer in every city, he has effectively given me a great story to tell my friends, which is not a good look for him considering that in an average month I speak to up to 3000 people at various conferences, and I have a television talk show that goes into 35 million homes.

The sad part about this story is that it was not this fellow’s fault that I had a bad weekend.  But for him to think that makes a difference to my opinion of his is establishment, he is seriously overestimating my care factor.

So what has all of this got to do with you?  Well, as a business person dealing with the public it has everything to do with you. You will come across these sorts of issues every day, it’s just that you only get to hear about the bad ones.  If that’s how easy it is for one business to lose a considerable amount of business then how easy is it for any business to do the same thing, relative to your average customer value?

Are you consistent in your business, and if you are, are you consistently good or consistently inconsistent?

As a business person you are a person in the business of selling, so you can be sure to expect consistency in your sales result if you are consistent in the way you seek your sales?

A good friend of mine Donn Wilson (former global head of training and operations for McDonalds and the Dean of Hamburger University) sums it up in one sentence. When I asked him what he felt the most important things was in the development of McDonalds over the years he simply replied, ‘the consistency of our people is as important as the consistency of our product.’

Think about it.