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Why you need consistency in customer service

15th Mar 2017
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What drives a customer to buy from a business again and again? Extraordinary customer service is definitely a factor and businesses like Zappos have grown to become what they are solely on the basis of strong customer service. Yet, few other businesses are known primarily for their customer service. A major chunk of businesses do rely on factors like higher product quality and better price. But again, there can only be one player who offers the cheapest price or the best quality product in any industry. So what exactly do the rest of the players in an industry rely on?

Customer inertia is an extremely underplayed factor when it comes to customer retention. Inertia essentially refers to the customers’ intent to stick to a business solely because of the switching costs involved. Take telecom as an industry - consumers regularly pay a setup fee while getting a new connection. This fee serves as a barrier to switch providers. As a result, consumers continue to use their telecom providers despite the fact that they are among the businesses with the worst customer satisfaction rating.

Not all industries have high switching costs though. Despite this, customer inertia is an extremely influential factor when it comes to repeat purchase. In such cases, consistency is regarded as the driving force behind customer inertia. A business that offers a consistent experience is likely to get repeat buyers regardless of how this business fares in other aspects like price, product quality and convenience.

Consistency is vital in all aspects of running a business. This includes having fixed open and closing hours, consistency in product or service quality and price. Consistency is also important in marketing. A study of the top brands on Instagram showed that nearly 60 percent of these brands opted for the same filter for their submissions on Instagram. This is to set a particular tone and identity for your business. Not only that, a consistent experience breeds familiarity and makes sure that customers always get what they expect to receive. In other words, your product or service is likely to meet customer expectations and this makes your customers unlikely to switch to a competitor.

But having said that, it needs to be pointed out that relying on customer inertia alone is bad business strategy. Such tactics only work for as long as your competitors do not create sufficient incentives for your customers to get past their inertia and switch. An aggressive competitor who beats you on price or quality and provides a consistent experience could set the stage to meet customer expectations at the new price or quality. In essence, the inertia from your customers could make it difficult for your business to bring these buyers back from your competitor.

From a business perspective, consistency needs to be looked at in the larger spectrum of factors influencing customer loyalty and not merely as a tool to benefit from customer inertia. This would require businesses to go beyond meeting customer expectations and instead identify the factors that drive positive branding in the minds of customers. This includes policy changes (returns policy, shipment charges, training customer support staff to take decisions, etc.) as well as changes in pricing, product quality and communication. When consistency is integrated with other structural changes in business strategy, it drives repeat purchase out of a sense of loyalty among customers and not merely due to high switching costs. This is the only way to achieve long-term loyalty among customers.

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