Here at The $100 MBA, we talk a lot about consistency. Consistent effort, consistent scheduling, and (of course) consistency in the quality of your product are just a few important examples. The list goes on. What’s often left out of the struggle for consistency is something just as crucial: a consistent customer experience. This kind of consistency is important. In fact, it can make or break your business’ reputation.
Consistency in your customers’ experience means this: your customers become accustomed to a standard. That standard is met in every single interaction they have with your business. Yes, your product is great. But what keeps your customers coming back is their certain knowledge of what’s going to happen. Consistency is about eliminating the element of surprise; aside from the occasional pleasant one, customers hate those.
Even for small businesses, the best model for this is big business. Look at Starbucks. Every single cup of coffee sold at every single Starbucks is of a standard quality. More importantly, what happens in a Starbucks is the same for the customer each and every time. The procedure is the same. The result is the same. It takes about the same amount of time. It’s one of the reasons big chains dominate, besides their vast resources: there are no surprises. They streamline. They standardize. Every customer knows exactly what’s going to happen.
Small businesses can do exactly the same thing. Not on the same scale, mind you, but you can provide that level of consistency of experience. Not only can you do it, but doing it will set your small business apart. It will create trust and comfort, and therefore repeat business. Your business can offer all the personalization of a mom-and-pop, but the predictability of a large chain. It’s the best of both worlds.
No matter how big or small, whether online or offline, the experience can be standardized. Again, that’s not to say that the product is consistent in its quality (though it should be). It’s to say your customers’ interactions— all of them—- conform to the expectations you establish.
Establishing The Experience
To bring this consistency of experience about, start at the beginning. Whether the customer is entering a website or a building for the first time, the first interaction sets the tone. It’s important to create as easy and comfortable an initial experience as possible, so the customer “settles” into what will be a consistently pleasant pattern.
The key to this initial experience is simplicity. The customer needs as little to do as possible— no overwhelming menu of choices, no complex initiation. On your website, there should only be a single call to action on each page, not some chaos of options. All you want is a simple, direct explanation of why they should continue, what value they’ll get in return, and a single next step.
As the customer experience continues, so should the simplicity and ease of use. At The $100 MBA, for example, every page has one call to action. You watch a video. You sign up. You opt-in for a gift. When you join, you get an orientation video with a follow-up call to action. The pattern is consistent: a video, a step, a thank you, a step, some value, a step. The customer is only ever given essentially one thing to do as they progress. They’re never overwhelmed. They’re always made to feel at home.
As the course actually begins, this consistency of experience continues. Even as the tasks grow more involved and complex, our system and our team are holding their hand along the way, always ready to guide them to the next step. From the customer perspective, this means convenience. It means trust. And it means they actually use our product and reap the results, because we’ve made it easy for them.
Some may be tempted to ask: Why go to all the trouble? If the product is good, the product is good. They’ve given you money, you’ve given them the product. It should work itself out, right? Unfortunately, it’s never that easy. We could just give our customers access to all the lessons and resources The $100 MBA has to offer with no guidance. But that would be suicide. Yes, the product would be the same. But the experience wouldn’t be.
You’re not just selling the product. Or rather, part of “the product” is the experience— a big part. A big part of the value of the product is that customers actually apply it. You could have the greatest product in the world, but if it takes too much effort (or even thought) to use, only a minority of customers will ever be satisfied.
As for your reputation, it’s rarely the product itself people talk about. When people describe a product they love, they typically describe the experience of using it. Only advertisers describe the construction and features of a bike; customers describe how much they love riding it. Think about it: how do you talk about a product you’re truly excited about? Word of mouth is rarely about what was purchased. It’s about what happened. How will your customers describe their experience?
As for surprises, remember that even pleasant ones have a point of diminishing returns. If you can provide something wonderful occasionally, why not just provide it all the time? Customers don’t love a service because it might be awesome sometimes. They love it because they know it will be, every time.
Give that to your customers. Get feedback. See it from their point of view. Learn how to meet their expectations consistently, and they’ll repay you.