Few things are a better indicator of a well managed client experience than consistency. That no matter when you go, who you interact with, what you purchase, the quality of your experience is the same. Consistency is one of a company’s biggest challenges, but it’s crucial to success. And very, very few companies get it right. But the ones that do, are always at the top.
Inconsistency Comes from 4 Main Issues
When Aaron, Weston, and I go out to eat as a family, I often order “double meat” or “extra meat” for my meal and then share it with Weston. But what I get is never the same. Even from the same restaurant. Because one employee interprets “double meat” differently than the next. So, one time I’ll get so much that we can’t finish it. And other times, it seems like the exact same amount of meat in a regular order. We just were lucky enough to be charged an extra $4 for it.
And even when ordering the exact same burger or sandwich with no “extras” ordered, we often get wildly different results. The conclusion? I think we should just stop ordering extras. And maybe we should stop going to this restaurant completely. Because we never know what to expect.
Now I’m sure you’ve had this exact same problem. Whether it’s at a restaurant, gift shop, or hotel your experience from one time to the next has been wildly different. But why? Why are companies so inconsistent? There are 4 main reasons. A standards problem, a training problem, a hiring problem, or a consistency control problem. Today let’s tackle the first 2. Cause let’s be honest. I write a lot. Maybe too much sometimes. And you don’t have time for all 4 right now.
Clear Standards are a MUST
To set yourself, your employees, and your business up for success you need to start off first, with clear standards. Employees, and even yourself, need to know when they’re delivering on your standards, and when they’re not. If you haven’t told them that client emails need to be replied to by the end of the business day, you can’t get mad if they take 2 or 3 days to reply. You never told them otherwise. You want your assistant to lead clients in the on boarding procedure but failed to tell her how to do it exactly? Unfortunately she didn’t know what needed to happen, so she just did her best. But it ended up being the opposite of what you wanted.
Employees need to know, and want to know, when they’re doing well. It’s essential to their morale and job satisfaction. So how do you do that other with than your annual review? By sharing your standards with them, ones that have been written down and can repeatedly referred to. Things like, all meeting confirmations should be sent out 3 days before the meeting. All on boarding documents need to be in our branded folders and on my desk by 9:00 am on the day of a meeting. Every client call needs to be shared with me immediately and placed in this basket on my desk.
And even if you’re on your own now, write down your standards and procedures. Because some day, it will probably be more than just you. And on boarding that new person will be a lot easier when you can share a document you’ve already created for yourself.
Think of it like this. Your design firm’s standards and procedures need to be as clearly stated, and followed, as a baking recipe. With exact measurements and open to little interpretation. Sure you can substitute chocolate chips for walnuts, just like an employee will naturally have her own way of talking and writing and connecting with clients. But not sharing how much flour to use, and when to put it in? Not a great plan. If you start eyeballing flour, the results are likely to be awful. Too much flour and they’re tough. Too little flour and they’re soggy.
There’s a strict standard, and measurement, for a reason. Because the person who created the recipe knows it works. And creates predictable results. The same goes for you. You know what procedures work and create predictable results. So be kind enough to share those with your employees.
Proper Training is Essential to Consistency
Now, the training problem. One of the reasons why restaurant meals are so inconsistent is because of poor training. No one ever said, for meat, use this measuring cup. When someone orders “extra” fill it up halfway, when they order “double” fill it up completely, twice. They just assume that employees will know what to do. Or don’t think this is something they need to train on. Or maybe didn’t emphasize the importance of following the procedure. But they needed to. And so do you. Show and tell, and then share why consistency is so important.
In your design firm, it’s the same. You need to thoroughly train your employees on how you want things to be done. Have a specific way you like your on boarding documents to be ordered in a folder? Or what should be included in emails when setting up the design presentation meeting? Train them on it, and share why you like it done that way. Have a specific way you like your clients to be greeted on the phone? Train them on it, and again, share why you like it done that way. Don’t leave it up to interpretation. As you may get, “What’s up?” as their answer when they pick up that first phone call.
Invest in your employees from the beginning. Give them the time they need when they first come on board. Familiarize them with your design process, the mistakes that are common, the struggles they may face and how to handle them, what their objectives are. The beginning of their job is when they’re the most open and eager to listen. So, don’t leave them feeling left, alone, and anxious. Spend time making them feel welcome, capable, and comfortable in their new position. You don’t want to just be giving “on the job training.” Because what that really means is, I don’t have time to train you so just ask me what to do as it comes up. How inefficient, for everyone. And how open to inconsistencies, interpretations, and mistakes.
Is Consistency Controlling?
Now, is consistency controlling? Yes, it is. It’s quality control. It’s not controlling your employee. It’s controlling the experience. That’s why you set your standards, train your employees on them continually, write them down, and then trust them. If you’ve done all of that after you’ve hired the right people, keeping consistent standards is a heck of a lot easier. And employees want to know what you want them to do. They don’t want to operate in some ambiguous fog of what they think you want. They want to know what they should do. Most employees want to succeed. They only start to slack and act uninterested and unengaged when they find out there’s nothing real that they can contribute. And no way for them to really succeed. But show them how to succeed, what succeeding looks like, and then recognize them for it, and you’ll keep their consistent contributions going.
It’s no coincidence that the top companies in any industry, are dead set on delivering the same quality experience every time. Not the same experience per se, but the same quality. Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, Starbucks, Disney. All annoyingly obsessed with consistency. Because they know consistency matters. People will only come back again and again if they know they can expect the exact same thing every time.
Whether they’re in Cincinnati or St. Louis, Beijing or Bangkok, it’s the same. The coffee is hot and prepared with a smile every morning. The room is cleaned impeccably twice every day. The park is just as beautifully kept every year. The standard principles remain the same no matter where they’re delivered. So how wonderful the experience is, also remains the same. The same goes with your design firm. The personalities of your employees and clients will be different, your products, services, and even process will change over time, but your standards on how to deliver a great experience should remain the same. Always. So make sure you know what those standards are.
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