The only consistent thing about all the brands I love is that they are in themselves consistent. Be they luxury, mid-market or bargain basket, they staunchly offer the same in customer experience. Every time.
An old lecturer of mine once impressed upon me the importance of consistency. A good brand is a consistent brand he intoned, and he took dramatic pause to let the message resonate across the room. Companies that recognize this are at quite an advantage; though like anyone they must constantly seek to project the same image and tone, they know that if they do so they can get away with quite a bit.
Conventional wisdom says that customer experience need be consistently positive nowadays; if you defy your customer (in person or online), you will suffer the scorn and derision of all Yel-p-dom. This seems sound thinking, but I disagree. Perhaps I am an outlier. But consider this; what irks a sports fan more - losing always, or losing mostly? Losers are losers. But occasional winners whose form fluctuates wildly from one game to the next are just plain maddening.
As a customer, I feel the same way.
Take Ryanair. I'm a fan. Which isn't necessarily because they've treated me well. But they have treated me the same. I know what I'm going to get. Every single time. I will be herded onto a plane, wedged into an uncomfortable seat and bombarded with offers to purchase cologne. But I reconcile with these things long before I drive to the airport. And in fairness, they meet me halfway with more pleasant consistencies: I will take off on time, land on time, and save myself a small fortune in the process. Some people all but hold candlelight vigils mourning their Ryanair 'ordeal'. Yet Ryanair are Europe's biggest airline.
Then there's Starbucks - a cultural pariah, of whom I am a loyal customer. Now I won't defend that recent unicorn frap concoction, nor any 'adult' who purchased one. And I admit their house playlists, replete with lethargic bossa nova covers of songs like November Rain are a little hokey as is the faux Italian jargon all across their menu. But when I step in I can sit and work or meet with friends for hours, with the staff totally accommodating. There's table space. The wifi works. The coffee...is coffee. And they're everywhere, an oasis of familiarity no matter where you find yourself. A constant corporate companion. I hate to be anyone's shill, but here we are. What if tomorrow they were all gone and we were forevermore left to purchase $6 coffees from hostile androgynous vegans named Michel?
I'll reel it in here. This is not me inviting companies to mistreat customers to the absolute limit of their patience. Be nice: that goes without saying. But bending over backwards to appease belligerent social media types creates an inconsistency that is even more problematic than the alternative.
This piece is co-authored with Stephen Mulvey