Sep 21, 2010

Inconsistency Repels Customers

When you peel back the onion of your life, you will find a series of habits. Most are ingrained and unconscious. You just do them. From brushing your teeth to driving to work to the foods you eat. Every day you operate with a series of routines.

Habits save energy. Do you recall your trip to work this morning? I don’t. I remember getting in my car, and I remember parking in front of the elevators at my office. But for the life of me, I can’t remember my trip to work. I was on autopilot. It makes sense though. I didn’t need to use a lot of cognitive horsepower to get to work. I have made the drive countless times before; it was routine.

Consistency leads to comfort

For me, a forgettable drive to work is a good drive to work. Nothing slowed me down. I didn’t get frustrated. I didn’t get distracted. I just went through the paces and arrived at my desk without interruption.

Marketers understand the power of consistency. When you walk in a McDonalds you are greeted with a familiar scent, familiar colors, familiar store layout and a familiar level of service. It doesn’t matter which McDonalds you go into, they all have the same feeling. It’s so systematized that you don’t even have to think about your order. You can select your favorite combo: 1, 2, 3 or 4.

McDonalds’ consistent brand experience is very powerful. It may not be the healthiest choice, but you know exactly what you’re getting – and that’s comforting. You don’t have to explore a new restaurant and risk being disappointed. You don’t have to go hunting for something to eat. You just walk in, order the usual and quickly satisfy your needs.

Inconsistency leads to dissonance

Marketers harp on brand consistency with good reason. It’s jarring for customers when their expectations aren’t met.

Inconsistencies can happen in the most mundane places. A blog that hasn’t been updated in six months. A sales person that doesn’t follow up after a sales call. A product that breaks down after a few short months.

Many sales have been lost due to poor corporate websites. The sales person can do everything right: call the economic buyer, establish a need, develop a value proposition and make a competitive bid. But he can lose the deal when the customer visits the corporate website, and has a less than stellar experience. The disconnected experiences create dissonance in the customer’s mind. The customer begins to doubt the sales person and second guesses the company’s credibility, because these two brand experiences were not aligned.

Inconsistency requires too much effort

Inconsistency takes up too much mental effort. When things don’t happen as we expect, we are forced to turn on our brains and make decisions. That’s uncomfortable. There are better things we could be doing with our time and energy.

As customers face dissonance they have a choice: deal with the problem or leave. If they can delay or avoid the decision, they will. This results in lost or delayed purchases.

There’s a simple lesson here: brand consistency is manageable. Do an audit and review each of your customer touch points. Is each point consistent and does it fit your customers’ expectations?

  • If yes, great. Keep up the good work and be vigilant in maintaining these standards.
  • If no, get better. Every time your customer faces inconsistency you risk losing them.

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