On Consistency

I recall reading from a sales book very early on in my career that one of the most important aspects of running a business is consistency.  I sadly can’t recall the book name itself anymore, but the basic idea was that customers want / need a consistency of experience to feel ‘comfortable’ and thus become repeat customers.

It’s something I know for myself, as a consumer, it definitely helps.  If you know what you can expect, it makes life a lot easier. It holds very true for our distributors as well – I have a few distributors who, if I place an order today, I know it will ship the same-day.  Another couple I know will ship the order the next day.  Unfortunately, I also have distributors who are all over the map – some orders will be shipped immediately, others might take up to a week to ship. I might have to call them to get the order dealt with, or just send an e-mail and expect it to happen.  Some orders get an invoice sent within 24 hours, other won’t have any invoices sent till I ask them.

As a business, inconsistent suppliers make our ability to be consistent for our customers difficult. If we tell a customer ‘it should arrive within a week’ on a back-ordered item, it’s based on a best guess estimate on when a product will arrive.  Being unable to meet that ‘promise’ can cause trouble for us.

It also translates to our website – we want to keep the functions of the website generally consistent across devices. Of course, this is much more difficult with the numerous devices out there, and it’s what probably drives our development cost up.

As an example, over the weekend Canada Post stopped working. It wasn’t our site but Canada post. What it meant was that we were no longer receiving rates directly from Canada Post and were thus using our ‘failover’ rate.  It unfortunately meant that no one was getting a ‘free shipping’ option either, which almost immediately resulted in complaints.   A quick ‘hodgepodge’ fix was thrown into place till Canada Post came back online, but it’s a great example of inconsistency causing problems.  I’ll never know how many customers who built up a $175 cart on the weekend just left and never came back because of the outage…