Why Consistency is Key for Answering Service Excellence

Providing Inconsistent Service Will Frustrate Clients and Cause Them to Cancel Service

In our earlier post about evaluating your ATSI Award of Excellence results, we talked about the importance of consistency. Although the average of your total scores and the averages of each component of the calls is important, be sure to balance this with consistency.

Why Consistency Matters

Here’s what we said about consistency, “Your clients will subconsciously judge you based on consistency. When you’re consistent they know what to expect, and you meet their expectations every time.

“However, if you’re inconsistent, they have no idea what to expect, and you’ll fall short. Tomorrow’s poor call will negate today’s great one.”

An Example of Inconsistency

Let’s look at how fast your staff answers calls. We’ll consider this category because it’s easy to quantify and therefore easy to see why consistency is critical.

Let’s assume your goal is to answer all calls by the third ring. That’s a good and admirable goal. (Though your actual target maybe a bit faster or not quite as fast, we’re using this, not as a standard to shoot for but, as an example for our illustration.)

Next, let’s assume you achieve your goal. Congratulations! Your average speed to answer is three rings, exactly what your staff strives for and precisely what you promised your clients.

But before we get too excited, let’s look at the consistency element. (If you’re into math, this is called standard deviation. And if you’re not into math, forget we mentioned it.) Again, for the sake of illustration, let’s assume you answered five calls on the first ring and five calls on the fifth. This averages out to three rings, exactly aligned with your goal.

However, your clients’ callers will never experience you answering on the third ring. Half of the time you’ll answer really fast, which will delight them. The other half of the time you’ll take way too long, which will really frustrate them. They won’t know what to expect when they call. Will you answer quickly or slowly? What they will remember, however, is each time you took five rings to answer.

This becomes their perception of your work. Never mind that your average is three rings, which you far exceed half the time by answering in one. All they remember is five rings. And when that happens too often, they’re likely to cancel service because they don’t perceive you as answering quickly enough.

An Example of Consistency

Let’s make up another example. This answering service has a goal to answer every call within four rings. This isn’t as lofty as the first answering service, but their clients may perceive their quality as being better. Here’s why.

Let’s assume they hit their four-rings-per-call goal precisely. But, in addition, when looking at each individual call, let’s say they answered everyone on four rings. Whenever a client or their customers call, this service answers their call on the fourth ring, not sooner and not later. Four rings. Every time.

In this way, everyone expects a four-ring answer. And the answering service meets this expectation every single time. No one’s ever disappointed by a call ringing longer. Because of this consistency, clients perceive the quality to be higher than they would for the first answering service, even though the first service has a better average speed to answer.

The Next Step

Look again at the individual scores on each element of your calls from the ATSI Award of Excellence program. Look for categories where the rating deviates. This signals inconsistency. The higher the variation—such as half ones and half fives—signal highly inconsistent service. This hurts your clients’ perception of your quality. This is what you need to address to improve your quality in their minds.

When you do this, don’t simply look at improving your average. Instead strive to make your scores more consistent. In our example of ring counts, don’t work to move your average from three rings to 2.5. Instead look to eliminate all the five-ring-count calls. When you do this your average speed answer will decrease, but more importantly your consistency will increase.

Apply this example to whatever category has the most inconsistency on your ATSI Award of Excellence scoresheet. Then, once you’ve made that element more consistent, turn your attention to the next most inconsistent category.

Doing this will improve the quality of your service from the perspective of your clients and their callers. It will increase client satisfaction and decrease cancellations.

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