Consistency sounds boring. We’re going to have chicken and broccoli for dinner again. I ran my 30 minutes on the treadmill again. Consistency doesn’t lead you to discover the perfect town when you’ve made a wrong turn or meet the band when you’ve stayed well past the encore at a random weekday concert. But consistency can be powerful.
There’s a popular chain restaurant in Atlanta called The Flying Biscuit. They do, indeed, have tall “flying”—and delicious—biscuits. However, after six homes and nearly 20 years in Atlanta, I’ve frequented most of their locations and have discovered that the biscuits fly higher at some locations than others. Some have a sugared and browned top, others do not. Each is good, but the lack of consistency in its namesake food is jarring. I admit that this attention to biscuits is a quirk of my southern roots, but chefs agree on the value of consistency, too. Take the 2016 Bon Appétit article that touts Hillstone as the “best-run, most-loved, relentlessly respected restaurant in America.” Hillstone Restaurant Group owns a number of restaurants and chains around the country, such as Houston’s and Honor Bar. The words “chain” and “most-loved” don’t usually go together in a food-focused magazine. But, the author argues—and so would brand research consultants—that it has earned this praise by being “mind-bogglingly consistent” about delivering a great product.
This carries over in a number of ways to the work we do.
In the wealth management space, there is the oft-repeated desire for consistent fund performance and a consistent portfolio management team, the latter of which is seen as the key to replicating that consistent performance. Less explicit attention is paid to the service side, where the wholesaler, call center, or sales representative experience can vary substantially. At the individual level, this variance may be better seen across providers rather than across representatives within a provider, but are corporate offices placing enough emphasis on delivering a consistent experience? I would argue that knowing what you’re going to get is as important—maybe even more so—than the occasions where service goes above and beyond. Don’t avoid aiming for moments of delight, but first work towards steadiness.
On the financial services market research side, there is the ever-persistent talk of innovation, such as incorporating artificial intelligence, behavioral economics, and design thinking. However, there is much to be said for delivering on what you do well, again and again. Go ahead and try to shoot the moon with your new solution, but are you first doing what you say you’re going to do each time? Consistency frees the customer from wondering what to expect and the provider from determining new performance standards each time. This may be the one area where saying “this is how we’ve always done it” is a worthy explanation.