1. archaic : possessing firmness or coherence
2. a : marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity : free from variation or contradiction [a consistent style in painting]    b : marked by agreement : compatible —usually used with with [statements not consistent with the truth]    c : showing steady conformity to character, profession, belief, or custom [a consistent patriot]

No, this is not a “word of the day” or grammar exercise, although, now that I think about it, “consistent” really is one of the keywords in retail today.  If you’ve read anything regarding retail customer experience, it’s almost always focused on the “consistent customer experience.” It’s something retailers are desperately struggling with, as they bring brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, catalog and other channels together to form what most of us now call “omnichannel.”

Why is this consistent customer experience so consistentlyfalling apart? To illustrate, let me give you a case in point – last night I went to one of the major home improvement retailers to buy some plants for my yard.  It was rainy, a bit cold, and not the ideal situation for any employee working in the outside gardening area of the store.  But this was the only chance I would have this week to make my green thumb happy and I wasn’t going to let some damp spring weather ruin my plans. 
While perusing the exterior plant display outside of the retailer’s lawn and garden center, I noticed the gates to the internal section were all closed. Though overcast, there were at least two hours of daylight left, so it was surprising to see they seemed to be closing down.  I had asked my son to get a shopping cart, but he couldn’t find an open entrance. So I told him to ask the sales associate – whom I could see through the gate – if she could open it.  She obliged, but not without a very obvious display of aggravation.  This was unexpected to me, since usually the employees at this particular retailer are pretty friendly and always quite helpful.  In any case, we selected our plants, a different sales associate quickly rung us up, and we left.  However, the attitude of the first sales associate left an impression with me – and not a good one.   I was made to feel like a nuisance, rather than a valued customer. The consistency I expected with this retailer has now been tainted – by only a single experience.
Although I had found some plants I liked, there was one in particular they didn’t carry.  Since the first retailer’s largest competitor was virtually right next door, and I reallywanted this particular plant (sweet potato vine – I highly recommend it.), I figured I should take the chance and see if the competitor might have some.  Bingo – they did, but I was apprehensive about approaching the checkout, since I typically have had poor checkout experiences with this retailer.  To make matters worse, they only had the lights on their self-checkout stations, which is usually a deal-breaker for me, since evidently I always seem to select the only items that don’t scan well.  However, a sales associate quickly intervened and scanned my plants very efficiently for me.  She then directed me on how to pay and complete the transaction. This was amazing to me – she managed to eliminate the frustration I had with self-checkout as well as assist me with my transaction and seemed quite happy to do so – quite a contradiction to my previous experiences with this retailer, and inconsistent with my expectations. 
So what happened? How is it that my expectations of these two competitors were completely opposite?  It boils down to the fact that you are only as good as your customer’s last shopping trip. It boils down to consistency in customer experience definition and delivery.
Have you defined what a consistent customer experience means in your retail environment?  Have you ensured your management team and sales associates clearly understand this and are prepared to consistently deliver on your entire value proposition?  Do you understand what the implications could be of a single bad customer experience in today’s viral social media world? Are you measuring, compensating and rewarding your employees based on these considerations? 
If you can’t emphatically answer “Yes.” to these critical questions, it’s time to put some serious focus on defining, communicating, delivering and measuring your customer experience strategies and making the delivery of a consistent and exceptional customer experience one of your top priorities.
– Tricia