Consistency is Critical
When I order my favourite drink from Starbucks, no matter which location I visit, there's an excellent chance it's going to taste the same each time. That's not an accident: there's a recipe for the drink and the baristas are trained on how to make it properly. Mistakes do happen on occasion, but generally, I get what I expect from Starbucks.
Great brands are about consistency.
But it's not just a company's products that need to be consistent.
A company's actions need to be consistent with its words.
"When Amazon.com launched in 1995, it was with the mission “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company..."
That line is from Amazon's own website.
But if you've ordered something recently from Amazon, you might have noticed something about the order confirmations you've been emailed immediately after clicking "Buy Now". They probably look something like this:
Notice anything missing?
That's right: there is no description of what I ordered on the order confirmation.
Sure, I can figure out what I actually ordered by clicking on the hyperlink; doing so takes me to a page with a photo and description. But it's nowhere to be found in the email itself.
Why would Amazon do this? It's been suggested that this is a way to prevent Google (i.e. a major competitor) from knowing what you purchase.
You see, Google can "read" your email -- not actually read the content, but scan for keywords -- and use the general context to serve you more relevant ads. More relevant ads mean higher costs to advertisers for serving up those ads, and that means more revenue for Google. So Amazon denying Google the ability to use your actual purchases as a way to understand you better is actually pretty smart from a competitive standpoint. Machiavelli would certainly be proud.
But it's not at all consistent with their stated mission to be Earth's most customer-centric company.
This isn't the type of example that is going to send most Amazon customers into fits of rage. It's inconvenient to have to take extra time to determine what you actually purchased -- especially if you're buying supplies for work, and need detailed receipts for expense-purposes -- but it's not the end of the world.
Yet, it's a slippery slope.
If you're willing to be inconsistent with little things, what's stopping you from being inconsistent with bigger things too?
Saying your employees are your greatest assets, then refusing to allow for flexible work arrangements because you can't trust that they'll get their work done? That's inconsistent.
Saying you want to provide exceptional customer service, then paying the people you need to deliver that exceptional service poorly? That's inconsistent.
Saying you support gender and race equality, without having women and People of Colour appropriately represented on your Executive Leadership Team and Board of Directors? That's inconsistent.
Consistency is critical.
And that applies to brands, companies, and people.