There are a lot of "secrets" to customer service: smiles, asking open-ended questions, paraphrasing what the customer is saying, thanking them for their business, and so on and so forth ad nauseam. But honestly, without consistency it's all a waste of time.
Imagine this: A customer late with their cell phone payment calls to make arrangements just as they did three months ago only to be told no, that can't be done. "Have you changed your policy?" the customer asks. "No, it's always been that way," the customer is told. The customer pushes back, claiming it's done before, but is told that there is no record of that conversation.
How do you think the customer is feeling? A bit of frustration? You bet. Now, there could be many reasons something like this happens -- maybe the customer was wrong, maybe the previous rep explained the policy wrong, or -- more likely -- one of the two representatives is wrong, which is completely unacceptable. Or, worse yet, maybe both representatives knew the policy but one of them didn't want to apply it -- either the first didn't want to upset the customer by not accepting the late payment or the second knew they could take a late payment, but didn't want to be bothered by the extra work.
I work at a local health club with a very strict guest policy -- ID required and all guests must be accompanied by a member. However, many of the associates working the front desk do not enforce that policy so where does that leave others? For those associates trying to enforce the policy they are greeted with more resistance and upset guests -- and members. For the members and guests it means they don't know from one day to the next whether or not they'll be allowed in. Managers are then forced to reconcile these problems leaving them with, frankly a mess. A situation in which they either have to uphold the policy or appease the guest.
If a company has a policy it must be enforced -- consistently. And if exceptions are allowed, the parameters by which exceptions can be made must be made clear to both staff and customers. Managers and supervisors play a very important role in enforcing these policies but frankly, there are those who, just like the representative who does not wish to enforce the policy on their own, do not want to be bothered by the situation.
Yes, there are many "keys" to successful customer service, but without consistency, nothing else really matters.