“As you go through life, there are thousands of little forks in the road, and there are a few really big forks-those moments of reckoning, moments of truth.” Lee Iacocca
All too often organisations spend significant resources investing in Customer Experience only to see hardly any love from customers in return. Often this is down to efforts not being targeted where they matter most to customers or too narrowly targeted at specific moments in the journey while the customer cares about outcomes linked to an entire episode.
Moments of Truth (MoT)
Moments of Truths provides some guidance to help organisations direct their efforts and investments purposefully to deliver better ROI from their customer experience programs.
In a service context, a moment of truth (MoT) is one during which a customer changes, confirms or abandons a previous opinion formed about the brand. It occurs when the organisation lives up to its brand promise or fails to do so at a time when the customer is emotionally invested in the outcome.
Few customers experience moments of truths as strongly as insurance policy holders. When purchasing a policy, the customer buys into hope that the insurer will have their back when life takes a turn. The brand promise only truly comes to life when unfortunate events occur. Were there any diluting clauses in the fine prints of the policy that the customer may have skimmed over or assumed to be broader in definition to the insurer’s? Was the claim process as simple as the customer might have hoped it would be? Did the insurer prove to be painful to deal with? Did the insurer do everything they could to help the customer to get their life back as they fast as was possible?
For a phone provider, a moment of truth may occur during installation or service activation or when the customer’s services are interrupted. Was the phone installation as simple as the mobile provider said it would be? Was the coverage as good as the provider promised it would be? Was the service restored in a timely way to allow the customer to get back to business?
A moment of truth provides an opportunity for the customer to reassess their loyalty to the provider. Hence an adequate understanding of MoTs is essential for organisations looking to invest wisely in memorable experiences which entice customers to come back, and better still, recommend their services to friends and family.
Upsides to investing in MoTs
McKinsey’s research shows a link between Moments of Truth and purchase decisions. Based on their study in the banking industry, after a positive experience, more than 85% of bank customers purchased more products or invested more of their assets with the bank; When experiencing negative moments of truth on the other hand, more than 70% of customers reduced their value to the bank over time.
While all experiences are important, some are more important than others, as George Orwell would no doubt agree. Smart organisations work on identifying MoT across the customer’s lifecycle and hone in on those experiences to create long lasting memories. Those who are unable to identify experiences which matter most to customers, end up using a scatter gun approach, often over investing in experiences which are low in importance at the expense of experiences which are close to the customer’s heart and mind.
Moments of Truth can be identified either by explicitly asking customers to rate the importance of an experience. For example, the customer might be explicitly requested to respond to the binary question such as “Ensuring the installation process was smooth was important to me (Y/N)?” before requesting feedback on the actual experience: “How would you rate your installation experience?”
An alternate approach consists of inferring MoTs from the customer’s survey responses through a double correlation, working out the correlation of a particular experience score to the overall experience score. For example, if the customer rates the mobile provider’s usage monitoring capabilities poorly, but nevertheless scores the provider highly overall, we can infer that usage monitoring is not that high on the list of priorities for our customer.
Living the brand promise
Knowing your brand promise and ensuring customers get delivered nothing short of what was promised is a great start to building a great brand and arguably the most important moment of truth for a customer. Yet Gallup found, in a study which involved 18 million customers, that only half strongly believe that the companies they do business with always deliver on what they promise. The other half, not so much.
In our social media crazed world, missing the mark on your brand promise delivers an instant blow to the credibility and strength of a brand. The pen was mightier than the sword in the 19th century. In the 21st, the keyboard is the new weapon of mass destruction. When brands fail to deliver on their promise, brand names and taglines get unwarranted makeover treatments and are turned into ridicule to create stigmas which are hard to shake off. What happens when a telco cannot provide decent coverage? Vodafone becomes Vodafail. Optus become OptArse, Telstra become Tell-Lies. United Airlines’ “Our service will knock you out!” tagline takes a literal meaning. Such stigma set the stage for a long and possibly impossible win back.
Measure and monitor
Poor experience occurs when the actual experience falls short of the customer’s expectations. It is important to take a holistic approach to identify poor customer experiences and close the experience gap in a timely way when one is detected.
The first step in the identification of poor customer experience is to set up listening posts through a Voice of Customer program, following the old motto that you cannot improve what you do not measure.
In so doing, it would be wise to avoid some pitfalls early on. I often notice that organisation ask customers to rate specific interactions on their surveys. For example, “Based on your most recent interaction with [organisation] , how likely are you to recommend (our brand/products/services) to your friends and family?”. While easy to implement, the limitation of this approach, according to McKinsey, is that it may provide a distorted picture, suggesting that customers are ‘happier with the company than they actually are’.
A better approach would be to align with the customer’s main purpose for interacting with the brand and gauge how the organisation is helping the customer achieve their goal. E.g. “Based on your experience overall when making an insurance claim, how likely are you to recommend [brand] to your friends and family”. This survey question might be followed up with qualifying questions around specific experiences to help pinpoint areas of opportunity, identifying the weakest link which demands attention during the episode.
Manage the journey, not just the moment
Specific interactions, whilst important, only present part of the picture for understanding how customers experience a brand. Customers develop a perception of the brand through advertisements, words of mouth from friends and family, and their own experience with the brand.
For our insurance policy holder, while it is important that the initial distress call is handled with empathy, the experience will be defined by the totality of interactions with the brand and what happens between those touchpoints when making a claim. This includes their experience with the website, at the retail outlet, on the phone or through webchat and while waiting for information on progress.
In other words, it is too simplistic to assume that improving the touch-point experience for the customer will be enough to reflect on the entire claims experience. In the eyes of the customer, the experience is only as strong as the weakest link throughout the claims episode. A poor interaction often casts a shadow on the entire episode.
A more holistic approach is therefore required to ensure we can identify the weak links during the episode to drive improvements in key experiences.
Who is in charge?
It takes a village to deliver good customer experience and a village needs a chief. It is important that the organisation establishes clear accountability for good episode management which goes beyond ownership of touchpoints or channel experience for that matter.
This accountability includes the cross-functional experience design, day to day operations management to ensure that the customer is the key focus of the business. Delivering superior customer experience requires collaboration across customer channels and business functions (e.g. distribution, underwriting, and claims handling for insurance companies). Having an executive in charge of key experiences which are aligned to the customer’s goals ensures experiences delivered are consistent and positive.