Moments of Truth

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Do you know the moments of truth for various tasks customers attempt to achieve with your organization?

Before you can know or identify your moments of truth, you must first know what that means.

So, like I usually like to do, I’ll start by defining the concept. defines moment of truth as an: instance of contact or interaction between a customer and a firm (through a product, sales force, or visit) that gives the customer an opportunity to form (or change) an impression about the firm. states that a moment of truth is a critical or decisive time on which much depends; a crucial moment.

And, contrary to popular belief, Jan Carlzon did not come up with the phrase when he wrote his book by the same name. The phrase was first introduced by Richard Normann, who was a strategy consultant for SAS when Carlzon was CEO. Normann defined it as that moment where quality as perceived by the client is created.

While Carlzon didn’t coin the phrase, he popularized it with his book. Carlzon’s definition of “moment of truth” is: anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, is an opportunity to form an impression. In his book, he states that those moments determine whether the company will succeed or fail and that they are moments when companies must prove to their customers that they are the best alternative.

So, you get the idea; it’s an important moment. I usually define moment of truth as that make or break moment in the customer journey, that moment when, if all goes well, the customer will continue the journey and complete the task or interaction; he will do (or continue to do) business with you. If things go awry, he will not complete the interaction and will go elsewhere.

I don’t agree with Carlzon that every touchpoint, every interaction, is a moment of truth. I think he’s right that every touchpoint is an opportunity to form an impression, but I don’t think every touchpoint becomes a make-or-break point. Think about the customer journey to purchase a product online, for example. Is every step, every touch critical? No. Every step is certainly important to the process, but there are only a few that will ultimately be make-or-break points for the customer to want to (a) complete that transaction and (b) buy again.

Let’s take a closer look at Normann’s definition. I’d never heard “moment of truth” described using this definition of value or posing it in terms of value creation; it’s an interesting way of looking at it.  This video by FutureSmith explains Normann’s definition and the value-creation concept further.

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In the video, the narrator (Don Smith) presents the concepts of vicious circles and virtuous circles created by failed and successful moments of truth, respectively.

vicious circle occurs when failed moments of truth form a chain reaction; he states that once a company slides into a vicious circle, it’s difficult to get out of it. A vicious circle is defined by negative, defeatist attitudes that create a toxic culture where customers are considered the enemy and are hated and ridiculed.The opposite is true in a virtuous cycle, which happens when successful moments of truth propagate more successful moments of truth, i.e., the positive energy from one interaction spreads to the next and creates more successful moments of truth. Customers who experience positive, successful moments of truth are positive going into future moments of truth – and they tell others about their experience. Employees feel good because they feel valued, and they are part of a contagious positive energy that is hard to extinguish.

Either way you slice it – vicious or virtuous – those moments of truth are moments that matter; they matter to the customer, first and foremost, but they subsequently matter to your employees and, ultimately, to your business.

So let’s go back to my original question: have you identified your moments of truth? If not, identify tasks that your customers are trying to complete and map the journey. (And act on your findings!) What happens along the way that causes customers to stay? to flee? If you know what they are, then what are you doing to execute them flawlessly?

I guess they’re called moments because they don’t last very long. -Sarra Manning, author 

Image courtesy of symphony of love

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