Buyer Centricity

The Moment of Truth

The San Francisco Bay Area is known among a certain crowd as the home of the insanity – I mean, invitation-only surfing competition — known as Mavericks. A surfer I know said that, even if you’re not on a wave as lethal (literally) those at Mavericks, there is a moment when you can feel you’re losing the wave and you have to decide if you’re going to fight to ride it a little longer or get off and just be grateful for the rush. In my world, that split second is a ‘moment of truth,’ a pivotal interaction that influences the future direction of the surfer’s experience and potential even altering the surfer’s entire perception of the ride.

A photo by Anton Repponen.

Moments of truth occur in all multi-experience scenarios, though they are often less dramatic than those of a surfer. The purchase process of modern buyers is one of the most discussed set of experiences but, even still, I run into marketers all the time who still don’t take prepare for the critical moment(s) in the journey.

From the marketer’s point of view of the purchasing cycle, buyers engage in a series of interactions with the marketer’s brand. From the client’s perspective, though, each journey is made up of distinct moments. Each moment builds upon the ones before and leads to the next moment, though that may not always be the step that the marketer intended. Not all moments are equal, though. Some are so important to the buyer’s future with you that they are called out in client journey mapping methodology as moments of truth.

A common moment of truth for many customers interacting with a brand is when the customer calls the customer support line. Perhaps, the voice prompts eventually ask for the make and model of the product the customer needs help with, then the warranty number. But then, the prompt says that the warranty number is not valid and hangs up on the caller. That is a bad moment of truth, one that will make the buyer tell lots of people about how awful the company’s customer service is. The gap between what the organization did and what the customer felt the brand should have done are huge (I know from personal experience as the caller who got hung up on and who then stared at the phone in stunned disbelief for several minutes).

However, with proper preparation, it could have gone so differently. The customer service could have been programmed to recognize the phone number associated with the warranty and automatically greet the customer by name, thanking them for calling from the number associated with the warranty (to avoid any freaking out about how the help line knew who was calling). If the customer service rep was busy, the help line could be programmed to help pass the time by letting the customer know that, in future, you can get self-help online at the website and even put in requests for technicians to come fix a broken part.

These are both real tactics that companies I use have already employed but some companies have gone well past these and delighted customer with the high quality of service, to the point where he tells random strangers about it at the slightest provocation and the company gets a get reputation. In marketing scenarios, the moments of truth are usually associated with “must have” information, such as whether the product is compliant with some industry regulation, or “must get approval” situation, such as when another key member of the customer’s organization has to see the data or try the product before the customer can purchase.

However, using journey mapping, you can identify the specific moments of truth in your customer’s journey. Pull together members of all your client-facing teams and put yourself in the buyer’s perspective to see what he is doing and thinking and see if you can intercept that natural progression and influence it towards your organization. Note any moments of truth they buyer might face in the journey. If you’ve already conducted a client journey mapping session, pull together those same people and ask them to look at the journey with an eye to finding the moments of truth.

Once you’ve noted each potential moment of truth, treat them like the opportunities they are. Plan out how you intend to address it in a way that will result in a positive impression –and continued progression through the buying or renewal cycle – from the customer. Ensure someone on your team is assigned to each moment of truth. It will be this person’s job to first, do whatever is required to make a potentially negative experience into a positive, then, once that is accomplished, turn it into a moment of delight.

This will likely require some testing or at least some user feedback loops but, at the end, you’ll likely have some great data and perhaps even customer references you can use in the rest of your marketing campaign. Similarly, don’t be happy to have fixed one. Probe customers to see if there are new moments of truth that emerge over time, or whether some previous interactions just increase in importance and now have to be addressed and address those in a similar fashion. If you let it, this can become a fantastic virtuous circle for your organization.

Comments welcome, especially examples of how your organization has dealt with moments of truth.

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