Moments of Truth is a term popularised by Mr Jan Carlzon – the famed CEO of SAS Airlines who had written a book of the same name highlighting the efforts he had made to turn around the ailing airline.
Moments of Truth is defined as those touch points in an organisation where the customer directly interacts with the firm. These are the moments where the customers come in direct contact with the company. The interaction can be with a man or a machine. The touch points are critical because it is where the customer makes a decision to continue or terminate a relationship.
Moments of Truth concept has a wide application in marketing of services. Since services involves close and frequent interaction between the consumer and the service provider, managing these moments acquire strategic importance. The moment where the sales person visits the customer or when the consumer visits the office are opportunities to create an impression and build a relationship.
Identify Moments of Truth
The first step in managing these critical touch points is to identify the points where the company comes in contact with the customer. Kingfisher Airlines had the wisdom to understand that one of the first interactions between the Airlines and the customer comes when the customer reaches the airport. This moment was often neglected by most airlines. Kingfisher capitalized this moment of truth by introducing ushers who would welcome travellers and direct them to the boarding counters. This small step created a huge positive impact on the customer service perception for Kingfisher Airlines.
Organizations often fail to correctly identify these interaction points which often results in a negative customer experience. Hence it is important for all firms to identify and map the customer touch points so that those points could be made an opportunity to make an impact on the consumer.
For example, most of the firms think that the first touch point for a customer who is visiting an office will be the front office personnel. But in reality, the first touch point is the security personnel at the gate who makes the first interaction with the consumer. One of my colleagues discontinued his relationship with his car service centre because of the raw deal given to him by the security staff.
While the front office personnel are trained, security staffs are often outsourced and may / may not be trained in customer service. Smart companies even train these personnel on effective customer service behaviour because first impression is so critical.
Hence it is important for firms to have a service map which gives the marketer an idea about the instances where consumer tries to interact with the firm. Once this is mapped, the marketer will be able to create strategies to create an impact during these moments
Create Moments of Truths
While service organizations have a constant interaction with the customers, product companies may not have any direct interaction with the customers. A soap marketer may not directly interact with the end consumer at all.
In the highly insightful book The Game Changer, the CEO of P&G – AG Lafley identifies two moments of truth for product consumers. The first moment of truth is when the consumer goes to the retail store to purchase the product and the second moment of truth is when the consumer uses the product. The product marketers should make sure that they positively touch the consumer at these critical points.
How ever marketers should not resist from creating new touch points with the consumer. Brands like Sunsilk have taken the initiative to make a direct connection with the consumer by building a community – Sunsilk Gang of Girls. TVS and Maruti Suzuki has tried to connect with the consumer by opening driving schools for the consumers. Fastrack is constantly communicating with the consumers through social networking platforms like Twitter.
Internet has opened up a new platform for marketers to create and manage new moments of truth. Although internet penetration is low in India, it never the less produces a platform to meet consumers who are often the early adopters. Blogs, Twitter, social networking sites like Orkut and Facebook offers an opportunity for marketers to create a community and thus understand the pulse of the market.
People are the key
People are the key to managing moments of truth. Whether it is the front office personnel meeting the consumer who visits the office or be it the sales personnel visiting the customer, people form the most critical media through which the impression is made. It is important for people across different levels in the organization to understand that they have a role to play in managing these interactions.
In a highly insightful book on customer service titled “Hug Your Customers”, author Jack Mitchell talks about the importance of involving every member or organization in meeting and interacting with the consumer. Jack Mitchell is the CEO of a premium clothing company Mitchells/Richards which is well known for their extraordinary customer service. In Mitchells & Richards, every member of the firm from the CEO to the Accountant interacts with the consumers so that the concept of customer service excellence runs through the entire organization.
“The customer (client) is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is a part of it. We are not doing him/her a favour by serving him/her. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.“
This famous quote is seen displayed in most of the offices but seldom have we undertaken the activities in true spirit of this famous saying.
The critical questions that should be asked by firms in managing customer interactions are
- · How easy is it for the customer to contact you?
- · How fast will his query be answered?
- · Is there a mechanism to measure his satisfaction?
- · Do we reach out to him or wait for him to contact us?
- · Do we discriminate our customers into large & small or do we have a culture that treats customers as equal?
- · We have a promotions budget, expenses budget etc. Do we have a consumer relationship budget?
- · Do our staffs are given sufficient authority and responsibility to make customer interactions fruitful?
Managing moments of truth is an expensive initiative. The fruits of which will be only visible in the long term. But this investment is worth it.