Customer Experience Moments of Truth, a New Formulation

There should be a difference between the chaos that is sometimes the customer service function and planning for it, though that's not always the case. While the service center has more commotion, the planning process should be a model of calm. But often we focus on organizing information and building work flows that can do almost anything a customer requests without necessarily considering the implications for the business.

We condition ourselves to be ready for anything because we believe that's what customers expect. We don't want to be caught flat-footed and unable to provide the experience customers expect.

Sure, customer experiences are important, even vital, but they don't materialize out of thin air. In fact, customer experiences are what I call moments of truth with their vendors, and what we think of as the customer experience (a noun) is really a memory of how the customer experienced (a verb) that moment in the vendor's care. Small difference? Hardly.

If we prepare for moments of truth rather than trying to "be ready for anything," we have a much better chance of success, because there are a limited number of moments to prepare for. If your business model positions you for luxury service, then by all means pull out the stops—there will be more moments and more hand holding to do, but you can afford it. That's why you get the big bucks.

But if you are the low-cost producer, you'll have fewer moments to prepare for and there will be some things that you just don't offer. Southwest Airlines is a great example of this. They don't have first class, and they board their planes in groups without formal seat assignments. That's their business model.

You might fly that carrier once without realizing this, but then you'd know. Certainly you won't try to purchase a reserved seat at the front of the plane because they won't sell it to you. That's not their business model and they'll forgo your business, thank you very much, if that's what you insist on. In the delicate vendor-customer dance, the vendor picks its customers just as much as the customers pick their vendors—unless the vendor is unsure of its role and what it is providing to the customer, which happens too often.

That's why taking a few moments to decide on and define your moments of truth is so important to the smooth operation of your service center. It brings clarity and a greater sense of purpose for all parties involved.

I recommend using journey mapping software to model your moments of truth. It's easy enough to say you'll do the modeling on paper, and you might get to 90 or 95 percent completeness with that approach. But journey mapping offers the advantage of showing you if and where the process you thought was solid blows up, which is never fun. A customer-facing process should gracefully transition to another system or to a human; it should never blow up. Journey maps also drive code generation, which is worth a couple of touchdowns in a busy service center, because the code will work the first time.

So what are the things you stand for? Don't say "everything" or "the customer is always right" or anything like that. Customers want to know what's in the whole product you offer that includes the core product and all the promises, processes, and procedures needed to support it. It might even reduce the chaos around you.