Moments of Truth Drive Customer Experiences

What kind of customer experience strategy does your company have?  For me, there are really only two kinds—planned and unplanned, which is another way of saying successful and not so much.  

A customer experience is, after all, the result of an encounter with a vendor, and I have begun referring to these encounters as moments of truth.

The Consequences of Failing the Customer

Simply put, a moment of truth is just what it sounds like. One side steps up knowing what’s at stake, and either delivers or fails. The result is an experience. Consequences of failure include loss of revenue and customers. The good thing about a company’s moments of truth is that they are--or should be--finite. It all starts with deciding what you want to be good at.  For example, many vendors decide well in advance that they want to be known for high quality or customer service or being on time or some other value.  

Implicit in that decision is another decision about what the vendor won’t compete on.  A vendor offering low cost might implicitly determine that they won’t be delivering deluxe accommodations, for instance.  But at the same time, a smart vendor in this situation will still decide to surround a low-cost offering with other tangible symbols of value, such as a friendly demeanor, timeliness, or well-engineered and intuitive design.

Whatever you decide to use for your basic values, it’s important to test your assumptions with your market. Too often, a vendor makes an assumption about what the market wants and never validates it.  That used to be acceptable when market research was slow and expensive, but in the age of social media, asking your audience what they think is so cost-effective that only fools fail to perform this step.

CRM and Surveying

I recently took an airline survey that only had three questions, one of which asked if my flight had been on time.  I don’t recall the others, and it’s not an airline I fly a lot because I’m tall and barely fit into the seats.  Because I generally fly nonstop, being on time to catch a connection is rarely a concern for me.  But because I take my femurs everywhere, seat spacing is definitely an issue, one of my moments of truth.  

The airline failed two moments of truth with that survey, first, by not asking about legroom or giving me a chance to comment.  And second, because I am a CRM nerd, by constructing such a transparently self-serving survey to begin with. I am sure there’s someone at the airline that tracks the survey results, and that person most likely declares victory on a quarterly basis, pointing out how well customers are responding.  As I said at the beginning, there are two kinds of moments of truth, successful and not so much.  

Strategizing the Customer Experience

This brings me to the second type of customer experience strategy, unplanned.  If determining what you want to be known for is part of planning, simply taking note of the results of customer interactions without first strategizing what should happen in the moment of truth represents the unplanned. You can see this unplanned approach everywhere.  

There’s a mistaken idea in some circles that a customer experience isn’t something to be strategized but something to react to.  It continues by collecting a mountain of big data about what customers think about your products and services.  But the data looks like Shakespeare’s definition of life from Macbeth—a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so hard to extract valuable information from your big data, this might have something to do with it.  

Data from a planned customer encounter has spikes, places where you hit pay dirt and customers loved what you did or places where you completely missed the mark.  But data from an unplanned or unstrategized experience has only ripples, which make it hard to determine where things clicked or didn’t.

So my advice in your customer experience journey is to first determine the value you want to deliver, confirm it with your customers at the outset, and reconfirm it on a regular basis through social media like communities.  Then your measurements of customer experience will have more clarity. You might not like what you see, but having this knowledge will be the first step toward improvement.