What Are 'Moments of Truth'?

February 10, 2011

BusinessDirectory.com defines a Moment of Truth as ' In customer service, instance of contact or interaction between a customer and a firm (through product, sales force, or visit) that gives the customer an opportunity to form (or change) an impression about the firm'.  Although he coined the phrase originally, Jan Carlzon, a former executive who managed Scandanavian SAS Airlines, didn't necessarily come up with today's modern definition.  He used the term to mean those moments in which important brand impressions are formed and where there is significant opportunity for good or bad impressions to be made. 

In the intensly competitive world we live in, every one has a product, and every one has a service.  Everyone has a price, and they can all deliver.  They all follow the do's and don'ts.  The all have the marketing mixes and the Four P's we've heard about for years.  With all of these elements in the equation, the critical differentiating factors that become paramount are you and I, and the Moments of Truth we put out there.  The people within an organization with whom the client chooses to do business.  With the more successful relationships built on mutual respect, reputation, and common goals, you can begin to see how essential positive Moments of Truth really are.  And how truly powerful they can be.

The definition above is just that; a definition.  Apply the concept to where you are sitting right now, and Moments of Truth can be further defined in real-world examples like:

-  The tone of voice portrayed when you pick up the phone to greet a customer

-  Your appearance when you visit a client's facility, or when they visit yours.  And speaking of facilities, what does yours look like? 

-  Your corporate culture.  Yes, as seemingly vague as you may expect this to be to a client, they can see it.....in your attitude!

-  Your company logo, each and every time and place it's displayed

-  Your advertising efforts, and the messages they send, be them print, audio, or audio/visual

-  Your efforts to collect on past due accounts, or handle other sensitive, potentially embarrassing moments

-  Your ability to practice empathy.  Put yourself in other's shoes and determine how you would like to be treated

This list of real world examples could go on and on, for the number of Moments of Truth in one person's day are countless, and will manifest themselves in a variety of different forms.  Suffice it to say that, much like the advertising and social directives we're bombarded with on a daily basis, Moments of Truth are out there, in equal force.

We've talked about this next point before, and because it's so important, we're going to talk about it again.  Ready?  Here it is.  People screw up!   It happens.  It's human nature.  There is no avoiding the fact that at some point, with some client, you are going to make a mistake that is perceived as 'significant' from the client's perspective.  It doesn't matter how important you think it is.  It matters how important the client thinks it is.  It's their perception....and their perception needs to be emraced as your reality!  It's not necessarily the mistake that is critical at that Moment of Truth.  It's how you handle it from there.  Recovery, in other words.  First, stand up, and admit the mistake.  Second, stand up, and fix it.  Often times it will be the recovery Moment of Truth that stands out so much in the customer's eyes that the recovery itself, not the mistake itself, that will become the most important factor at that critical point in the Moment of Truth.   

Moments of Truth often happen when they are not thought to occur at all, in odd interfaces with clients or co-workers, and may be so subtle they go unnoticed to everyone's awareness.  How do you avoid the pitfalls of subliminal Moments of Truth?  Top of Mind Awareness.  Make it a point to be a part of your everyday interactions with external and internal (co-workers) clients, and you won't have to worry about any of this.  If you want to explore this in more depth, look no further than your next visit to the grocery store, or the bank, or your next call to your insurance company, or your doctor, or your favorite restaurant, or even your family and friends.