Have you ever heard the term, “moment of truth”? As in, “Jen had a moment of truth when she realized how out of shape she was”. Well, that is one accurate use of that expression. But when it comes to customer service, there is another meaning to the term, “moment of truth”, and it has absolutely nothing to do with my lack of stamina on a treadmill.
What is a moment of truth? It is a powerful concept for any manager and employee to understand. Let me elaborate…
What if I were to tell you that you are already fully aware of this concept…that you were aware of it before you even started working? You’ve experienced moments of truth almost every day of your life. Any time you’ve entered a business, you were experiencing the phenomenon of “moments of truth”!
Let’s define the concept, so you can understand how you’ve had this experience and never even knew it. A moment of truth is anytime a customer comes into contact with any element of your business and has the opportunity to form an opinion about your service quality. Wow. That’s a big statement. And it’s happening at your business as you read this. Must be important, huh?
So now let me explain how this occurs at every type of business you’ve ever entered, and then we’ll come back to what’s going on at your business.
I have the wonderful opportunity to travel all over the country, meet extraordinary people working toward a common goal and experience moments of truth in various businesses. In my life, it usually begins at the airport, but let’s look at other businesses one might encounter. This hotel, for starters!
I may be more critical than the average consumer because a large part of my professional life consists of identifying excellent service experiences. But you be the judge… I am staying at a hotel that advertises itself as a “first rate hotel”. I would hate to experience what they would classify “second rate”. Tell me what you think.
Arriving in the late evening, I am somewhat tired. I have little difficulty finding the hotel because they have a large sign that is displayed quite well. This is much appreciated by the weary road warrior. As I navigate the parking lot, I discover that there is no place to park that is fewer than 172 miles from the entrance. Nice. Good thing that I packed light…oh wait, that wasn’t me.
As I struggle with my suitcase, briefcase and extra bag I like to call “heavy”, I make my way toward the entrance. I am quite pleased to see that they have automatic doors. I continue my struggle toward the front desk. No one is there. No bell to ring, so I try the old standby…subtle cough (i.e. no phlegm involved) and key jingle.
Finally, this guy appears out of nowhere. He is wearing a heavy jacket, and no identifying name tag or hotel insignia. But apparently he works there because he says, “Sorry about that”.
I give him my name so he can verify my reservation. While he is doing this, he gestures to the TV in the lobby that is blaring in the background. “Ever watch this show?’ he wonders. Umm…no. But his enthusiasm is quite contagious. He begins to explain the concept of this latest reality show (designed to reduce the few working brain cells I have remaining) in a way that would impress the producers. Admittedly, I am absolutely charmed by his charisma. He appears genuinely invested in connecting with me. That is, until his cell phone rings. He answers it, “Hey, what up?” (Hey, that’s exactly what I wanted to ask!). Please note…I am reporting this incident EXACTLY as it unfolded.
The rest of my check in experience was watching him juggle the phone, my credit card and room key while typing information and telling his caller things I wished I hadn’t heard. Once he completed the process, he courteously leaned his head to the far right to motion where the elevators were located. Why thank you Mr. Manners!
Upon exiting the elevator I noticed a distinct odor. Not as in “distinct good”. I made it to my room, opened the door and was thoroughly unimpressed. No big deal. I was just glad to see the bed. The room was not exceptionally clean, and there was a questionable stain on the carpet (and that’s what socks are for!). Later in the evening I was also treated to the local infestation of ladybugs. Cute little guys, but I learned that they bite when provoked! Not that I spent any time provoking them, but an employee at the business I was working with the next day gave me a stern warning the about the danger of ladybugs.
The hotel advertised “wireless internet access in every room”. They forgot to mention, “at another hotel”. The hotel guy encouraged me to bring my laptop to the lobby and “hope for a connection there”. Instead, I tried closing my eyes and clicking my heels.
The rest of my stay was quite consistent with what I’ve described…except at check out. My cell phone lovin’ hotel guy was there to see me on my way. I asked for directions to the airport, and he was like Mapquest, only accurate! One little quirk of mine is an amazing inability to navigate with or without directions. I recognize exceptional directions when I hear them. And these were quite exceptional! I made it to the airport in record time that had nothing to do with speeding. Or not that much. In any case, the directions saved the day.
So…back to “moments of truth”. Let’s dissect this experience like a lab rat. I’ll list my moments of truth at the hotel as I encountered them…
• Large, well-lit sign with hotel name
• Parking lot
• Doors that open automatically
• Lobby (how does it look, etc)
• Greeter (or lack thereof) at front desk
• Professional image of hotel employee (which can include appearance, attitude, ability to build rapport, knowledge, friendliness, accuracy, not answering his cell phone while waiting on me…)
• Cleanliness of the hotel (including elevator, bathrooms, hallways, workspace, rooms, etc)
• Working amenities (internet access, in my case)
• Handling of complaints
• Speed of check in and out
• Accuracy with information (directions, etc)
As you can see, there were quite a few moments of truth that occurred both in and out of the hotel. Some included employees and some did not. There were others not mentioned, such as the hotel website, how they answered the phone, their rates, etc. There were many opportunities for me to come into contact with any element of the hotel and form an opinion about their service quality. Are you starting to see the relationship to customers and your business?
What do customers experience at your business…what are their moments of truth? Here are some things to think about as you ponder the customer experience. Moments of truth at your business include, but are not limited to:
• Your website (is it easy to navigate, does it give accurate, up-to-date information?)
• Parking lot
• Product brochures (availability, accuracy, etc)
• Lobby, number of locations
• Greeting upon entering
• Wait time to see an employee
• Phone system…it may be automated, but can they press zero to speak to someone?
• Complaint resolution (is it timely, well done and preventable in the future)
• Employees (are they fast, accurate, friendly, knowledgeable? Do they make suggestions about services that will improve the customers experience? Do they follow up, go the extra mile, provide consistency and always maintain a professional image?)
• Is it easy to do business with you?
There are more moments of truth, but that should get you thinking! Remember the definition: anytime a customer comes into contact with any element of your business and has the opportunity to form an opinion about your service quality. You have a great deal of influence on your customer’s experience. I encourage you to challenge yourself and co-workers to make each moment of truth positive for your customers.
The next time you are in any business, assess your experience through each moment of truth. You will begin to have a deeper understanding of what your customers experience at your business, and you will also have a greater awareness of what it is like to live in my head! It’s tough in here people! I do this for a living and am endlessly aware of moments of truth in every business I enter…and treadmill I avoid.
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