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Customer Journey Moments of Truth (Shift Your Focus)

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 10/08/2023

The customer journey moments of truth are pivotal points that determine and shape a consumer’s view of a brand. They occur at different stages, from research to purchase and beyond.

These moments can make or break a customer’s relationship with a company. In 2011, Google introduced the “Zero Moment of Truth” concept, adding to the existing framework.

In this article, I’ll explore these crucial moments and their impact on customer experience.

What Are Moments of Truth in Customer Journey

In every customer journey, there are interactions that matter more than others. Those moments can cause customers to leave you, or lead to stronger customer engagement, or make customers more expensive to serve.

We call these key interactions “Customer Journey Moments of Truth,” and identifying them is among the most important findings of journey mapping and other customer experience research.

Why? Because these moments have a disproportionate impact on long-term loyalty and customers’ overall perception of the journey. In short, these moments matter most, and focusing on them makes your experience improvement efforts more cost-efficient and impactful.

When Do Customer Journey Moments of Truth Occur?

Moments of Truth vary between customer segments, but we’ve found they are most likely to occur during these three stages of the journey:

  • The beginning
  • The end
  • When hand-offs occur between silos

If the beginning goes badly, it may also be the end. That’s just common sense. But the end of the journey holds equal, if not greater, importance.

As Daniel Kahneman found in his Nobel Prize-winning research on memory, endings are one of the key determinants for how positively or negatively we view any given journey, despite what may have happened earlier on.

As a result, that lasting last impression can have an inordinately strong impact on whether we’re willing to return to a company for future journeys.

The third stage of a journey likely to hold a Moment of Truth is during a hand-off, which may be rife with pain points for the customer. Companies may aim to provide a seamless experience, but far too many aren’t there yet.

Moments of Truth: The Types

The concept of moments of truth was originally articulated by A.G. Lafley, a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, who identified two key moments: First Moment of Truth (FMOT) and Second Moment of Truth (SMOT). Later, Google added third moment, the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). More recently, a fourth moment of truth has been suggested the: Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT).

For the sake of a more comprehensive journey, I will introduce you to them in a logical order:

1. Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)

Google defined this as when a shopper goes online to research a product before deciding what to buy.

This can include reading reviews, comparing prices, or otherwise learning about the product and its alternatives.

Here is an example:

Jenny is considering buying a new smartphone. Before deciding, she goes online to research different models, read customer reviews, and compare prices and features. This research phase is the Zero Moment of Truth.

2. First Moment of Truth (FMOT)

This is when a customer is first confronted with the product. It occurs within the first few seconds of a customer encountering the product and leads to the formation of a first impression.

For instance, this could happen in a physical store when a customer sees a product on a shelf.

Here is an example:

After researching, Jenny decides to go to a physical store to get a better feel for the smartphones she is considering. The moment she sees the smartphone on display picks one up, and experiences how it feels in her hand and how it looks is the First Moment of Truth.

3. Second Moment of Truth (SMOT)

This occurs when a customer purchases a product and experiences its quality as per their expectations.

For instance, this could be when a customer uses the product at home after purchasing it.

Here is an example:

Jenny decides on a smartphone and purchases it. When she starts using the new phone, her experience – how well the phone works, whether it lives up to her expectations – is the Second Moment of Truth.

4. Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT)

This is when a customer shares their experience with others, which can be through word-of-mouth, online reviews, or social media posts.

The shared experience then becomes another user’s ZMOT.

Here is an example:

Jenny loves her new smartphone and decides to share her positive experience on her social media, praising the phone’s features and performance. She also writes a positive online review on the store’s website. These actions represent the Ultimate Moment of Truth, which can influence the Zero Moment of Truth for other potential customers.

Customer Journey Moment of Truth: Positive or Negative?

The concept of Moments of Truth in the customer journey has two potential outcomes – they can either be positive or negative.

These outcomes significantly influence a customer’s perception of a brand, product line, or service. They can profoundly impact their decision to continue engaging with the brand. Here is what they are all about:

Positive Moments of Truth

Positive moments of truth occur when a customer’s experience with a product or service exceeds their expectations.

Positive MOTs:

  • Foster customer satisfaction
  • Encourage brand loyalty
  • Can even turn customers into brand advocates

Here is an example:

  • A customer researches a product online (ZMOT)
  • Purchases it (FMOT)
  • Uses it
  • Finds it exceeds their expectations (SMOT)
  • They are likely to share their positive experience with others (UMOT)

This creates a positive loop that could influence other customers’ decision-making processes.

Negative Moments of Truth

Negative MOTs occur when a customer’s experience falls short of their expectations.

These moments can lead to customer dissatisfaction and may deter the customer from further engagement with the brand.

Here is an example:

  • A product fails to live up to its promises or if customer service is poor
  • These negative experiences will become entrenched in the customer’s mind
  • This will influence their future decisions
  • They may share their negative experience with others

This negatively impacts the brand’s reputation and stops a potential positive loop.

Given the power of both positive and negative Moments of Truth, you should strive to optimize every interaction along the customer journey.

This involves understanding the customer’s needs and expectations at each touchpoint:

  • Delivering high-quality products or services
  • Providing excellent customer service
  • Effectively managing and responding to both positive and negative feedback

This holistic approach to the customer experience can help companies create more positive Moments of Truth. It fosters stronger relationships with your customers and drives long-term business success.

Moments of Truth Merit Your Attention

The identification of Moments of Truth is huge, but it is only half of the battle. Solving problems that occur during Moments of Truth in a way that meets your customer’s true needs leads to success.

Let’s look at some examples:

Landing new B2B customers

In many B2B new-customer journeys, the transition from prospect to customer is a critical time, especially when sales is only responsible for bringing in new customers and another department manages existing clients.

Sales and marketing sets the customer’s expectations. But when they’re not part of the ongoing relationship, it’s all too easy for those expectations to go unmet.

Some fixes our clients have deployed to address this problem include delaying the transition from sales rep to account manager by arranging an internal hand-off meeting where expectations are clearly explained.

They also create more effective documentation in the CRM system. (Although getting the sales team to complete that is another issue…)

Onboarding new B2B customers

We worked with a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider that discovered just how important their onboarding process was. Clients who rated onboarding highly were significantly more likely to renew their subscriptions.

Those who were not effectively onboarded never fully learned to use the system. As a result, they didn’t realize the positive business impact available through the software and therefore saw no reason to renew.

Onboarding new B2C customers

We helped a fitness center client discover three personas, including one who is new to health clubs. She joined to help her family get fit, figuring she’d also enjoy the services.

The beginning of the journey was a Moment of Truth for her. Because this is the first time that she’s joining a club, she’s overwhelmed by the experience. Our client focused on creating a more personal onboarding experience to lessen her anxiety and help her learn about the options available to her.

That client also had their usability group redesign their printed schedule.

Stressful experiences

Jim Kalbach’s Mapping Experiences features our case study that includes the experience of Newbie Natalie, one of three personas we discovered in the course of our research for a healthcare provider.

Natalie is new to the radiology experience, and the way her appointment ends determines whether she will return to our client for future appointments.

If she left without understanding what happened and what comes next, her frustration leads her to look for a new provider the next time she needs that same form of service.

Get the most “bang for your buck”

Obviously, we all want every part of every journey to be perfect. That’s why we do what we do.

But as Winston Churchill put it, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” Who among us has the resources, time, and budget to optimize every aspect of every interaction for every customer in every journey?

That’s just not realistic. Nor would the outcome necessarily bring the return on investment we need to show to justify our efforts.

But when we understand which customer interactions that are most critical to customer satisfaction and success, we can direct our attention most efficiently and prioritize our improvement initiatives in a way that will make the biggest impact.

That’s the key to strengthening customer relationships and building long-term customer loyalty.…and showing results that will turn heads in the C-suite.

Final Thoughts

The intricate map of the customer journey is filled with various Moments of Truth – from research and first impressions through the user experience and onto shared experiences.

Our commitment at Heart of the Customer is to guide you in navigating these pivotal moments effectively.

We stand ready to help you recognize and meet your needs, tackle hurdles, optimize time management, fine-tune processes, and elevate customer and employee experiences.

In the ever-evolving business world, a well-planned customer journey isn’t an added benefit but rather an essential building block of a successful strategy.

Keeping your customer journey map updated is a strategic move that guarantees you stay one step ahead of the curve.

We encourage you to connect with us at Heart of the Customer. Together, we can draw an exceptional map of the customer journey that will skyrocket your brand’s overall customer experience to new heights.

Don’t hesitate to shift your focus to these Moments of Truth and see its transformative value and impact on your business. Reach out to us today, and let’s begin this exciting journey together.

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