The Truth About Moments of Truth

After reviewing The Journey Mapping Playbook earlier this month, it struck me that one of the biggest misses in the book (outside of the flawed methodology) was its failure to touch on Moments of Truth. Those are the key interactions that have a disproportionate impact on a customer’s overall perception of the journey.

Don’t make the mistake of ignoring this critical data point! Moments of Truth are where you determine customer outcomes, so there’s really no point doing journey mapping if you don’t focus on revealing and addressing them.

But too many companies just don’t understand the opportunity they present.

Some take a watered-down approach. Some define them overly expansively as “any opportunity a customer (or potential customer) has to form an impression about a company, brand, product, or service.”

That’s nonsense. By that definition, just seeing Bullseye, the Target dog, is a Moment of Truth, as it’s obviously designed to create an impression. Even a muddy rug in the entryway of a store after a snowstorm would qualify.

But ask yourself: would addressing either of those “impressions” reduce churn, increase loyalty, or boost revenue? Not likely.

All interactions are not equal

I recently saw a journey map created for Polaris that showed nine steps in the sales process…and each and every one was a Moment of Truth! What’s the point of that? If every interaction is a Moment of Truth, why even bother to use the term? Just say “interaction” and be done with it.

But it’s not just a matter of terminology. If a Moment of Truth is an interaction that has a disproportionate impact on the customer outcome, what’s the cost of not understanding which interactions matter most?

A typical journey has three or four areas that rise above the rest. The outcome varies by the journey being mapped. For a sales journey, a Moment of Truth is one that makes or breaks the sale. For a support journey, it’s one that determines whether your customer feels their issue is resolved, resulting in their building a reservoir of goodwill toward your company…or leaving them frustrated.

If a Moment of Truth is an interaction that has a disproportionate impact on the customer outcome, what’s the cost of not understanding which interactions matter most?

Onboarding is typically a Moment of Truth in the broader end-to-end experience, as how that goes can determine how a customer perceives and interacts with your company for years to come.

In The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath discuss creating “memorable moments,” which are similar, but targeted only toward positive outcomes. Moments of Truth can lead to positive or negative outcomes.

For example, when Heart of the Customer mapped the journey of installing high-end diagnostics equipment into a hospital, we found that first kickoff meeting was a Moment of Truth. When conducted well, the hospital staff was excited for the project and raring to go. But when the kickoff was filled with technical jargon (commonly the case), hospital staff became confused and uncertain. And that feeling persisted throughout the rest of the yearlong installation, coloring the entire experience.

Focus on the impact of the interaction

We spend an entire chapter in our book walking through Moments of Truth. It’s imperative to understand that all interactions are not equally important. By focusing your improvement efforts on Moments of Truth, you not only see more impact, you save time and money. Why waste resources designing a “perfect” interaction that doesn’t impact customers’ emotions or whether you make the sale? Focus on the moments that matter for the best outcomes for your company and your customers.

Moments of Truth vary from journey to journey, but also often vary by persona.

When we looked at advanced radiology, entering the hospital was a big Moment of Truth, as anxious patients often got lost, missing small directional signs. When we mapped the YMCA’s journey, we found that check-in was a Moment of Truth for Mandy the Mom. She enjoyed when staff greeted her children cheerily, and especially when they remembered the kids’ names. But Head-Down Harrison just wanted to get through check-in as quickly as possible so he could get started on his workout. Friendly chitchat not only didn’t appeal to him, he saw it as an inconvenience.

This is why it’s so critical to identify your personas as well as their specific Moments of Truth. Each persona sees the journey differently.

Every experience involves some level of scarcity. Focusing your resources on those critical Moments of Truth allows you to optimize your customer’s journey and your business results. Considering every interaction a Moment of Truth simply ignores the reality of customer journeys.

And that’s the truth.

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