• August 13, 2015
  • By Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal, Beagle Research Group

Know Your Customer’s Moments of Truth

One of the pillars of my new book, Solve for the Customer, is the customer experience (CX). But unlike most people, I think of CX as a verb, not a noun. This might sound really picky, something only an English major might say, but the change from noun to verb is loaded with important ideas.

Very often when we think of CX as a noun we also think of it in the past, as in: How was that customer experience? Unfortunately, once an experience has passed, there's little you can do to improve it; a bad experience can't be turned around. Also, when we engineer experiences, we do it from our perspectives, not necessarily the customer's. That's just human nature, and frankly, for most of our lives that's all we had to go on. It was expensive to gather customer data and analyze it to understand customers' needs and aspirations. As a substitute, we would inject our opinions for real insight. It's different today because data is abundant and analytics are powerful and cheap.

But just as we solve one problem, another hovers into view. What data is important and how should we analyze it? We've seen through experience that analyzing the whole data enchilada is time-consuming and doesn't always provide usable answers. My suggestion is to focus first on moments of truth, those times when customers expect their vendors to come through with an offer, some information, or just a suggestion.

Every vendor's moments of truth are unique because its products, services, and people are. But rather than this being a problem, it can be a source of unique intellectual property, something that only the vendor knows about its customers. The most valuable thing about moments of truth is that they generate the customer-facing business processes that the vendor absolutely has to nail. Sticking the landing in a moment of truth drives customer bonding as much as failing makes a customer question the relationship. A customer that bonds with a vendor or a brand is the one more likely to advocate on the vendor’s behalf with other customers and prospects.

You might say, "This is all wonderful, but how do I take the first step, and what is the first step, anyhow?" There are two tools that can help. First, journey mapping, which is just coming into its own, is a way to model the moments of truth that make up a customer experience. Importantly, when you model—rather than simply substituting your opinion—you can identify things we have a tendency to overlook, like when the journey suddenly blows up because no one thought a customer would do that.

Journey mapping helps us formulate our business processes so that they don't blow up. Once we know all of our moments of truth, journey maps can help drive app generation. When you change a process, you change the journey map and the change ripples through to customer-facing apps. Of course, some journeys might lead to a customer service rep or other employee, and that's a good thing. You never want a process to end ungracefully, and if your automation can't solve a customer issue, then at least you can bring the issue to the attention of someone who can help. Such process flows maximize the use of our most precious resource—our people's time.

The second step in a journey-mapped business process is to develop analytics that zero in on moments of truth so that managers can precisely understand how well the business is meeting its customers' needs. This can get very fine-grained, and it can tell you quite a bit. For instance, if you have an "on-boarding" process, do you measure whether the customer successfully on-boarded as a single event? Or do you break things down into registration, training, first use, expanded use, etc. all of the small steps that could conceivably go sideways? If you take the second approach, you'll be in the moments of truth that make up the on-boarding process, and you’ll have a much better understanding of your customers' journeys.

When you take all of this together, you might conclude that this is a significant departure for CRM. Our front office systems are quickly moving from recording data to fostering processes. Customers experience (verb) moments of truth, and the way to ensure that the experience (noun) is a positive one is through analytics and journey mapping.

Denis Pombriant is the founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group and the Bullpen Group. He is a widely published CRM analyst in the U.S. and Europe, and his latest research spans all areas of social CRM, cloud, and mobile computing. His latest book, Solve for the Customer, is available on Amazon.com.

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