Moments of Truth

Another term, like Touch Points, often used in discussing Client experiences is 'Moments of Truth'.[1] Whereas Touch Points describe any likely interaction between a Client and a firm, a Moment of Truth is the actual instance of contact that gives the Client an opportunity to form or change an impression about the firm. An example is a telephone conversation between a prospective Client and your firm or through an internet search. How that enquiry is handled will leave an impression on the prospect. Many firms track the initial Moments of Truth by adding information to their Client database - for example, Table 5.1 shows part of an activity record for a target prospective Client in the technology sector. Understanding these Moments of Truth in the Client's journey from interest to purchase is critical as each interaction, if well-managed, helps to strengthen the Client experience.

Table 5.1 Prospect Activity Record

Date

Requests

Activity

Contacts in the firm

14.12.12

Seminar information

Sent seminar details

Celia Dalton

15.02.13

Intellectual property seminar

Bill Turner

25.02.13

Technical report on IP

Sent technical report

Celia Dalton

19.04.13

Director's lunch (follow up from Feb. seminar)

Bill Turner

24.06.13

Conference details

Sent conference details

Peter Gill

22.07.13

Technology conference

Jim Ryman

Moving Activities into Progressions

This record gives some indication of the prospects' desire to learn more about the firm. Within a seven-month period, we have had many recorded touch points of interaction. Bill Turner appears to be building a relationship with the prospect. Celia Dalton, Jim Ryman and Peter Gill have also responded to various requests. At some point there will need to be a co-ordination meeting in the firm to decide how to take forward the potential business with the prospect. As an example of next steps in the above, progressing the technology event might be an appropriate point to re-contact the prospect to seek their interest in meeting over lunch the firm's technology sector leader and possibly an IP specialist.

MEETING SOMEONE AT A CONFERENCE

Many initial contacts are made through unplanned situations arising at events such as conferences. Attendees usually have similar issues and needs, and may be seeking solutions to business problems.

A brief encounter at a conference often involves a short conversation, an exchange of business cards, a chat over coffee or lunch during a break. This 'Moment of Truth' gives a prospective Client an impression about your firm and an opportunity to follow up if the interaction was favourable.

Many conference and event organisers provide visitors with a delegate list. It can be useful to scan this for potential or target contacts and trying to meet them briefly during the proceedings.

The Client Experience

It is considered good practice to really understand the Client experience - the things that happen during the 'journey' taken by a prospective Client that ultimately becomes a regular, loyal Client and potentially an advocate of the firm. The Client experience can be described as the ongoing accumulation of the Moments of Truth, a series of ongoing impressions gained about the firm, its work, its people and its culture. A 'spectrum' view defines the Prospect-to-Client journey as moving from 'cold' to 'hot'.

At first the 'cold' prospect may have some knowledge of your firm through its reputation in the marketplace. At this stage of awareness we imagine that the prospect is satisfied with current suppliers and has no desire to change. However, we may be able to create some activity to tempt the prospect to make contact with our firm. But what is the benefit to the prospect? Will your activity help the prospect in some way? Will it create sufficient dissonance in the mind of the prospect that they will make contact? It's worth remembering that prospective Clients are often your competitors' best Clients, so others are also vying for the same Client's time and interest.

Experience shows that people are usually interested in improving their company's performance, so prospects will often participate in benchmarking and other surveys. If your firm has uncovered something significant in the prospect's sector, it could result in creating sufficient interest and curiosity in the prospect's mind that they will ask for a copy of the survey report or attend a presentation of the survey results. Another successful approach in gaining a prospect's interest is to produce articles in specific journals that they might read.

After several interactions and 'Touch Points' with your firm, albeit at a distance, the prospect may decide to meet with one of the partners for an exploratory discussion. This is a 'warm' breakthrough that needs careful attention! Many firms misread this opportunity as a 'buying signal', but at this stage it is only a declaration of further interest. It is clearly important to do some background research on the prospect before having the first meeting; after all, it is common courtesy to show some knowledge of the prospect's company and its business.

When meeting your firm, prospects have expectations about the interaction: 'What are these people like to deal with?' and 'What do they know about my business?' The key to a successful first meeting is the creation of a rapport between the prospect and the firm. If the setting is relatively informal, it is usually best to ask the prospect a few questions about what led them to make contact with your firm. What or who was it that triggered their interest? By focusing on the prospect's interests, the firm gradually understands the prospect's position and the likelihood of changing suppliers. Perhaps, after a few meetings, you can discover the satisfaction drivers and motivations of the prospect.

A PASSION FOR CLIENT CARE

Allan Evans, partner at accountants BDO, is passionate about Client care. BDO has a managed Client programme - irrespective of size and complexity all BDO Clients receive a high level of Client service; however, some Clients may require a different, tailored service related to size, work complexity and international scope. Compared to smaller Clients, these Clients may require a broader team of several partners.

Client feedback is sought annually within a structured national programme. In addition, feedback is sought on a project by project basis at several points in the year. Allan states 'In these times of the reach and immediacy of social media, you will always hear from Clients anyway' BDO encourages a continuous dialogue with its Clients.

'If you are going to take Client care seriously, be prepared to publish your targets and results and measure down to the individual level. Share satisfaction scores with Clients. We aim to be as transparent as TripAdvisor with data which is shared on our intranet site and openly shared with our Clients and future Clients.'

'BDO benchmarks its service with other firms. Rewards are influenced by satisfaction results. Both good and bad results are shared and discussed with Clients.'

  • [1] The term 'Moments of Truth' is attributed the CEO of Scandinavian Airlines, Jan Carlzon, when he turned the loss-making business into a Customer-driven organisation during the 1980s. He cited examples of Moments of Truth in the airline and its hotels had the whole organisation trained in understanding and managing these Moments of Truth. The subsequent behavioural changes turned around the airline's fortunes.
 
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