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Meeting customer needs at the moment of truth

Every organisation understands that delivering the right experience to customers is central to attracting and retaining their business. Engaged customers are more loyal, spend more and recommend you to family and friends. In contrast disengaged consumers are unlikely to value your products and services and will switch to other brands when they can.

Given the importance of customer engagement and customer experience, how can companies ensure they are delivering on consumer needs? ContactBabel’s new Inner Circle Guide to Customer Engagement & Personalisation 2021 aims to help. Sponsored by Enghouse Interactive, it provides insight and strategies to improve engagement through technology, training and processes, based on industry best practice.

What is the moment of truth?

One of the key themes within the guide is the vital importance of meeting customer needs at the ‘moment of truth’ in customer interactions. Initially identified by McKinsey, these are times when customers can be won or lost depending on how you respond. They are normally highly emotional moments – such as when a flight has been cancelled at the last minute, a credit card has been lost or a product goes wrong when it is needed most.

What is vital to understand is that customers will remember – and act on – how they feel at these moments that matter. So even if you provide excellent customer service at every other time, handling routine queries quickly and successfully, you can lose consumers if you fail at these key points. Equally, deliver the right, personalised experience and you reinforce loyalty and create brand advocates who spend more. McKinsey’s research found that 85% of bank customers who had a positive moment of truth increased the range of services they took or the amount they invested. On the flipside 70% who had a negative experience reduced their spend.

The reason for this is that psychologically humans recall events based on both how they felt at the peaks or troughs of an interaction, and at their very end. This ‘peak-end’ rule means that these high or low points disproportionately impact our view of the whole experience. So an interaction that starts badly, but is then successfully turned around by the company, can reinforce a relationship. For example, if the strap breaks on an out of guarantee high-end watch, and the customer is immediately sent a replacement free of charge, that will create a more loyal brand advocate.

Being ready for your moments of truth

While important before, the stresses of the pandemic have increased the number of these moments in every customer journey. That means that all organisations need to be able to be ready to deliver at these points. That requires putting in place a three step strategy:

1. Analyse your customer journeys

Moments of truth are personal and defined by the customer, not the organisation. What might be vital to one consumer could be unimportant to another. However, there are certain points in the customer journey where moments of truth are more likely to happen. This will vary by the sector you are in and the type of business you are. For example, every airline will need to be prepared for moments of truth around cancelled or missed flights. However, short-haul, no frills carriers will have different additional moments to a full-service, long-haul airline. Therefore start by analysing your customer journeys to identify where moments of truth might occur.

2. Have staff with the right skills in place

While some moments of truth may be handled through automated service channels, the majority are likely to involve human agents. And that means they need to be trained and ready to recognise these highly emotional moments and respond with the right blend of empathy and understanding, personalised to the situation. Technology can help in some cases. For example real-time speech analytics can identify sentiment in the customer’s voice. AI can analyse digital interactions to spot highly-charged words or phrases.

There’s debate about whether the emotional intelligence needed to handle these complex interactions is an innate or learned skill. Clearly, it is something that is more natural to some people than others. Identify these agents and put routing in place to ensure that moment of truth calls go to them. However, also use them as role models and share their experience with the rest of your team so that they can learn and improve their own skills. You can also recruit for those with the right personalities and behaviours to deliver empathetic customer service. McKinsey’s research highlighted that over half of branch managers recruited by Bank of America came from the retail sector, not financial services, as they had the right customer-facing skills for dealing with moments of truth.

3. Put the right structures and processes in place

Traditional customer service aims to deliver a consistent, high quality experience, across every channel. That often means there are strict processes and scripts in place for agents to follow, and they are incentivised to deliver service efficiently, time after time. Moments of truth are different. By their nature they are likely to be ‘off script’, meaning that agents need the freedom to use their own judgement to solve the customer’s issue, based on their individual needs. For example, if an agent on social media recognises that a moment of truth interaction cannot be handled on the channel, they need to be given the ability to make an outbound call to the customer to solve the problem, even if that is outside the normal process and reduces their overall efficiency.

The right incentives and measurement also need to be in place. Moments of truth calls are likely to take longer than routine interactions. Therefore, rather than scoring agents against metrics such as call time, they should be measured on post-call feedback – how did the customer feel at the end of the interaction?

As customer relationships become more complex, and routine queries are increasingly handled through self-service, the number of moments of truth are only going to grow.

Businesses therefore need to have the right strategy in place to provide an effective, engaging experience, personalised to every customer’s needs. Learn more on how leading luxury hotel brand Edwardian Hotels is delivering a truly personalised experience to all of its guests in our forthcoming webinar on 30th June. Register here to hear from them, as well as Steve Morrell from ContactBabel and Jeremy Payne from Enghouse Interactive.

Published in customer experience customer service