by Tony Vidler
So much is done via digital engagement today by our clients and prospects that there literally hundreds of “digital moments of truth” for our practice on a daily basis. A “moment of truth” is that instant during interaction with our firm when a customers expectations are tested. The rise of digital interaction means that we humans are often not even fully aware of these moments of truth occurring.
The concept of the “moment of truth” was explained superbly by Jan Carlzon back in 1989. For me it was, and still is, one of the best business books I have encountered. Enlightening stuff on customer service, company ethos and values, and the roles of various people within an organisation.
It is STILL worth reading as it is even more relevant today.
In any given professional practice today we have an enormous number of digital interactions with the market. They google us and land on our websites, our blogs, our linkedin profiles and social media accounts. Presuming the search engines do their job and get the customer to the preferred site in a nano-second, there is the first of many moments of truth.
No photo? The keyword they were searching with is being used by you, but irrelevantly (or even worse perhaps; irreverently)? No contact details to take things offline and talk to the human? Click on the “contact me” button and it sends me off to another program where I have to consult with your diary to set up a meeting in 3 weeks time when all I wanted to do was ask a question?
These are just a few examples of what occurs when consumers using digital engagement methods encounter our business. These have all happened to me as a consumer in recent weeks, and the initial reaction on my part is disappointment or frustration….those are moments of truth. My expectations as a consumer (which I do not think were unreasonable) simply were not met…and I disengaged. And the firms whom I was seeking services from are probably still blissfully unaware….
As practitioners this should fill us with alarm. All the effort and money that goes into driving people to choose to engage with us can be wasted simply because we don’t get the initial connection point right. Our marketing has to move beyond merely attracting attention and generating enquiries all the way through to every step of the customer engagement process. Every step…every interaction…every spot they could land at…..these are all potential digital moments of truth for our business. Prospects are won or lost in these moments.
Yet, these are the easiest digital moments of truth to get right. We simply need to consider them from the perspective of the customer, apply a bit of marketing nous to the interaction process, and ensure that each of these initial engagement steps deliver what it is that the customer would be looking for.
The more challenging digital engagement areas are those that involve existing clients. Those whom we actively engaged in delivery of professional services and advice, and to whom we owe duties of care and have to consider compliance obligations together with being mindful that they are in fact the ones hiring and paying us, so we’d better be delivering the service and experience that they expect. Balancing all of those obligations in our digital engagement IS difficult, and our only real ability to manage these digital moments of truth in the client engagement or advice process is through personalisation. The personal we can make digital engagements appear to be, the greater the impact in the moment of truth. To achieve that we must rely upon having great communications systems which are backed up by significant amounts of data on our clients (how important is that CRM system?), and which can integrate to produce fast and personalised digital responses.
Even if we do that, it may not be enough.
Compounding the difficulty of the digital engagement is our reliance upon the digital interaction that our clients have with our suppliers and business partners too. In effect the insurer or fund manager whom we have recommended and with whom the client is now trying to communicate with or obtain information from, becomes an extension of OUR brand and reputation in the clients mind. To be blunt; a crappy digital engagement system from one of key suppliers makes us look like incompetents. The suppliers moment of truth actually became one for our brand with our clients.
Frankly, we have to accept that many institutions with whom we deal have archaic, hierarchal and bureaucratic communications systems, frequently staffed or supported by humans who fundamentally do not understand either the consumers or the business we are in. They don’t do digital well a lot of the time. And they don’t actually do real client service stuff well enough either, despite what their internal NPS scores or customer satisfaction surveys are telling them. While it might be acceptable to an institution to have (say) a “satisfied customer” proportion of 90%, that is not good enough for the practitioner. If the practitioner had 10% of their clients fundamentally dissatisfied by their engagement with the partnering institution then that is a pretty big problem for the practitioner.
Insert humans into the process. I believe that’s the answer.
The greatest remedy we have for a client who was disappointed with the outcome of their digital moment of truth (whether with our firm directly, or by extension) is put a human being in front of them. Metaphorically speaking of course. A human who engages directly with the client is the the single greatest opportunity to take charge of these moments of truth.
That engagement can be in person, or by phone, or facetime or even 1-to-1 email or chat….it doesn’t matter. Having said that; the greater the level of disappointment on the part of the client the more personal the human-to-human response should be. Consumers generally find it relatively easy to maintain the rage via email, but not so much when face to face with another human who is clearly seeing things from their perspective and actively trying to soothe and rectify. Small matters that were disappointing can be rectified easily enough with a human from your business sending a personalised email directly to the client or consumer and fundamentally promising resolution or accountability.
The bottom line is that whether the digital moment of truth actually occurred when the client or prospect was trying to interact with our firm directly or with a firm who we partner with, the moment of truth is ours. It is our reputation and it is our customer. We wear the damage if it isn’t handled. So we must take charge of it.
While building the best digital interaction systems you can (which will be a “work in progress” for the rest of your business career by the way) you should consider all the digital engagement points where the option to revert to dealing with a human need to be. Consider all the points where the consumer can get too confused, or disappointed, or have to go through too many connecting steps to get what it was they were after and put a “contact human” option in there.
We are in the people business, or the relationship management business, after all. While we know the digital engagement will continue to increase in importance to our clients and prospects, the reality is that the more digital choice there is and the faster things work, the more opportunities there are for digital moment of truth disappointments.
That means there are more opportunities for demonstrate that we are a service business with a strong personal touch. That is no bad thing for most professional practices.
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