The concept of the modern business first took form in ancient Greece, where people and goods came together in gatherings later dubbed markets. The Nickel, Copper, and eventually Gold coins replaced the century-old trade by the barter system of exchange.
Entrepreneurs showcased their wares, wooed, vied and haggled to sell as much of their goods as they could to the growing populace of the growing cities at the time.
At first, buyers went through a rather simple buying process as only a handful, if not just one merchant in certain cases, offered the only good or service required by most in ancient times. Sadly, some buyers had to ride or walk great distances to purchase certain items, and for certain items still, a much further travel was required than just the next town or city. With very few options, buyers were left with little choice than to buy few goods, regardless of its physical or purchase conditions, from specific merchants. Some of these merchants took undue advantage of the sometimes tired and wearily or unsuspecting patrons.
However, as time went by, buyers, even in those times became more savvy at not only nosing out bargain purchases, but discerning a fraudulent merchant and fake goods, (such as jewelry and animal skin which were more common at the time) from another. One simple way was what is today more currently termed ‘purchase research’. A buyer would ask for a sample of a good from a merchant and compare it with an original sample she had seen elsewhere, perhaps at a friends’ place. If the quality marched, not only did she buy from the merchant, but she would continue to buy from him for as long as he sold her the same quality and quantity at the same price.
Even better if he offered discounts for bulk purchases or offered freebies for introducing her friends and family to him. As long as the merchant maintained a good relationship with her over time, then the business flourished for all involved.
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Consequently, forthright merchants began to build a loyal customer base and successfully branch to other cities, basically copying the same model of the ‘happy customer’.
Since the 1790 Industrial Revolution however, business and how it is handled has essentially changed every 30 years or so, shaped by new inventions, trade and changing consumer habits. Regardless, its praxis over time has remained the same as has consumer purchasing appetites and the need to always ensure they are getting the right deal for what is perceived, the right price.
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One of these not so new, inventions, is the internet. Thus, to this end, your typical customer journey, as of old, goes through many different touch points, which involves them coming into firsthand contact with your brand in various ways. Like back then, these points vary in importance and the most integral of them are known as the Moments of Truth, which are defined as the points in a relationship with a customer where a business has the opportunity to earn his or her true loyalty by engaging with them. And the internet has only made the process shorter, and so much easier for the customer, thus more difficult for companies to catch and hold attention for more than a few short moments as competition has only become stiffer.
It is important that start–ups work to improve every customer’s experience as a whole, in order to be able to scale much faster as each customer, and understandably so, has expectations at each moment of their interaction with your company in order to retain customers faster than the competition.
So, we will examine these points as best as we can and what your small business should be doing to improve each one.
1) The Zero Moment of Truth – When the Idea for the Moments of Truth was first devised by A.G. Lafley, Chairman, President and CEO of Procter & Gamble, in 2005, it initially outlined two moments. This was one of them.
It happens when the customer begins researching your product to understand its real, and perceived, value to them. This Moment, is usually triggered by a stimulus, be it an actual need for a product or service similar to yours or perhaps even word of mouth or an Ad they saw or heard. Either way, the customer has requirements for something and begins to seek the best of the best for their money to either buy or engage with. At this point, and with help from the almighty internet, they begin browsing reviews, talking to friends and family, perhaps even shopping alternatives online or actually walking into the nearest store to see if not only does your product exist amongst the myriad on the shelve, but it’s higher perceived value.
At times like these, nothing should be left to chance. The internet is a powerful tool that collates all sorts of information: good, bad and ugly, about a company, product or service. It never forgets, neither does the customer, and neither should you. Not only is a bad or even moderate review in some cases about your product/service disastrous to the bottom-line, worst of all, it steers customers towards the competition.
Understand, good reviews are akin to oil fluids poured into the gears of a vehicle to help it run. Unlike fuel, money and profits, which the vehicle requires constantly in order to move, the oil fluid, though not required regularly, still ensures a well maintained and optimized engine nonetheless, leading to greater mileage and less breakdowns.
Thus, you must not only covet exceptionally good reviews for your product or service, you must do everything possible to put them out there and keep them in the face of your existing and prospective customer, always, and through every medium at your marketing and sales disposal. Also, at this touchpoint, exceptional customer service is critical and, in certain cases, transformational. Every customer who comes in touch with your product should be met with a willing hand, even if it’s an electronic response bot, though not always advised, to help navigate the salient information required to make most especially, a positive product or service purchase decision in your favour. Leaving them with more questions than answers about choosing you could very well spell doom for your business if not immediately but in the long run.
As you never get a second chance to make a first impression, strive to leave a positive and lasting Zero Moment impression, having handy tools to help measure your conversion rates as this will greatly inform what influences purchase decisions in your favor and what does not.
2) The Less than Zero Moment of Truth – A recent addition to the formerly 4 scopes of the Moments of Truth. This is the absolute earliest instance of a potential customer beginning their journey and interacting with a brand, any brand for that matter. At this moment, something has happened in the life of the customer to become interested in a product or service. While their research into a product is seen in the Zero Moment of Truth, the Less Than Zero Moment happens before this research even begins.
In this Moment, having an active social media, email marketing, PR, advertisement plan and strategy is a key requisite for getting the idea of your product or service into the mind of your desired customer, hopefully before anyone else. While this requires some targeting and monitoring of customer activities, this proactive strategy can decrease the likelihood of your audience ever choosing a competitor when they find themselves having to make a purchase decision. Thus, constantly having an engaging material to look at, read or listen to, is very important particularly in an age of mobile advertising which will certainly have untold future benefits.
3) The next Moment in the 5–customer purchasing experience is the First Moment of Truth and is centered on when a potential customer actually encounters your product or service for the first time. Commonly, this moment only lasts a few seconds and can include the customer reading a description or hearing a pitch from a representative in order to better understand how the product may serve his or her needs. This immediate impression hinges on good presentation and the ability to clearly show how the product will fulfill their desired need.
Brief as this Moment may sound, it has a profound bottom–line impact on whether customers will move forward with learning more about your product or service offerings. Thus, to win at this stage, product samplings or free offerings in return for qualitative feedback at the earliest stage of design can give you great insight into what customers truly wish to see, read or hear about in your product or service. Visual designs also play a critical role in product attraction, and you leave this to chance at your own business loss.
4) So, the customer has finally bought into your product or service and has used it for the first time. This is when the Second Moment of Truth occurs as the customer gets a hands-on experience of your product or service. It tells him the reality of his decision and whether the outcome has been at par with expectation.
Dependent on what type of product or service you offer, there can be several Second Moments of Truth, and every time the consumer uses the product, he continues to form his opinions. This is critical, as it decides whether the customer will keep on associating with your brand or will choose another over it.
This ultimately has a direct impact on your brand’s reputation, public perception and customer reach, consequently, leaving open a back channel for customer support and complaints, and occasionally calling to ask how the product or service performed, or is performing to your customers’ expectations. This will greatly help improve your customer’s journey to repeat business.
5) This leads to the last, but perhaps the most important Moment in the customer journey that must be taken into strict marketing consideration, the Third moment of truth. This is the customer’s actual reaction towards your brand in every way through feedback and more importantly for you, the stage where he also becomes an advocate and starts sharing his experiences with others thus creating several other zero moments of truth for your business.
Many pundits today believe that more time should be spent by business owners, particularly start–ups, in understanding the integral importance of this Moment in the customer journey to them becoming unpaid, and in many cases, unwitting influencers for their brands.
Nonetheless, one thing is abundantly clear, one positive, unsolicited review could lead to loads of financial benefits for your business. This however will become a pipe dream if your customer is not happy with your product or service delivery.
In closing, understand, these types of Moments of Truth will be different for every business in every sector. Each can take place at different times along the customer journey and some will have a greater impact on an audience’s perceptions of a brand. You should work to find and understand what motivates these unique Moments and employ the following strategies to improve them and offer meaningful benefits.
Data Gathering – It’s important to base your Moments of Truth strategy on measurable data in order to make real, discernable improvements to your customer experiences. A large portion of the modern customer journey takes place online and, as such, can create detailed data for you to review.
Survey Validation – Whichever way you determine your brand’s peculiar Moments of Truth, it is important that you validate your findings as much as possible. One of the best ways to find validation is to survey your customer base and getting their insights into the journeys they have taken. Not only will you be validating critical information from the horse’s mouth but your results may also shed light on other missed Moments you can take advantage of.
Controlling the Customer Journey – Just as the saying goes, ‘you cannot influence an outcome you do not control…” the same applies to your brand’s Moments of Truth. Knowing the Moments that leads to a customer ultimately becoming an unsolicited influencer, is just the beginning. Understanding how to utilise these Moments is where the truly successful standout in business.
Reward, reward, reward – One easy way to control the Moments is to always incentivize your customer at every step, with the promise of more if the next step is taken, sometimes within a period. This must not always be the case however.
Brain Essien is a business consultant, with expertise in digital marketing, crowd funding, pitch decks and business plan/proposal formulation and design.
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