Who knew that Jan Carlzon would completely alter the then prevailing customer service philosophy when he first introduced the idea of ‘moments of truth’ in 1981. When Carlzon first became the CEO of Scandinavian Airlines, he turned everything around for the topsy-turvy situation of the company just by focusing on these moments of truth, seemingly a rather far-fetched idea but can stoke extremely positive results in the customer service sphere if handled properly. The success of this idea itself depends on how humanized the interactions and how grandiose the responses to the customers are, which of course requires presence of Emotionally Intelligent frontline employees.

EI (Emotional Intelligence) is an important factor when it comes to serving customers specially while dealing with emotionally charged moments. Nevertheless, sufficient training can make up for the dearth of EI in staff. Today, consumers can no longer be treated as some faceless targets for marketing and sale, rather there has to be an emotional connection. Therefore, no matter how far-flung an organization is, these moments are the foundation of its capacity to assist when it comes to service.

Moments of Truth:

Moments of truth are those interactions where customers put in a high amount of energy to reach a satisfactory outcome. A company could have thousands of moments of truth in a single day. Whether adversely or favorably, they incredibly affect companies’ relationship with customers and their perception about the brand. Some of the examples for it can be flight delay, a damaged product or even an advice to the customer. If companies give customers’ emotive needs precedence over their hard-set agendas, customer loyalty is the consequential emotional behavior that these moments of truth would result in. And once customers are emotionally connected and rationally satisfied, that is when profitability would also come in.

Handling Moments Of Truth Requires Emotionally Intelligent Personnel:

An insight into consumer behavior reveals that 15% of their decision making is rational and 85 % of it is emotional. Even behavioral psychologists strongly argue that a significant percentage of human decisions is emotional rather than rational. Likewise, it has been seen that there is a huge difference between customers who are rationally satisfied and those who are emotionally satisfied, and only emotional satisfaction translates into huge loyalty and profitability. According to Daily Express, “The work rules are changing and we’re being judged by a new yardstick. What matters now are our people skills. And that’s where emotional intelligence comes in.”

‘Customers aren’t merely numbers or names on a spreadsheet, they are humans with feelings. Getting close to customers through some emotional characters is very important for a perfect marketer or a product owner as they crave a real sense of connection with the companies. It amazes me that connecting to the emotional side of a customer is a more recent discovery”, says a mindful customer.

Profitability for some leading organizations such as L’Oreal and US air force soared with the institution of programs that target EQ (Emotional Quotient) skills because building emotional intelligence means treating others better, performing better and thus creating a win-win situation for everyone.

Disney understands the importance of EQ as their employees are trained to greet the customer with a smile if they are within ten feet. The rule changes when the guest comes within a reach of five feet, then the employees are required to acknowledge them verbally.

The US based company, Liveadmins, trumps profitability for reliability as it uses the same strategy when dealing with customers. The company offers a live chat interface for businesses to interact and thus form a stronger bond with browsing customers by turning these moments of truth in to moments of magic. Usually online customers get caught up in trouble either because of the complexity or obscurity of information that websites have to offer. However, with live chat support, customer service representatives are always there to assist clients with their queries and all the answers are just a single click away. Unlike the usual online shopping experience, customers are never left to browse the site or wrack their brains to untangle toughest of issues on their own, rather company reps are present 24/7 to proactively assist and provide them with relevant information.

Therefore, as little as these moments of truth may seem, they significantly add to the overall customer satisfaction. Every point of interaction is an opportunity to create an emotional bond with the customers. Companies should rightly identify these points relevant to their industry and work on them accordingly. For example, according to Jan Carlzon, some moments of truth in airline business are when a customer calls to make a reservation to take a flight, arrives at the airport and checks his bags, goes inside and picks up ticket at the ticket counter, is greeted at the gate or is taken care of by the flight attendants onboard. Even a single one of these moments gone wrong can easily cause customers to defect and lose confidence in your brand. Therefore, according to Daniel Goleman’s bestseller, Emotional Intelligence, in order to make these moments of truth come through, there should prevail

  • Employee empowerment, so that they can make the right decisions if the situation calls for it
  • Empathy and awareness of other people’s feelings
  • A positive outlook that gives rise to constructive responses

People’s Say on ‘Moments of Truth’ in the UAE:

Even though UAE is infested with diverse nationalities, yet sadly, customer service here is not at its best when it comes to handling the moments of truth. Two of the major reasons for that is the lack of proper training and not empowering staff to solve the issues instantly. “I can’t tell you how many times a simple request is met with a response along the lines of “I’ll have to ask my supervisor”. This is incredibly frustrating and a waste of time from a customer’s perspective. For me, it’s usually a ‘don’t come back’ moment”, says Ian Mason a customer service training specialist at UAE.

“A lack of training is the cause of it all. Subjecting staff to training is non-existent in this part of the world”, vents a Dubai resident.

“The biggest problem here is that when people don’t know the answer or don’t understand they just say, no! They rarely offer service at all. A good example was a few months ago when I ordered a Pellegrino, they told me they don’t have any, when in fact the case is that they do, inside, just not at the outside bar. It is a 10m walk away, yet the server just refused – this at what is supposed to be a five-star hotel!”, says Maria Lynne Scandizzo, another disgruntled customers.

No matter what the channel is, customer service departments at UAE aren’t at their best at redressing customers’ issues or managing complaints. Reports reveal that not only poor customer service cost the companies millions of dirhams every year but also makes the customers switch the company for good. According to a study covering all the sectors from retail to hospitality, “Customer service delivery is seen as mostly average. Half of the people interviewed had an overall average impression of customer service delivery in the GCC, while over a third of the respondents considered it to be good and even excellent. While in general customer service seems to be at least satisfactory, there is still for improvement until customers can be completely satisfied with the services they receive throughout the region”. Moreover, the customers interviewed feel that there is need to develop customer-centric culture where people come first.

Consumers’ Touchpoint Preferences and Moments Of Truth: A Demand for Seamless Multi-Channel Connection Exists:

The proliferation of so many touchpoints today is in fact a bigger challenge for the companies to meet customers’ expectations while engaging and creating that sought-after emotional bond with them. Moreover, it’s not just the channels for interacting and transacting that is altering but the number of interactions is also increasing. 2012 global Consumer Channel Preference survey reveals that 86% of consumers are now interacting more often with their service providers than it was two years ago and there are six different channels that consumers use to interact with their service providers. The use of live chat, SMS and smartphone shows stalwart growth while the use of email has waned in significance.

Therefore, to make the right impact at the moment of truth across all these channels, companies need to be insightful and have an understanding of the interactions that customers have there. Getting it right would strengthen customer loyalty, increase brand advocacy and escalate profitability.

There are various examples of excellent digital engagement that we can point to, like Nike, Standard Chartered Bank and United Airlines. However, most companies are still having a mighty hard time with the ever-altering landscape of customer engagement. According to Forrester Research, almost 75% of Customer Experience leaders say that their aim is to differentiate themselves on the basis of customer experience. However, the real picture is somewhat grim where only 39% of companies were found to be actually successful in delivering an excellent experience.

Providing great customer experience is not always about following the manual or making authorized decisions, rather it is also about acting on the instinct i.e. doing the right thing at the right time, even if it goes against company’s policies or norms. Moments of truth are full of emotions as well as opportunities. Many companies in UAE fail to maximize moments of truth which in turn majorly invalidates the chances of success in potentially gainful situations. Nevertheless, crux of the whole matter is that employees should understand their role and build their capability to manage these interactions with of course sufficient coaching and motivation from the managerial staff.