Moment of truth (1932)
1 : the final sword thrust in a bullfight
2 : a moment of crisis on whose outcome much or everything depends
(source: Merriam-Webster online)
Marketers have been using the above term to refer to the time a customer decides to make a purchase, or to continue doing business with a company. Comparing someone browsing in a store to a bullfighter poised to thrust his sword into a bloody, tired adversary seems a bit weird, but the term has stuck; largely, in my opinion, due to the importance of each interaction a company has with its customers.
I had one of those moments today, with my…wait for it… bank.
I went to the drive-up window at the bank today at lunchtime, with two deposits. One was a rent check for my brother-in-law, who owns a rental property nearby but who lives in North Carolina. I had the check (endorsed by my wife) and an empty deposit slip. No account number. The plan was to write the name and town and ask the teller to look up the account.
Of course, there was no pen in my car. There was a dry-erase marker and I used it to (try to) write my brother-in-law’s name and town on the deposit slip. Then I threw the check, slip, and my own deposit into the pneumatic-tube system carrier and sent it over to the teller.
“I have a stupid question,” she said through the intercom. “There’s no account number here.”
“I know, it’s my brother-in-law. His name is … and he lives in … Can you please look up the number?”
“No problem…. Also, who is the check made out to?”
“My wife. His sister. She endorsed it.”
“OK. I’m going to stamp it FOR DEPOSIT and go from there.”
“Thanks a lot. Sorry to dump this on you.”
The transaction continued. Then the carrier returned through the system with a swoosh. “Thanks and have a nice day,” the teller said. Inside the canister were my receipts and a lollipop for my seven-year-old, who had been sitting in the back seat playing with a Bionicle toy.
This was a transaction where I made several mistakes and cut several corners in the interest of saving time. But rather than showing any impatience, or really anything other than appreciation and courtesy, the teller solved the issues and handled everything. Wow. A machine would have told me to go home and get my transaction in order. A person sorted it out and helped me.
Machines have their place in customer service. They are very efficient, open all night, and don’t have bad moods. But they won’t provide a moment of truth. The best outcome for the customer is, “I got that done fast. On to the next thing.” A person, especially a well-trained, skillful representative with lots of empathy, can do far more during moments of truth.
So as we think about customer service of the future, where do the reps fit in? Because they matter.
[Photo: Model 45DR pneumatic carrier via http://banksupplies.com]