Moments of Truth

Posted on June 23, 2011 by Tony Uphoff

In the early 1980's Jan Carlson took over SAS airlines. The company was in poor shape and Carlson set about to turn it around. He boiled the business down to a series of what he called "moments of truth". These moments were touch points where key interactions with customers or employees took place. He defined being greeted at curb-side check in, met and served by a ticket agent and the cleanliness of the airplane as moments of truth, that were opportunities to either make or break the business. He went on to define similar moments with managers interactions with employees. I read his book, "Moments of Truth" in the late 80's and it had a profound impact on me.

Moments of truth can be hard to focus on during times of change like we've had in the media industry over the last decade. The speed and metric based nature of the Internet can also make it difficult to identify and monitor the moments in your business. Perhaps this is why it's time to focus on the moments of truth in media now. A colleague of mine brought "Moments of Truth" up in a meeting recently and it got me to thinking about its applicability in today's media business.

  • Know the bell of truth when you hear it ring. We are awash in data. Never before have we had so much data on our audiences, our brands our products and our employees. After more than a decade of a Wizard of Oz belief in search; generated by a mysterious and all powerful algorithm that regularly changes and no one understands, a socially reticent, Harvard dropout reminded us that it's the connection with people that matters. The simple moment of truth about the social layer is it allows people to connect with their interests through people they respect, like and know. Dorothy taught us this in 1936, exposing the Wizard of Oz for what he was. Easy for me to note this now. I've gotten as caught up in gaming Google as anyone. The reality is though SEO isn't a moment of truth. It's a powerful and appropriate mechanism to assist with discoverability on the Internet. Audiences are people and people are social beings however. Not data points reflected by algorithms sitting on servers in the silicon valley.
  • Spread Sheets and Deal Terms. The astounding level of metrics we can derive from the web can take on a life of it's own. From CPC to CTR's to CPA and CPL the acronyms reflect a phase of deal term and spread sheet selling. These metrics are important and demonstrate the performance based value of online media.They do not replace however, the need to understand a clients business, create proposals that reflect this understanding and deliver marketing as a service that assures marketers receive ongoing value. Again here this cannot be automated. The moment of truth with your marketing customer does not reside on a spread sheet. It is contained in your ability to understand their business and create successful programs that will benefit their marketing.
  • Presence Matters. Always. People cannot be inspired, led or managed via email. Responses to surveys about employee attitudes or customer interests tell you only so much. People respond to people. Leadership and management is tough. It requires time, patience and emotional resilience. It also requires presence. There is no greater moment of truth than when you meet with customers or employees. It is this moment that is the lifeblood of the media business. It is also the lifeblood of any business.
What moments of truth do you see in your business? Are they changing? How do you track them?,

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