Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact. Robert McKee
I’ve been wrestling with the concept of moments of truth lately. One of the objectives when visualizing experiences using customer experience journey maps is to identify and redesign the moments of truth most critical in the journey. At first glance moments of truth feel like a simple concept, but when you start having conversations about how to identify, design, or innovate moments of truth I find the complexity of the concept grows.
Definitions of moment of truth
Here are a few definitions revealed by a quick web search:
- 1. A critical or decisive time on which much depends; a crucial moment. 2. Sports The point in a bullfight at which the matador makes the kill. Free Online Dictionary
- A moment of truth is when an interaction occurs between a customer and the service provider that can leave a lasting positive or negative impression on a customer. Change Factory
- Anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, is an opportunity to form an impression. Jan Carlzon, Moments of Truth
- In customer service, instance of contact or interaction between a customer and a firm (through a product, sales force, or visit) that gives the customer an opportunity to form (or change) an impression about the firm. Business Dictionary
While Jan Carlzon wrote Moments of Truth based on his turnaround of Scandinavian Airlines, his widely quoted definition doesn’t quite work for me when I think about designing for moments of truth. Taken too literally, you could run yourself in circles scripting, measuring, and optimizing every possible interaction.
If over the past year or two you’ve started to feel bombarded by surveys, you can blame it on this approach. Immersed in the weeds of each and every interaction you risk losing sight of the bigger picture of what people really value, of their overall experience with your organization or brand, and of your own vision for the experience based on your organizational goals and purpose.
I just ran across this presentation on measuring the patient experience. While it doesn’t talk explicitly about moments of truth or the patient journey, it does compare the clinical versus patient perspectives of health and the hospital experience. “Patient perception of care is a whole lot more than making sure nurses and doctors are friendly and smiling. It’s about saving lives and delivering safe healthcare. It’s about quality in a very real, concrete way.”
Moments of truth through the lens of story
An experience is in the eyes of the beholder. It doesn’t matter what you, the designer of the experience, planned for. It’s what the individual takes away. The story they tell themselves. The story they remember. The story they share based on the experience.
The story they tell themselves, remember, and share is important because many of the interactions people have with your organization or brand won’t be direct. Instead, they’ll be interacting with stories that result from the experiences of others with your brand.
Since a remembered experience is a story, I’m going to look at what Robert McKee, an infamous storytelling educator, has to say about story.
A good story has a protagonist (user, customer, employee, citizen, student, tribe, organization) who wants something (object of desire) and sets out on a quest to achieve their object of desire. But there’s always a gap between where they are today (their current reality) and their object of desire (their future reality). In this gap is conflict. To achieve their object of desire, they need to cross the gap.
Think of this gap as the distance between what is and what could be. The dragon gap. Each gap that needs to be crossed is fraught with risk. Risk could be internal (emotional or physical), personal (family, lovers, friends, team), or extra-personal (organization, social institutions, physical environment, people in society at large).
Achieving the object desire, the new reality, isn’t as simple as a one-time action. It’s a serious of actions, conflicts, and feedback loops. That’s why achieving the object of desire is quest or journey.
Moments of truth live in the dragon gaps
Every interaction isn’t a moment of truth.
Moments of truth live in the dragon gaps that loom between current reality and achieving the object of desire.
Moments of truth form the possibility space for an experience.
Moments of truth are revealed in the stories shared about an experience.
In a future post I’ll explore moments of truth in the context of possibility spaces for the emergence of stories. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your stories – good, bad, and ugly – about recent customer experiences you’ve had that you think reveal a moment of truth.