Let’s use an Olympic athlete as an example. She probably was introduced to the sport like downhill skiing at age 5, took lessons, practiced, started to shine by age 9, took advanced lessons, attended special camps, traveled to where the best teachers were for private instruction during her teenage years, spent hours every day at the gym honing and strengthening her body, spent countless hours prepping her mind for success, participated in competitions all over the world, read many books about successful people and the will to win. She went through trials just to make it to the Olympics.
Now it’s the official day and all her training and preparation have to come together for her seconds-long run down the mountain. Today is the Moment of Truth. It’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s when all the preparation, training, support from parents and friends, coaching from her coach, excitement, passion for the sport, equipment selection, and fierce will to win all descend into a couple of runs down the mountain that take only seconds. If she brings everything together well, her name will live on forever. If her moment of truth is lackluster, she’ll remember and so will those close to her, but no one else in the wider world. The moment of truth is the culminating moment.
In our businesses we intend to understand our target market and their needs, we prepare products or services, we train our people, we strategize with business plans and strategic partners, we strive to do things better by improving our internal systems. But our moment of truth is when the customer or client says, “I’ll buy,” or “I’ll buy again.” That moment is the culmination and validation that everything we prepared was valuable enough to someone else that our time was worth being put in this direction. The version of ‘truth’ is the customer’s because he is the one making the purchase.
So what if your product/service is not selling well? Is it just because the salesperson is weak? Perhaps it’s because the support systems, product/service design, emotional intelligence, brand positioning, attention to customer experience, leadership or a host of other factors are not coming together well enough to create a strong enough structure to support a successful ‘moment of truth.’ It is leadership’s role to see it and fix it.
Or perhaps many things have been put together well and the final person who handles the customer relationship and is expected to communicate this culmination of value, the frontline employee, is one of the least trained, least paid, and least valued persons in the business. Think of bank tellers, wait staff in restaurants, customer service reps, store clerks, telephone sales reps, receptionists, junior accounting staff, paralegals, etc. Sometimes the culmination of all the value of the firm is put into the hands of people who are considered the least important. Really they are the most important because they deal with the customer all the time delivering the value handling those moments of truth.
So many organizations consider their frontline employees as ‘churn and burn’ because they only stay a short time. Perhaps they need to re-evaluate the impact of the frontline employee, develop a different profile, hire differently, expect the person to stay a long time and invest in heavy duty training and compensation for this important person who delivers the organization’s moments of truth. The fate of the organization relies on it.