Moment of Truth in the Contact Center
Illustration by Ilya Lestov

My flight just got canceled, and I have to make it home tonight to attend my daughter’s holiday dance recital. Or maybe, after 17 years of paying premiums, I have to file my first claim. Or, maybe my PC is all locked up, and I’ve got a key client deliverable due in two hours.

I need to call. I won’t text, or email, or post or tweet this one. I won’t even check your app or website to see if I can self-serve. This time, I need to call.

To me, the customer, this is the Moment of Truth. My anxiety levels are high, emotion has replaced reason, and my expectations regarding the level of service I deserve have never been higher. So what if I originally chose your company based solely on price, without any regard for the service behind the product? You’ve made money on me year after year. Now it is time for you to reward my loyalty.

How will the call go? Will you recognize the importance I am placing on this? Will you get me to the right rep quickly and effortlessly? Will you listen? Will you comfort me? Will you put your extensive product and industry knowledge on full display? Will you communicate confidently, leaving me convinced that the situation has been or will shortly be resolved? Will you come through in the clutch, and lock me in for life?

I am dialing…

You hear the phone ring, and start playing a greeting, followed by an IVR menu. Did you recognize that my needs are serious this time? Sometimes just knowing the reason for the call is enough. I am calling to report a claim, and that’s traumatic for most any policyholder. Did you offer that option right up front, and then route me quickly to a well trained rep? I hope you did. I am on the side of the road and I’m not interested in entering my policy number, or waiting seven minutes for a rep, during which time I am told by a looping message how important my call is to you.

Many times, you won’t know how important the call is until you talk to me. Computers freeze up all the time, so this is a pretty common call. But I am on a tight deadline, and my business is going to take a big hit if I don’t get this report out on time. What happened when I dropped that little tidbit on your tier one support tech? Did it matter, or are we just going to go through the same old routine? I already entered the service tag number in your IVR, why are you asking again? Yes, I have Windows 7, just like I did the last time I called you about this service tag. Yes, it is plugged in. Yes, the little power light is on. I’m seven minutes into this call, and it is moving with the same pace and level of concern as my last call to you, which was just a silly little problem with printing. I didn’t care too much back then, but I care a lot now.

Sometimes, I may sound unreasonable. I know you can’t be held accountable for the bad weather in Chicago, where my plane is sitting right now. But I am flying from Charlotte to Philadelphia, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky on the East Coast. And did you hear me tell you about my daughter’s recital? She’s been practicing for months, and it is all that we’ve talked about this last week. I’m not sure I have ever seen her this excited. I heard you say you can get me home at 9 o’clock tonight. Did you hear me say I need to be at the school by 7 o’clock? Did you go the extra distance? Did you check flights to neighboring airports? I’ll rent a car if I need to. Did you check with the other airlines? I don’t care that it’s not your policy to do that when the delay is only a few hours. I need to get home now. I can’t let my daughter down.

Sadly, the call went poorly…

What happened? You had your big opportunity, and you blew it. How is that possible? You’ve embraced Six Sigma, implemented a Voice of the Customer program, even invested in speech analytics. Yet not only did you miss out, but you don’t even know you missed out.

Maybe… your rep was too worried about handle time or calls per hour performance objectives to take the extra time and effort necessary to service me properly.

Maybe… your rep was too worried that if she handled the call differently than outlined in the guidelines, she’d get “dinged” on a monitoring form.

Maybe… there was no training on identifying the “moment of truth,” so your rep had no special handling processes to invoke in order to treat me differently.

Maybe… the technology was built to handle large volumes of transactional calls, but does not help in pinpointing special needs.

Maybe… your leadership team believes that everyone deserves the same level of service, regardless of need or lifetime value.

I don’t work in your contact center, so I don’t know what happened. I only know how I feel, and I feel like you let me down.

So now…

What will I do? I will leave you. Maybe right now, or maybe sometime in the future when I am courted by one of your competitors. I won’t tell you why, but I’ll tell some of my friends about it. I’ll forget about the good service I got for all the mundane requests I made over the years, and I will only remember how poorly you responded when I really needed you.

Maybe you will leave, too. Maybe you will get a new job, leading a different contact center for a different company. Maybe this center will embrace the realities about the Moment of Truth (see the sidebar below). Maybe we will meet again… and maybe, this time, the outcome will be different.

contact center realities