Coming home from Sydney, Paul and I were talking about ‘moments of truth’. One of the great ironies, and frustrations, for many brands is that reputation must be built over years, but can be lost in a tiny fraction of that time – seconds. All because of an action or a word, a misunderstanding or an expectation that may or may not even have been reasonable in the first place.
There’s always that apparent double timeframe between how long it takes to build a brand into an asset, and the experience-time within which many brands are judged.
Some people of course will see such a dichotomy as an exercise in futility – all that work, always at risk, capable of going with just a moment’s notice. But building brands is not a Sisyphean task. And here’s why. Loyalty is built in exactly the same way – in many of those very same moments across another very long timeframe. The decisions customers make to be loyal are often decided by criteria that occur in moments and that are as simple, small and whimsical as the decisions they make the other way.
That’s why for me, brands are no longer about big, clearly signposted “moments of truth” and much more about “moments”, or more particularly the truth in moments for a customer. And the success for a brand in each of those moments is decided by two things: the action taken; and the reaction it stimulates.
Different people working for different brands make different action decisions based on different criteria. Some decide intuitively on that moment’s notice. Some decide on process. Some decide on indifference. Some decide generously. Some decide consistently. Some decide surprisingly. Some decide reluctantly. Some ask you to make the decision for them.
With so many moments spread out across so many people over so many countries and so many channels on any given days, most brands would probably like each moment to exist where and as it happens. And for years it did. A bad moment, for example, extended as far as the customer who didn’t like an action, and to the network of friends that they talked about that moment with. Impulse created penalties or rewards, but they were reasonably contained.
The game-changer though has been social media – a channel made for, and perfectly timed in, moments. 140 characters long. A sound-byte wide. A “send” button away. It has changed the very dynamics around which moments themselves are judged. It has uncontained them.
People on the frontlines for brands are expected to make faster and faster decisions. Customers want answers. Now. But the consequences of those immediate decisions can continue to play out over much bigger vistas. Because in almost the time it takes to act, a customer can react. And the reactions generated in response to an action, any action, taken in the name of a brand can create ripples that extend as far as, often beyond, where the brand can see. They are visceral, uncensored, immediate … and cached forever. They can make your brand the talk of the world, or the recipient of some very bad feeling.
That in turn can have other far-reaching effects. Service is no longer just about what gets done. It’s no longer just accountable to what is delivered or when. Its success now pivots on what gets said as well as the result. Because that’s where the exponential effect really kicks in – good or bad. The sobering question each of us must keep asking ourselves, even as we cram more and more into every day, is “What happens when I do/say this?”
Moments have never had greater leverage. Or carried greater risk.