In the 1980s, former Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) CEO Jan Carlzon transformed the struggling carrier into a leader by turning customer service into an obsession. In doing so, he coined the phrase TheMoment of Truth to describe the exact point in time a customer made contact with a SAS employee — when SAS had to prove its value in order to keep the customer.
For SAS, Carlzon preached, the collective outcome of these Moments of Truth — 50 million of them per year, he tallied — ultimately determined the success or failure of his company.
Walmart founder Sam Walton put the same phrase into action by instituting the retailer’s famous Ten Foot Rule. Employees who came within 10 feet of customers were expected to greet them to influence The Moment of Truth at the shelf when they decided whether to buy a product.
In 2005, Proctor & Gamble declared The Moment of Truth to be about the customer’s experience with a product:
- seeing it in a store or online,
- buying and
- using it, and
- offering feedback about it.
In 2011, Google (perhaps not surprisingly) proclaimed The Moment of Truth to be when a customer researched a product online before making a purchase.
Fast forward to today. Given the massive disruption in retail over the past decade, if you asked a hundred consumers or retailers to define The Moment of Truth, you’d get just as many answers. That’s because for retailers and brands, The Moment of Truth has passed. It’s been replaced by the sum of the consumer’s connected experiences.
Here’s why: As consumers, the value we once associated with the act of buying a product has diminished. Sure, there are lots of ways to buy products today — online, in stores, using mobile payments and even digital currencies. But in an omnichannel world, every successful transaction is still just a transaction. A non-event, not a memorable experience that creates lasting value. Ironically, it’s often memorable only if something goes wrong.
Today, brands at the vanguard don’t push products. They curate connected customer experiences by leveraging partners to create ecosystems of value for consumers.
Take Airbnb. They’re not just selling rooms, they’re delivering a broader, more satisfying travel experience involving such diverse experiences as violin making in Paris, truffle hunting in Tuscany or driving classic cars in Malibu.
Or consider Ikea’s acquisition of Task Rabbit. It improves the home furnishing experience by taking the frustration of assembling furniture off the table.
For consumers, it’s no longer just about buying a product or service. It’s about anticipating memorable experiences from their favorite brands, regardless of industry. In today’s connected economy, customers are placing more value on their experiences than the products or services they’re consuming. They want experiences that make their lives easier and precisely reflect their preferences, needs and aspirations.
Think about it. Decades ago, a Moment of Truth with a retailer or brand was when a customer in a store interacted with a salesperson or spoke with a customer service rep by phone. With the dawn of the Web and e-commerce, the number of these touch points exploded. Today, the Internet of Things has brought the digital insights of the online world to the physical world. Using machine learning and augmented intelligence, retailers and brands design highly personalized customer journeys spanning the real world and the digital world, which to consumers are one.
For today’s connected consumer, the most recent great experience with a retailer or brand automatically raises the bar for all other competitors going forward. It’s become a virtuous cycle that’s made them feel empowered, always expecting more.
For retailers and brands, this has made connected customer experiences the new competitive battlefield. Instead of pushing products, they must now sell great customer experiences that play out seamlessly across their integrated physical and digital worlds.
Leading born-on-the-Web retailers such as Amazon understand the importance of connected consumer experiences for creating greater value. That’s why industry pundits are so intrigued by the company’s foray into brick-and-mortar stores and its acquisition of the Whole Foods supermarket chain. They’re eager to see what it holds for the connected customer experience.
For retailers and brands, the implications of Connected Consumer Experiences are daunting. How do data-driven marketers reconcile the new Moment of Truth — the sum total of the consumer’s connected experiences?
They have to go well beyond selling products to address broader consumer needs and aspirations like beauty, adventure, health or wellness. They must orchestrate customer experiences that span multiple brands, service providers and commercial ecosystems.
Instead of static product offers, carefully designed connected experiences need to continuously raise the bar, feeding the virtuous cycle of consumer expectations. Imagine if a fitness equipment store went beyond its traditional boundaries to serve its customers — as an example, when a consumer buys a rowing machine, the store offers not just assembly services but also
- fitness apparel,
- nutritional supplements and a
- trial membership at a local rowing club.
Doing this at scale is a tall order. It requires capitalizing on the gold mine of customer data retailers are sitting on and IoT insights from the physical world, including stores. Connecting, analyzing and sharing it in real-time across company silos and with their new partners in value to
- anticipate and
- satisfy customer needs.
And most important — continuously detecting and learning new consumer consumption patterns so customer experiences get better and better.
The new marching orders for retailers and brands are clear: they must deliver connected consumer experiences that add up to The Moment of Truth.
A social entrepreneur in Britain shows the way.
I met Cottam in London last week and she made the point that welfare systems are often designed to manage needs, but they are not designed to build capabilities so that families can stand on their own.
Moreover, most Western systems were not designed to confront the kind of poverty prevalent today. When these systems were put in place in the 1950s and ’60s, unemployment was more often a temporary thing that happened between the time you got laid off from a big employer and the time you got hired by a new one. Now, economic insecurity is often a permanent state, as people patch together different jobs to make ends meet. Health issues for people in the welfare system are often chronic — obesity, diabetes, many forms of mental illness.
Our legacy welfare structures are ill suited to today’s poverty.
For example, Ella was asked if she would like to lead a “life team” that would help her family turn around. She agreed. She was given the power to select the eight people from across agencies who would comprise the team. She chose people from social work, the housing authority and the police force.
Members of the team spent 80 percent of their time with the family and only 20 percent on administration. Ella and the team worked together to stabilize her most immediate issue — negotiating away eviction notices. Then the team worked to improve inter-family dynamics so there wasn’t so much violence and screaming.
Cottam has designed other programs with a similar collaborative ethos. Backr is a program that takes people who are detached from the labor force and helps them join extended social networks where they can connect one another to job openings and develop skills. Circles is a program for the elderly. It brings together lonely seniors into small groups that are part social club, part concierge service and part self-help cooperative. Wellogram is a similar social structure for the chronically ill.
Basically, Cottam’s programs create villages within the welfare state. Her systems are not designed around individual clients, but around relational networks. People tend to have better outcomes when they are held accountable by a network of peers. Three-quarters of the smokers in Wellogram successfully quit, 44 percent lowered their blood pressure, 64 percent started work or went back to school.
The old legacy welfare programs were designed for people enmeshed in thick communities but who had suffered a temporary setback. Today many people lack precisely that web of thick relationship. The welfare state of the future has to build the social structures that people need to thrive. This is one way government can build community.
“In a society that values strong, stoic alpha males, where can a man find space to be vulnerable? Nicole Emma, a sex worker with 18 years of experience, gives a unique perspective on men’s need for connection. About the speaker: Nicole Emma is a relationship and intimacy coach, and sex worker.” What can the people at the edges of society teach us about ourselves? About Love? Cultivated through a life of connecting with people at the edges of our community, Nicole shares a message of unconditional love and acceptance. She has an insatiable curiosity about people, how we think and how we work, especially those outside the boundaries of cultural norms and programming. It’s this desire to truly SEE people that led Nicole to a vibrant career in the sex industry. Drawing from 18 years in sex work, Nicole observes noteworthy patterns of human behavior, especially those of the most vulnerable demographics, while providing a space for them to experience authentic connection without judgment. Bringing to the public dialog a call to shift societal expectations and address our own biases, Nicole speaks out about how we unintentionally create a fearful and angry society, and how we can shift back into curiosity, balance, and love. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx9:30 Healthy Manhood is about:
- facing fears
- overcoming challenges
- living with compassion
So what factor distinguishes Trump and non-Trump voters? My answer is social connectedness or, to use Robert Putnam’s term in “Bowling Alone,” social capital. Socially connected people have strong family ties and wide circles of friends, are active in churches and voluntary organizations and work steadily.
Putnam’s thesis is that social connectedness has declined sharply since the 1950s. But as Charles Murray notes in “Coming Apart,” that decline is uneven. Whites in the top third of income and education scales still have plenty of social capital. But there’s been a precipitous decline among whites in the lowest fifth of those scales. They work less steadily, attend church less often and participate very little in voluntary organizations.
Looking over the election returns, I sense that Trump’s support comes disproportionately from those with low social connectedness. My first clues came from the Dutch. Heavily Dutch-American counties in northwest and central Iowa and western Michigan, around Grand Rapids, were Huckabee and Santorum territory in past years.
This year, unlike surrounding territory, they voted for Ted Cruz, with Trump a poor third. Dutch-Americans have dense networks of churches and civic groups — unusually high social connectedness.
I saw something similar in strong Huckabee/Santorum southern Missouri. Southeast Missouri voted heavily for Trump, but southwest Missouri for Cruz. Southeast Missouri has high rates of disability insurance, an indicator of low workforce participation and low social connectedness. Southwest Missouri, headquarters of the Assemblies of God, has dense networks of civically active churches.
Similarly, exit polls show Trump doing worse with evangelicals who attend church weekly than with those who don’t. This helps explain why Trump carried South Carolina and lost Oklahoma, where church attendance is higher.
Then there is majority-Mormon Utah, whose Mormon majority has higher social connectedness than any other American group. Only 14 percent of Utah Republicans voted for Trump.
Putnam reports that social connectedness is highest in states with large Scandinavian- and German-American populations and in Utah. It’s lowest in — no surprise — Nevada, one of Trump’s best states.
In the 13 states highest in social connectedness, Trump has gotten just 21 to 35 percent in primaries and caucuses. In the 11 states lowest in social connectedness (except for Cruz’s Texas), his percentages ranged from 33 to 47 percent.
In states with medium social-connectedness but many retirees voting in Republican primaries – Florida and Arizona –Trump has run in the high 40s. He ran similarly in Massachusetts, where only a sliver of voters there are registered Republicans and their social connectedness may be limited to listening to Howie Carr on talk radio.