The 4 Moments of Truth That Create an Unforgettable Customer Experience

Author Brian Solis argues that now is the time every business must go beyond price, performance or value—and focus on creating amazing customer experiences.
April 02, 2013

Perhaps you're thinking of starting a new business, or a new line of business in your existing one. If you're like most, you're thinking about how to market, sell and serve customers.

That's a mistake, according to Brian Solis, the author of What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences. Solis argues that now is the time every business must go beyond price, performance or value—and focus on creating customer experiences.

Experience is Everything

Whether it springs from a product, process, service, project, new startup or personal performance strategy, it's the experience that matters most. It's the experience that stays with us and makes something meaningful. Focusing on the experience puts us in touch with the more emotional side of ideas. Understanding the human factors involved in producing an experience that fundamentally improves how we think, feel or behave is what makes the design of any particular thing interesting and engaging.

"Businesses must invest in defining not only a positive experience, but also a wonderfully sharable one," Solis writes. "Doing so influences others to join the fray while offsetting negative inquiries and the damaging viral effects of shared negative experiences."

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Anatomy of an Experience

Solis explains that to shape a meaningful experience, you need four "moments of truth." "A moment of truth isn't anything new in business," he admits, referencing 2005 coverage by the Wall Street Journal of Proctor & Gamble's approach to consumer experience and Google's 2012 ebook ZMOT: Winning the Zero Moment of Truth.

The four moments of truth are:

Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). Introduced by Google, it's what people search for and find after encountering the stimulus that directs their next steps. As Google itself puts it, this is "that moment when you grab your laptop, mobile phone or some other wired device and start learning about a product or service you’re thinking about trying or buying.”

First Moment of Truth (FMOT). Introduced by Proctor & Gamble (P&G), it's what people think when they see your product, and the impressions they form when they read the words describing your product. "It is in these precious moments that P&G believes marketers must focus efforts on converting shoppers into customers," Solis explains.

Second Moment of Truth (SMOT). Furthering P&G's thinking, it's what people feel, think, see, hear, touch, smell and (sometimes) taste as they experience your product over time. It's also how your company supports them in their efforts throughout the relationship.

Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT). A stage that Solis introduces brings to light the importance of shared experiences and why organizations must first design them rather than just react. It's that shared moment at every step of the experience that becomes the next person's ZMOT.

"When we talk about the idea of experience," Solis argues, "it’s not only in reference to User Experience (UX) or Customer Experience, it’s also about Information Experience ... what’s shared, what comes back, what people are sharing about those experiences. Like SEO (Search Engine Optimization), these moments can be predetermined and optimized."

How to Create an Experience

The remainder of the book looks into the dynamics of how engaging experiences can be created using the framework of the four moments, centering on what Solis refers to as the "Dynamic Customer Journey," which is an ever-changing loop with four key opportunities:

1. Listening to how people communicate following various stimuli, messages and new information sources to learn how customers are guided to take their next steps from awareness to consideration and evaluations (the Zero Moment of Truth).

2. Learning how customer journeys unfold based on the information that comes back in their discovery process. Who are the experts? What are the communities where people go? Who influences them? What do they find and learn? What technologies and services do they use? What happens as a result?

3. Engaging customers in each moment of truth based on their expectations and the opportunities presented to provide value or resources.

4. Adapting processes, strategies and technology investments to improve the first three steps.

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The Book as an Experience

Solis accomplishes the rather rare feat of practicing what he preaches: What's the Future of Business? is an engaging experience, one that loses something in any format other than print. (Audiobook and e-book readers, beware!)

Solis took a creative approach, designing the book to be immersive ... think of it as a paper app. The design is striking, printed in four color and nearly square, like a coffee table book—featuring a left-hand slider that guides readers through each chapter. It was designed in partnership with Mekanism—the team behind the popular Pepsi/Beyonce ad during Super Bowl 2013. Key themes in every chapter are highlighted with cartoon art by Gaping Void artist Hugh MacLeod.

Ask yourself: Is your company equipped to change with your customers? Is it ready and able to create meaningful experiences that keep them hooked? If not, it might be time to embrace the experience.

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Photo: Getty Images