How to Be In Control of Our Digital Moments of Truth
Sooooo much is done via digital engagement today by our clients and prospects that there literally hundreds of “moments of truth” for our practice on a daily basis. A “moment of truth” is that instant during interaction with our firm when a customers expectations are tested. The rise of digital interaction means that we humans are often not even fully aware of these moments of truth occurring.
The concept of the “moment of truth” was explained superbly by Jan Carlzon back in 1989. For me it was, and still is, one of the best business books I have encountered. Enlightening stuff on customer service, company ethos and values, and the roles of various people within an organisation.
It is STILL worth reading as it is even more relevant today.
In any given professional practice today we have an enormous number of digital interactions with the market. They google us and land on our websites, our blogs, our linkedin profiles and social media accounts. Presuming the search engines do their job and get the customer to the preferred site in a nano-second, there is the first of many moments of truth.
No photo? The keyword they were searching with is being used by you, but irrelevantly (or even worse; irreverently)? No contact details to take things offline and talk to the human? Click on the “contact me” button and it sends me off to another program where I have to consult with your diary to set up a meeting in 3 weeks time when all I wanted to do was ask a question?
These are just a few typical examples of what occurs when consumers using digital engagement methods encounter our business. These have all happened to me as a consumer in recent weeks, and the initial reaction on my part is disappointment or frustration….those are moments of truth. My expectations as a consumer (which I do not think were unreasonable) simply were not met…and I disengaged. And the firms whom I was seeking services from are probably still blissfully unaware….
As practitioners this should fill us with alarm. All the effort and money that goes into driving people to choose to engage with us can be wasted simply because we don’t get the initial connection point right. Our marketing has to move beyond merely attracting attention and generating enquiries all the way through to every step of the customer engagement process. Every step…every interaction…every spot they could land at…..these are all potential digital moments of truth for our business. Prospects are won or lost in these moments.
Yet, these are the easiest digital moments of truth to get right. We simply need to consider them from the perspective of the customer, apply a bit of marketing nous to the interaction process, and ensure that each of these initial engagement steps deliver what it is that the customer would be looking for.
The more challenging digital engagement areas are those that involve existing clients. Those whom we actively engaged in delivery of professional services and advice, and to whom we owe duties of care and have to consider compliance obligations together with being mindful that they are in fact the ones hiring and paying us, so we’d better be delivering the service and experience that they expect. Balancing all of those obligations in our digital engagement IS difficult, and our only real ability to manage these digital moments of truth in the client engagement or advice process is through personalisation. The personal we can make digital engagements appear to be, the greater the impact in the moment of truth. To achieve that we must rely upon having great communications systems which are backed up by significant amounts of data on our clients (how important is that CRM system?), and which can integrate to produce fast and personalised digital responses.
Even if we do that, it may not be enough.
Compounding the difficulty of the digital engagement is our reliance upon the digital interaction that our clients have with our suppliers and business partners too. In effect the insurer or fund manager whom we have recommended and with whom the client is now trying to communicate with or obtain information from, becomes an extension of OUR brand and reputation in the clients mind. To be blunt; a crappy digital engagement system from one of key suppliers makes us look like incompetents. The suppliers moment of truth actually became one for our brand with our clients.
Frankly, we have to accept that many institutions with whom we deal have archaic, hierarchal and bureaucratic communications systems, frequently staffed or supported by humans who fundamentally do not understand either the consumers or the business we are in. They don’t do digital well a lot of the time. And they don’t actually do real client service stuff well enough either, despite what their internal NPS scores or customer satisfaction surveys are telling them. While it might be acceptable to an institution to have (say) a “satisfied customer” proportion of 90%, that is not good enough for the practitioner. If the practitioner had 10% of their clients fundamentally dissatisfied by their engagement with the partnering institution then that is a pretty big problem for the practitioner.
So how can we handle these digital moments of truth when we cannot entirely control the engagement systems or processes?
Insert humans into the process. That’s the answer.
The greatest remedy we have for a client who was disappointed with the outcome of their digital moment of truth (whether with our firm directly, or by extension) is put a human being in front of them. Metaphorically speaking of course. A human who engages directly with the client is the the single greatest opportunity to take charge of these moments of truth.
That engagement can be in person, or by phone, or facetime or even 1-to-1 email or chat….it doesn’t matter. Having said that; the greater the level of disappointment on the part of the client the more personal the human-to-human response should be. Consumers generally find it relatively easy to maintain the rage via email, but not so much when face to face with another human who is clearly seeing things from their perspective and actively trying to soothe and rectify. Small matters that were disappointing can be rectified easily enough with a human from your business sending a personalised email directly to the client or consumer and fundamentally promising resolution or accountability.
The bottom line is that whether the digital moment of truth actually occurred when the client or prospect was trying to interact with our firm directly or with a firm who we partner with, the moment of truth is ours. It is our reputation and it is our customer. We wear the damage if it isn’t handled. So we must take charge of it.
While building the best digital interaction systems you can (which will be a “work in progress” for the rest of your business career by the way) you should consider all the digital engagement points where the option to revert to dealing with a human need to be. Consider all the points where the consumer can get too confused, or disappointed, or have to go through too many connecting steps to get what it was they were after and put a “contact human” option in there.
We are in the people business, or the relationship management business, after all. While we know the digital engagement will continue to increase in importance to our clients and prospects, the reality is that the more digital choice there is and the faster things work, the more opportunities there are for digital moment of truth disappointments.
That means there are more opportunities for demonstrate that we are a service business with a strong personal touch. That is no bad thing for most professional practices.
Here’s Why Bitcoin Won’t Replace Gold So Easily
What a week it was.
First and foremost, I’d like to acknowledge the horrific mass shooting that occurred in Las Vegas, the deadliest in modern American history. On behalf of everyone at U.S. Global Investors, I extend my sincerest and most heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families.
The memory of the shooting was still fresh in people’s minds during last Tuesday’s Hollywood premiere of Blade Runner 2049, which nixed the usual red carpet and other glitz in light of the tragedy. Before the film, producers shared poignant words, saying that in times such as these, the arts are crucial now more than ever.
I had the distinct privilege to attend the premiere. My good friend Frank Giustra, whose production company Thunderbird Entertainment owns a stake in the Blade Runner franchise, was kind enough to invite me along. Despite the somber mood—a pivotal scene in the film even takes place in an irradiated Las Vegas—I thought Blade Runner 2049 was spectacular. Even if you’re not a fan of the original 1982 film, it’s still worth experiencing in theaters. Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch’s synth-heavy score is especially haunting.
CNET recently published an interesting piece examining the accuracy of future tech as depicted in the original Blade Runner, from androids to flying cars to off-world travel read the article here.
Still in the Early Innings of Cryptocurrencies
Speaking of the future, I spoke on the topic of the blockchain last week at the Subscriber Investment Summit in Vancouver. My presentation focused on the future of mining—not just of gold and precious metals but also cryptocurrencies.
Believe it or not, there are upwards of 2,100 digital currencies being traded in the world right now, with a combined market cap of nearly $150 billion, according to Coinranking.com.
Obviously not all of these cryptos will survive. We’re still in the early innings. Last month I compared this exciting new digital world to the earliest days of the dotcom era, and just as there were winners and losers then, so too will there be winners and losers today. Although bitcoin and Ethereum appear to be the frontrunners right now, recall that only 20 years ago AOL and Yahoo! were poised to dominate the internet. How times have changed!
It will be interesting to see which coins emerge as the “Amazon” and “Google” of cryptocurrencies.
For now, Ethereum has some huge backers. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), according to its website, seeks to “learn from and build upon the only smart contract supporting blockchain currently running in real-world production—Ethereum.” The EEA includes several big-name financial and tech firms such as Credit Suisse, Intel, Microsoft and JPMorgan Chase, whose own CEO, Jamie Dimon, knocked cryptos a couple of weeks ago.
To learn more about the blockchain and cryptocurrencies, watch this engaging two-minute video.
Will Bitcoin Replace Gold?
Lately I’ve been seeing more and more headlines asking whether cryptos are “killing” gold. Would the gold price be higher today if massive amounts of money weren’t flowing into bitcoin? Both assets, after all, are sometimes favored as safe havens. They’re decentralized and accepted all over the world, 24 hours a day. Transactions are anonymous. Supply is limited.
But I don’t think for a second that cryptocurrencies will ever replace gold, for a number of reasons. For one, cryptos are strictly forms of currency, whereas gold has many other time-tested applications, from jewelry to dentistry to electronics.
Unlike cryptos, gold doesn’t require electricity to trade. This makes it especially useful in situations such as hurricane-ravished Puerto Rico, where 95 percent of people are reportedly still without power. Right now the island’s economy is cash-only. If you have gold jewelry or coins, they can be converted into cash—all without electricity or WiFi.
Finally, gold remains one of the most liquid assets, traded daily in well-established exchanges all around the globe. Every day, some £13.8 billion, or $18 billion, worth of physical gold are traded in London alone, according to the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). The cryptocurrency market, although expanding rapidly, is not quite there yet.
I will admit, though, that bitcoin is energizing some investors, especially millennials, in ways that gold might have a hard time doing. The proof is all over the internet. You can find a number of TED Talks on bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain, but to my knowledge, none is available on gold investing. YouTube is likewise bursting at the seams with videos on cryptos.
Bitcoin is up 350 percent for the year, Ethereum an unbelievable 3,600 percent. Gold, meanwhile, is up around 10 percent. Producers, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, have gained 11.5 percent in 2017, 23 percent since its 52-week low in December 2016.
Look Past the Negativity to Find the Good News
The news is filled with negative headlines, and sometimes it’s challenging to stay positive. Take Friday’s jobs report. It showed that the U.S. lost 33,000 jobs in September, the first month in seven years that this happened. A weak report was expected because of Hurricane Irma, but no one could have guessed the losses would be this deep.
The jobs report wasn’t all bad news, however. For one, the decline is very likely temporary. Beyond that, a record 4.88 million Americans who were previously sitting out of the labor force found work last month. This helped the unemployment rate fall to 4.2 percent, a 16-year low.
There’s more that supports a stronger U.S. economy. As I shared with you last week, the Manufacturing ISM Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to a 13-year high in September, indicating rapid expansion in the manufacturing industry. Factory orders were up during the month. Auto sales were up. Oil has stayed in the relatively low $50-a-barrel range, which is good for transportation and industrials, especially airlines. Small-cap stocks, as measured by the Russell 2000 Index, continue to climb above their 50-day and 200-day moving averages as excitement over tax reform intensifies.
These are among the reasons why I remain bullish.
One final note: Speaking on tax reform, Warren Buffett told CNBC last week that he’s waiting to sell assets until he knows the plan will go through. “I would feel kind of silly if I realized $1 billion worth of gains and paid $350 million in tax on it if I just waited a few months and would have paid $250 million,” he said.
It’s a fair comment, and I imagine other like-minded, forward-thinking investors, buyers and sellers will also wait to make huge transactions if they can help it. Tax reform isn’t a done deal, but I think it has a much better chance of being signed into law than a health care overhaul.
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