Here’s the scenario: you’ve just hosted a fabulously catered dinner* for the industry’s best minds. The table is set, the flower centerpieces are exquisite, and the meal is served. Now you, as host and master of ceremonies, get to listen in on the private conversation of brilliant marketing minds as the topic of conversation shifts to creating an exceptional customer experience…

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

[Solis whips out copy of his more recent book, What’s the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences]

Brian Solis: Every business needs a moment of truth. A moment of truth isn’t anything new in business. You’ve got three different types: a Zero Moment of Truth, a First Moment of Truth, and an Ultimate Moment of Truth.

Me: I bet this is a process only minimally adopted so far. I’ve heard that just 20% of companies have a well-developed customer experience strategy and more than just 8% of those really delivered a superb customer service.

Brian Solis: Pretty much. Essentially, you’ve got to give clients what I call a “dynamic customer journey” that hinges on listening to how people communicate and learn from new sources of information. It includes learning how they a customer journey unfolds. For example, ask who the experts are, who influences them, what tech and services they use, and how they move forward from these sources. Then you’ve got to engage customers in each of those moments of truth. From there, adapt processes, strategies, and technology so you’re better at the first three steps.

Alex Rawson (a partner at McKinsey’s Seattle office): This reminds me of a client we worked with whose business included managing their large call center. The company would receive millions of phone calls but if you go back to the customers for feedback, no customer gives such a categorical answer like “product question” as a reason for the call.

Me: You, Ewan and Connor were recently published in Harvard Business Review on this, right?

Ewan Duncan (Alex’s co-partner): Right. We say usually there’s a deeper question or reason for why a customer reaches out. For example, a customer might have been trying to ensure uninterrupted service after moving, make sense of the renewal options at the end of a contract, or fix a nagging technical problem.

Connor Jones (a partner at McKinsey’s Dublin office): In a nutshell, company that manages complete journeys would not only do its best with the individual transaction but also seek to understand the broader reasons for the call, address the root causes, and create feedback loops to continuously improve interactions upstream and downstream from the call.

Me: So basically it’s a rinse and repeat cycle but you’ve got a heck of a lot of analysis each step of the way. It’s sort of like a business inquisition, putting each moment of truth under the microscope and learning what you can from each opportunity. So rather than just business, each transaction from start to finish is a Petri dish that needs to be evaluated. Clearly big business is already doing it and doing it well. This is what someone like me, a small business gal, would need to perfect in order to be up to par with the industry heavyweights when it comes to creating that perfect customer experience.

*This is a creative reimagination and delivery of thought-leaders’ documented advice on delivering exceptional customer service. That said, the invitation for a fabulous dinner is open to any one of these guests at any time.