In Service America! Doing Business in the New Economy , Karl Albrecht and Ron Zemke alerted us to the competitive advantage of service quality.

In our work with Fit Leaders, we often borrow a concept from Albrecht known as Moments of Truth. A Moment of Truth (MOT) is any episode in which the consumer or customer comes into contact with any aspect of our organization and gets an impression of the quality of its service.

Each MOT presents us with the opportunity to please or delight our customers by going above and beyond their expectations. At the same time, each MOT introduces the risk that we will disappoint, confuse or enrage the customer.

Think about your own work and relationships, and try to identify all of the MOTs that exist as your customers (including your team) interact with you. This defines your “cycle of service”.

As an example, recall the last time you needed to be seen by a healthcare professional, perhaps for an annual physical. Here is a list of some of the MOTs we might imagine if we put ourselves in the shoes of the patient.

• Call for an appointment.
• Find a parking place.
• Enter the building and try to orient yourself.
• Read the signs to find where to go.
• Ask for directions.
• Check in.
• Show your insurance card and fill out forms.
• Sit in the waiting room.
• Go with the technical assistant into the exam area.
• Have your vital signs taken.
• Discuss your physical condition in an interview.
• Go through a series of tests and measurements.
• Be seen by the physician.
• Check out and pay your bill.
• Find your way back to your car.
• Drive out of the parking lot.
• Wait for the results of your exam.
• Receive the results.
• Call for follow-up treatment if necessary.

How many of these MOTs were positive and shining for you? How many of them were negative, irritating or just plain dull? It is often surprising how many distinct MOTs there are in almost any service interaction, and how many opportunities we have to truly serve our customers.

What are you doing, specifically, that is making others feel served? And, when you are not pleased with how you handled a MOT, what specifically are you doing differently next time to increase the likelihood of delighting your customer?

Begin with your own chart of individual MOTs, and then track your customers’ experience at each point along the chain of service. Our job as leaders is to maximize the number of positive MOTs for our customers, and to enable our people to provide the highest-quality service to their customers.