“Moments of Truth” and Service Operations

We have recently added a new feature to our operations improvement work for services firms.

To improve the productivity, responsiveness, and quality of services, a common and very valuable approach is to organize a cross-functional team and value stream map the activities. This quickly produces many opportunities to improve flow, simplify tasks, and shrink response times. One frustration with this technique is that it provides no approach to how to model the “moments of truth” that are really the focal points for all service production.

Moments of truth are those interactions with customers (these can be in person, over the telephone, and via a web interface amongst others) during which a service is created and delivered. It is the moment when a question is asked and an answer provided. Or, it is the more complex environment in which the service provider and the customer collaborate, even if briefly, to solve some problem with a product.

In the end, even if you get all of the other aspects of your service production right, if the moment of truth goes awry, the customer leaves feeling less than satisfied. The customer perceives the service to be inadequate.

So, building on work by Christian Gronroos and others, we have started working with a service model that we call “MT” to capture all of the key elements required for a successful service event. This is adding significantly to the richness of our value stream mapping and filling this gap in performance improvement.

For a challenging introduction to moments of truth, see Christian Gronroos, Service Management and Marketing: managing the moments of truth in service competitition (Lexington Books, Boston 1988).