When marketers map customer experience, we start by defining a beginning and an end. To improve the experience for a particular brand, we typically look at the customer’s touchpoints with the brand on that continuum, not acknowledging that our customers live in an ecosystem, transcending any single brand.
If I’m in charge of Walmart’s experience, I’m looking at the parking lot, the store entrance, the signage, the store layout, customer service, checkout lines, bathrooms, and more. Every detail is considered, from the time you enter the parking lot until you drive off. But if there is construction outside, or no traffic light at the intersection of the parking lot, it’s not Walmart’s problem. Or is it?
We tend not to link our customers’ frustration with these obstacles to the brand as a singular experience, but perhaps we should. Procter & Gamble refers to this as the first "moment of truth," which occurs at the shelf, before you buy and experience the product. It’s the experience before the experience. Google suggests there may even be a "zero moment of truth" before the shelf via all the digital devices in our lives. While we are learning to manage this zero moment of truth, we seem to have left the first moment unaddressed.
What is the first moment of truth for Walmart? The front door to the mall where the store is located? The highway ramp? The street outside the store, or the transportation that takes you there? What if the brand experience started the moment customers walked out their doors? What if Walmart could touch the entire journey, door-to-door?
Not long ago, I was going through security for a flight with Delta Airlines when I noticed an expedited TSA lane. It had no line, no requirements to take off your shoes and belt or to take your laptop and liquids out of your bag. While wondering how TSA picks the lucky few for that lane, to my surprise, the TSA agent guided me in that direction. How had I earned such a privilege?
My loyalty to Delta apparently resulted in this travel perk. Interestingly enough, I think of airline touchpoints as planes, seats, upgrade frequency, attendants and the like -- but not the dismal security experience. I never thought of my airline as having anything to do with my airport experience, and in fact, see LGA and JFK as different brands. But Delta has alleviated a headache associated with the airport experience, simplified travel for me, and in doing so earned a customer for life. This was Delta’s “first moment of truth” -- my experience before I had a single interaction with the airline.
Too many brands are missing out on similar opportunities to interact with customers, because they’re tough and expensive. But it’s when they tackle the big issues that they get the bigger payoff -- the lifetime customer.