Now I know that this is a rather trite saying but you know what it means.  When somebody first comes in contact with you and your business, or a representative of your business, they will form an impression of it.  And that impression will govern how they see you and your business.  It takes a lot to change that first impression.

Another view on the impression your business makes on customers was given by Jan Carlzon, CEO of Scandinavian Air Service (SAS) who coined the phrase “moments of truth”.  He used the term to mean those moments in which important impressions of your business are formed and where there are significant opportunities for good or bad impressions to be made.  

Every time a customer comes in contact with your business is a moment of truth, moments that ultimately determine whether you will succeed or fail as a business.  Some are more important than others and are the moments when you must prove to your customers that your business is their best alternative.

Such 'moments of truth' are often seemingly trivial events, for example when they walk into the business and front the reception desk, when they waiting for that service call, or speaking to your accounts people.

Or, for that matter, when the assessors come to review your tender or proposal.  They will form an impression of your business from your submission.

So let’s look at some specific examples, simple purchases.  For some reason both these examples involve the same industry, but different businesses.  And they involve sales staff in an industry that is epitome of hard selling.  You’ve guessed it, cars, although new, not used in this case.

In the first case, a colleague of mine was hoping to buy a prestigious brand.  Three times he contacted the business, including a visit to the showroom, looking to organise a test drive.  And the outcome, no-one seemed interested in returning his call.  On his visit to the showroom, the sales staff were too busy talking amongst themselves to come over and ‘talk to the customer’.  He left.  

It was only by a near subterfuge that he was able to get the email address of the group CEO, enabling a suitably descriptive message to be sent.  The next day a somewhat peeved salesman brought a vehicle around to my colleague’s office for the test drive.  He must have really wanted that car, because despite these successive ‘moments of truth’, he bought the vehicle.

In the second example my friend managed to get the test drive, but couldn’t get the quotation.  She was joining one of Australia’s largest companies as a reasonably senior executive.  On might have thought a local company might have wanted to create a favourable impression, to get an ‘in’ with such a company.  No – it was just another sale apparently.  After much chasing up the line a quotation arrived.  No apologies or anything like that.  In fact the salesman obviously had just rubbed one name out and inserted another in the quotation.  They didn’t get the sale.

Now I know the margins in cars is not that great.  Companies rely on the service and part sales, and upgrades to make their money.  After treatment like that, would you feel loyal to the supplier?  Would you go back to them for repeat business.  

Repeat business is the ultimate test, because that is where the profits are made.  In one of those cases above, the buyer is going elsewhere for service as soon as the warranty period is over.  No ‘ifs and buts!”

Perhaps the Moment of Truth should be tattooed into a tenderer’s forehead.  “Anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, is an opportunity to form an impression.”  There are no second chances on this.  You won’t be asked to resubmit.

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