Dealing with a Moment of Truth in a “Purchase a Gift” Scenario

The Case of the Purple Flip Flops: Test Drive of Linda

March 15, 2007

In every type of scenario, there are three or four moments of truth (those vital moments when, if not successful, we go elsewhere). A failed shopping experience at demonstrates the importance of meeting and measuring your customers’ moments of truth. It also shows the importance of empowering support staff to fix a broken relationship.


When you’ve mapped out as many scenarios as we have (using our Customer Scenario® Mapping methodology), you begin to recognize patterns within the types of scenarios. For example, in a break/fix scenario, no matter the type of product, company, or customer, there are three typical Moments of Truth (those vital moments when, if not successful, we go elsewhere): 1) I want to know what is wrong, 2) I want the product fixed, and 3) I don’t want this to happen again.

Once you understand the moments of truth for a scenario, you can tune your organization to measure how successful you are at fulfilling customer expectations.


We all buy gifts for people we care about. And, not matter what the gift or who the recipient, the customer scenario tends to have the same three significant moments of truth:

1. I want to find/order the perfect gift for the intended recipient.
2. The merchandise is available in the timeframe in which I need it.
3. It arrives on time and in good condition.

ASSOCIATED CUSTOMER METRICS. For each of these moments of truth, there are associated metrics that reflect the customer’s willingness (or unwillingness) to stay the distance.

Find the Perfect Gift. Customer metrics include:

• I am 100 percent certain that the recipient will love the gift. (Okay, maybe this number is more like 90 percent certain.)

• I am 100 percent certain they don’t already have this gift. (Or, if they do, they will treasure another one!)

Available in Correct Timeframe. Customer metrics include:

• I am given 100 percent accurate information regarding availability and delivery.

• Gift can be delivered to the right place in time for the gift-giving event.

Arrives on Time and in Good Condition. Customers will measure whether:

• Gift arrives on or before the time and date required.

• It arrives in mint condition.

• The recipient loves it and calls me within six hours to tell me so. (The timeframe and method of the thank you might vary, but the sentiment is what matters.)

SUPPLIER METRICS. To ensure that gift buyers have a positive and successful customer experience, retailers/etailers need to measure their customers’ success. Sometimes this is directly measurable (e.g., number of orders lost due to back orders or returned, broken merchandise); sometimes you measure softer results (e.g., repeat business, customer satisfaction survey results).

Most companies measure number of order vs. site visits, catalogs mailed, etc. You also probably measure returns based on broken merchandise. You should also measure, if you don’t already, business lost due to unavailability and delivery problems.

Ensuring Customer Success

FINDING THE PERFECT GIFT. Of course having appealing and quality merchandise is important, but you can’t please everyone’s taste. So, although merchandising is an important skill (or art), you can’t guarantee that you’ll always have the right gift offering for every person on every occasion. Thus, to satisfy the first moment of truth, finding the perfect gift, rather than stocking every type of item, all you can focus on is the “finding” part--making it easy to find the types of gifts that your company offers via search engine placement, appropriate catalog mailings, etc.

You do have more control over the next two moments of truth.

AVAILABILITY AND ON-TIME ARRIVAL. You do have a lot more control over availability and delivery. The key to success is in providing accurate, up-to-date, and consistent information to customers through all channels. Inventory status should be available to the online shopper as well as to the catalog buyer who calls and orders in to the contact center. Order tracking needs to be real-time through all channels as well. And you should provide different delivery options to make those all-important deadlines for last minute shoppers.

As for delivering merchandise in good condition. Well, things happen, but making sure you partner with a delivery organization that has the same customer focus and values that you do is important. We have heard countless stories of companies that have lost business because the delivery didn’t happen as the customer had hoped.

The story that follows is an example of how one catalog/online retailer failed to successfully address the second and third moments of truth, and what the company was able to do to salvage a broken customer relationship.


Catalog to Web Site

My niece, Lindsay, is an avid collector of all things “frog!” And she has been for quite a few years. So I’m running out of terrific ideas for frog-related gifts. Thus, when I get a catalog for giftware in the mail, I’m always on the look-out for frog items.

A few months ago, I received a catalog from Linda Anderson, a catalog and ecommerce retailer of gift items, home decor, and casual women's apparel. The catalog included a number of items with frogs on them; I especially liked the Purple Frog Flip Flops, which, according to the product details page, came in the right size for my niece (adult size 5).

My purchase, thus, began with the paper catalog, but I prefer to go to the site rather than use the telephone; it is usually quicker and there is sometimes additional information on the site that isn’t in the catalog (larger images, related products, etc.). Because I know which products I want, I navigate to them directly by entering the catalog product number. (See Illustration 1).

The Home Page
(Please download the PDF to see the illustration.)
Illustration 1. allows you to enter product numbers found within the catalog to navigate directly to merchandise you might like (see circled item at top left). It does a good job of showing what items you have looked at the last time you visited. The item discussed in this report is the Frog Flip Flops circled at the bottom of the page.

Because of the unique nature of the product, I was certain that my niece would not only love the gift, but that she didn’t have anything like it. So my first moment of truth was well met!

Anticipating a Successful Outcome

I have bought several lovely gifts from Linda Anderson in the past, and have always been pleased with the merchandise and the service. So I anticipated a simple and successful experience as I selected and ordered this birthday gift for my niece.

So this was not my first order with the company, but, save for the excellence of the customer service staff, it would have been my last.

Inconsistent Inventory Information Online

Here is where things got problematic. The product details page for the flip flops said, explicitly, that the item was in stock. However, the “review your cart” page indicated ...


Sign in to download the full article


Be the first one to comment.

You must be a member to comment. Sign in or create a free account.