Capitalizing on 'Moments of Truth'
By Jill Fonte
The paper towel dispenser is empty, the front door sticks, paper cups are blowing around the parking lot, there’s a light out, the apparel fixtures are dusty. No big deal, right? Wrong. These conditions, known as “moments of truth,” all contribute to your customers’ perception and satisfaction with your business. They’re brief — “moments” being the operative word. They’re often unspoken. Their impact is often subconscious. They’re always hugely powerful.
Moments of truth form our opinions about an organization. They can determine whether we feel confident or uncomfortable with the service we’re about to receive. They can either encourage us or deter us from purchasing. They can indicate whether our business is appreciated or taken for granted. They can make us feel safe or at risk. If you and your employees have been there for a while, it’s easy to stop noticing them. It’s also risky. Though fleeting, moments of truth shout volumes to your customers!
To illustrate, let’s look at some of the more common scenarios in a tennis environment which impact your customers’ impressions of your business. Take a fresh look to determine whether you’re creating positive or negative moments of truth.
Do you still notice the sign in front of your club or shop? If not, go take a look. Is that sign hanging straight? Is the paint crisp and fresh? If it’s lighted, are the lights in good repair? To your customers, your sign says “Here’s how we want to present ourselves to you.” Does the sign at your facility convey that your club is in disrepair and that you aren’t paying attention to detail, or does it show people that you’re on top of your game?
The parking lot
First and foremost, is your parking lot clean? Trash and cigarette butts aren’t very welcoming. If your parking lot is paved and striped, are the painted stripes kept fresh? If it’s gravel, is it free of weeds? If your shop is in a strip mall and you’re not happy with the condition of the parking lot, is it time to have a talk with your property manager? If you’re on main street and have no parking lot, do you keep the sidewalk in front of your store swept in the summer and free of ice and snow in the winter?
Is it clean, neat, and in good repair? If it’s lighted, are all the lights working properly? If they’re the little walkway lights, are they all straight? Are the fixtures clean? Are the pavers, mulch, or gravel kept free of overgrowth from grass or other vegetation? Ask every employee to notice the parking lot and walkways every day and to pick up trash when they see it.
The front door
Like the sign, the parking lot and the walkway, you see your front door dozens of times each week. Do you really see it as your customers do? If so, does it put your best foot forward? If it’s painted, is the paint clean and in good repair? Is the door knob clean and tight? Does the door stick at all when it’s opened or closed? If it has glass, is the glass kept clean?
All of us have wandered into stores simply because the window displays are inviting. The windows are clean, the merchandise is not dusty or faded, the mannequins are in good repair. The displays say, “Come on in. We have great merchandise and we display it with pride.” What do your window displays convey?
Once inside the shop or club, what do your customers see from the condition of the paint, lights, fixtures, and carpet? We’ve all walked into restaurants where the carpet is dirty, there’s food on the floor and the hostess stand is cluttered. Subconsciously, we might say, “Yikes. If this is how the front looks, what must their kitchen be like?” This is true in every retail environment. If the store is neat, clean and in good repair, we may infer that the business is just as buttoned up. Conversely, if the store is messy, dusty, or dirty, we may question whether our requests and transactions will be handled properly.
The front desk
Stand aside and really notice what goes on at your front desk. How are people greeted? How is the phone answered? How are requests handled? The momentary interactions at your front desk shape your customers’ opinions of your facility and your service.
Restrooms and dressing rooms
Your customers are alone when using these facilities. Your concern for their comfort is clearly on display here. Empty toilet-paper holders and pins on the dressing-room floor don’t convey much concern. We expect overflowing trash baskets, empty paper-towel holders, and messy sink areas in public restrooms, but when we encounter them in private businesses, we form harsh judgments. Make sure the private areas in your business send a message of caring and concern for your customers.
Check the drains periodically throughout the day to make sure they’re not covered with hair. Remove used razors and wet towels. Make sure every club member walks into that shower as you would want to if you were the member.
As a player yourself, what do you want to see when you walk onto a court? If you see cups blowing around, dirty or empty water coolers, empty cup dispensers, trash on the benches, or used balls littering the back fences, you don’t get a positive impression of the club. As a facility owner or manager, make sure these moments of truth are tended to throughout the day so that each player’s impressions are positive.
While the moments of truth surrounding the court setting are important, your customers have already formed dozens of opinions about your facility before they even get to the courts. Try to see your business through the eyes of someone who has just moved to your area and is looking for a place to buy equipment and/or play. You’re continually sending subtle messages about how that person’s experience with you will unfold.
By taking a fresh look, you can check to see whether you’re really putting your best foot forward and making the impression you want to make. Moments of truth are a very big deal. By knowing when they occur and by paying attention to detail, you can capitalize on them to benefit your customers and your business.
See all articles by Jill Fonte
About the Author
Jill Fonte , who plays tennis at least three times a week, has had a lifelong love of tennis on both a personal and professional basis. She was the owner and executive director of the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association for 20 years and has served on the TIA board of directors for many years. As an executive coach and business consultant, she is currently a Principal in Business Visions Group and has addressed tennis audiences throughout the country through her involvement with the USTA, USPTA, PTR, TIA, USRSA, and various global suppliers. A longtime local and national volunteer, she currently chairs the USTA's National Tennis Innovation Committee, and serves as the Vice President of Marketing and Communication and a member of the governance, strategic planning and personnel committees for the USTA Middle States Section.