The Outside In discussion group on LinkedIn  continues to examine how organizations approach processes and service. One such conversation connected terminology most often used to describe encounters between the company and its customers. Following recent service experiences, I found several worth sharing: MOT (moment of truth), Pain Points, and SCO (successful customer outcome). Fellow consultant, Dick Lee , provided industry definitions:
- Moments of Truth (MOT): Any and all customer interactions (direct or indirect) that materially affect customer experience.
- Pain Points: MOTs that often go badly.
- Successful Customer Outcomes (SCO): MOTs that typically elevate customer experience
While the definitions are easy enough to grasp, some companies lack necessary self-awareness and suffer from what I call TOS - The Ostrich Syndrome. TOS begins at the top as strategy, permeates organizational development, and manifests itself in poor service. Sticking one's head in the sand results in more sand, not changes. Let's examine a few, shall we?
I've been a DIRECTV customer for 10 years. Until the past four months, I counted approximately 3-4 services issues during that time. But the tide turned in the last quarter of 2009.
The fact that my moment of truth and pain point examples for DIRECTV occurred last year makes my point on leadership. In the past 90 days, I've experienced 1) retention account representatives (Jo) who "don't report to anyone but themselves," 2) billing supervisors (Dereck) who "can only contact those above him via e-mail" because he "doesn't have access to a company directory," and 3) sales representatives who spew "that's the cost of the equipment regardless of the time you've been with us."
This encounter ends up much kinder and gentler thanks to the heroic efforts of 1) Courtney, who combined my accounts so I wouldn't be penalized for upgrading my account using existing equipment from another account, 2) Doug for verifying the R22-200 set-top box was in fact an HD DVR so I didn't need to order the "required $199 HD DVR plus $19.95 handling fee" from person #3 above, and 3) the technical support rep based in Mississippi who stayed on the phone with me and the installation contractor to correct the problem. By the way, he got his wish as an Alabama fan in the SEC  and national championships, and I got my wish for a great MOT and SCO.
I discovered DIRECTV collected approximately $18,204 from me over 10 years; has a new president, Michael D. (Mike) White, who stepped in on January 1, 2010, the third in the past 12 months; and has numerous blogs and Web sites dedicated to DIRECTV complaints.
The majority of Web-based complaints related to its withdrawal from customer approachability. Several blogs posted complaints about phone number access, senior executive availability, and contractual terms. One blogger actually cut and pasted e-mail content from an exchange with Eileen Filpack . Ouch! Talk about a MOT gone bad.
TDS Telecom 
TDS is a perfect example of why competitive regulation should be lifted for telecommunications providers. When we moved to east Tennessee we started in a short-term residence with BellSouth, aka AT&T , service for landline phone and DSL Internet. When we bought our home five miles from there, we found out we were moving outsiide AT&T's network area. So we were forced to select a new provider. We ended up with TDS for phone and DSL service.
Sporadic outages, knowledge-challenged service representatives, and poor third-party vendor management comprise my service experiences with them. Making my TOS theory more relevant is the fact TDS imbeds automated phone surveys for each encounter. The customer can choose to participate before speaking with a representative. I don't know if TDS reps know a customer's choice but I experience high perkiness and shorter wait times when I do.
AT&T isn't known for its friendly customer service either, but if I can go one year in Smarr, Ga., on AT&T 6mbps DSL without interruption, I don't understand the reason behind multiple domain service issues with TDS in the same time frame in Knoxville, Tenn.
Here's a MOT encounter with TDS. We upgraded our 6mbps DSL to 10mbps during a TDS sales call last November. Three calls later, we still had no service, discovered our orders were lost or never entered, and received multiple sales calls for the exact same product upgrade. A final call to the executive offices in Wisconsin solved the problem but revealed the company's partnership with a third-party vendor. Obviously technology integration with customer information was inefficient. Multiple pain points right after each other ... ouch, ouch, ouch.
Just this morning, I called TDS to report Internet issues related to another network outage. Having gone through the routine diagnostics of unplugging, resetting and restarting, the technical support representative learned our Netgear modem isn't TDS issued. That ended the support call.
Here's a SCO thought for TDS - get over the fact not everyone uses your equipment. Try thinking outside the box and supporting technical issues related to your DSL service for the top five modem equipment manufacturers. My technical issue at 7:30 a.m. was simply forgetting to check the DSL filter, which was provided by TDS.
Radiators Galore 
Our college student found his 1999 Suzuki Esteem in need of tires and a new radiator last week. The tires were easy but the radiator on the 1.8L "Suzy-Q" was a bit more complicated. After an incorrect order through a local Keystone Auto Parts store (it turns out I do know the difference between 1.6L and 1.8L but they don't), a Google search, and return policy reviews, I placed an order through Radiators Galore.
The Blue Ribbon for SCO goes to these guys. I used the online chat to verify information but found it necessary to call. The same person I chatted with, Matt, answered the phone, listened to my concern, and checked to make sure my order could be processed and shipped as needed. The order process was easy and e-mail confirmation immediately followed. Because Matt LISTENED to me, he knew we needed the radiator so our son could get back in time for the new semester. The radiator was normally one-day delivery. I received a call from Matt 30 minutes after my order letting me know it would be two-day delivery. We were able to schedule the installation according to delivery and the student made it back on schedule.
I love these guys! Matt, you're the bomb! Thank you for making a very
frustrating search for a radiator such a pleasant
and easy experience for someone with more service delivery experience than mechanical know-how.
Authentic leadership and service. It was refreshing.
About 2 p.m. EST on January 19, 2010, I found myself standing in line at the automated postage kiosk to avoid the out-the-door lobby counter line for service. The reason? Only one postal employee was behind the counter. The other abruptly lert for lunch leaving the remaining postal worker to the glares and exasperated customer sighs. So much for service.
I don't need to expand the reason government doesn't score high in customer satisfaction nor am I going to tackle the obvious talking points for limiting government in private business.
DIRECTV can spend all it desires promoting itself as "No. 1" in customer satisfaction but when it's down to one of two fish in the pond, the company would be wise to remember there's always room for more fish. TDS resides safely within regulatory restraints which limit consumer choice but it would be wise to examine its commitment to service through innovation and support. Less regulation is coming at some point.
Each company proves why leadership matters with
service channels and employees. CEOs are responsible for setting tone in their
organizations. Three in one year doesn't do much by way of clarity for
the masses. Insincere apologies from executive offices without change prove more about commitment than you realize.
If arrogance is your problem, humility may be your answer. Take a lesson from Radiators Galore on service delivery or Domino's Pizza , who conducted focus groups, aired the comments good and bad, and showed how they implemented changes to improve the product and customer experience. If you still think you don't need advice, I hear ostrich feathers make great dusters for cleaning.