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Sofia Grigoreva
Sofia is a staff content writer for UXPressia. Between stretches of blog posts and journey mapping guides, you might find her working out or re-reading Harry Potter.

Moments of truth in customer journey mapping


How do we, as customers, determine whether we like a brand or not? If it were a math equation, the answer would be to take the average of our overall experience. But as it turns out, the decision-making process behind the verdict isn’t that straightforward. Behavioral science principles suggest that people form their impression about a service based on the most intense moments of the journey: the moments of truth.

But what exactly are moments of truth, and how do you recognize them in your customer’s journey? Why do you need to identify them in the first place, and how can that knowledge bring you closer to your business goals? Let’s get to the bottom of this, with mapping tips and examples to better understand the concept.

What are moments of truth?

Moments of truth represent the points in the journey where a key event occurs and the customer forms an opinion about the brand. In simple words, these are the touchpoints where your clients either fall in love with your product or turn away and leave. Quality, service, value for money, consistency, and personalization can all be pieces of that puzzle.

Have you ever had the most delicious hot dog at a godforsaken gas station? Or, on the contrary, was disappointed by an over-salted dish at a fancy brasserie? Of course, the expectations from the second venue are higher. But the point is product quality often overshadows all other aspects like atmosphere, delivery speed, or bad reviews on TripAdvisor. And you leave thinking you’d have another hot dog any day but would never go to that brasserie again.

Now, let’s imagine you order a pizza delivery from an Italian place. The menu has lots of choices, the pictures are mouth-watering, the callback service is flawless, and the delivery is lightning-speed. But the moment of truth comes once you taste the pizza itself. At this point, you either fall in love with the restaurant or you don’t.

Or take service: even if the pizza is tasty when it comes out of the oven, it’s going to be less delicious when the crust dries off and the cheese cools down. The moment of truth will still happen with the first bite. So if the delivery is 45 minutes late, you probably won’t give the restaurant another chance, while the product itself — the pizza — is not at fault.

When it comes to visualizing moments of truth, journey mappers assign them to stages or substages that the customer goes through. Although they’re called ‘moments’, it’s not always a single, short episode. It can be a longer process, like the delivery in the Italian restaurant example. Any interaction that can change the customer’s mind, for better or for worse, can potentially be a moment of truth.

All customer journeys have moments of truth, whether they are specifically highlighted on the map or not. For instance, when a person is feeling strong emotions like rage, terror, or admiration, the experience graph will have a wider range. Peak highs and lows are tell-tale signs of a moment of truth.

plutchik's wheel
In the experience section of our CJM tool, we use the Plutchik’s wheel, which portrays the intensity of emotions with color brightness and proximity to the center.

Why are moments of truth important?

Moments of truth have a huge influence on the overall customer experience, as they hold power to shape our impression of the brand. Negative moments turn clients away, while positive ones contribute towards customer loyalty and brand advocacy.

Positive moments of truth can set your company apart from competitors, creating a better-than-average customer experience. And from a business perspective, that means higher customer satisfaction levels, more repeat purchases and referrals, and a potential increase in revenue.

When you make a habit of tracking moments of truth and visualize them in your journey maps, you can:

  • Find the weakest part of the customer journey and fix it;
  • Add more positive moments to a journey that’s too average or uneventful;
  • Develop instructions on handling moments of truth for the front-line staff;
  • Identify the moments where your service really shines, and either reinforce them or reuse across other stages.
pop-up in uxpressia
We introduced a popup that shows up once you complete 60% of your map. Since then, we’ve seen quite a few tweets and posts from people who were really excited to see it.

Moments of truth: a classification

In general, moments of truth fall into two major categories:

  • Positive moments — moments of glory;
  • Negative moments — moments of pain.

Let’s look at both types in more detail, along with ways to encourage the positives and alleviate the negatives.

Moments of glory

Moments of glory happen when we exceed customer expectations during an interaction where they have difficulties, need help or encouragement, or simply would welcome something ‘extra’. These positive moments can occur at any stage of the journey, although their intensity will vary.

Let’s consider a few examples of moments of glory from different business domains:

  • A discount coupon on an e-commerce website during the ‘First visit’ stage (see the e-commerce journey map templates in our library);
  • A drink or a compliment from the chef at a restaurant on the ‘Waiting for the order’ stage;
  • A proactive call from a support agent to ask whether you have any suggestions for the software you use on the ‘Renewal’ stage.
  • An achievement banner on an online-learning platform on the ‘Product use’ stage.
an achievement in DuoLingo
Source: Duolingo

All moments of glory have one thing in common: a match with customer needs and motivations. But what matters to one person might not be as important to another. That’s where creating personas can help, as you will learn more about the triggers your audience responds to.

Moments of pain

Moments of pain are the customer’s miserable moments. That’s when the product or service disappoints them, they don’t feel heard, or are left alone with a problem. Similar to moments of glory, moments of pain can occur anywhere along the journey but tend to make it shorter.

Some examples of moments of pain to better understand the concept:

  • A customer leaves a quote request for a company during the ‘Research’ stage but never gets a reply;
  • A flower delivery comes too early or too late, ruining the birthday surprise;
  • Two patients come for a doctor’s appointment at the same time due to a glitch on the ‘Schedule a visit’ stage, and one of them has to go home;
  • A support agent is being rude to the client who has a service issue on the ‘Setup’ stage;
  • A customer’s credit card gets charged even though they’ve discontinued their subscription for an online service.

From your side of things, moments of pain may indicate that there is a gap in customer experience. Sometimes the service itself is good, but there is a lack of coordination between different departments. A great way to reveal these journey breakdowns is to make a service blueprint and link each moment of pain with a flaw on the organizational level.

service blueprint template
A service blueprint template looks similar to a journey map, except it doesn’t just account for what a customer is going through, but also explores the company’s structure and response.

Discovering moments of pain in your customer’s journey is not necessarily a bad thing. You can use that information to smooth out a negative experience and prevent customer churn. Showing empathy and acknowledging the problem exists can be enough to get through a moment of pain.

Four discrete moments of truth

There is also a four-point classification proposed by a customer experience author Brian Solis. It's based on the chronological order of how moments of truth appear in the customer journey:

  • Zero moment of truth. A person looks for information online and forms the first impression of a brand.
  • First moment of truth. The customer sees the product or gets to use the service for the first time and makes up their mind about it.
  • Second moment of truth. The subsequent ‘collection’ of moments that incorporate your customers’ senses: what they feel, see, hear, touch, and smell.
  • Ultimate moment of truth. The customer is ready to share their opinion about your brand, usually by publishing some form of content, like a social media post or a public review.

You can take this in-depth classification into account when looking for moments of truth at each stage of your customer journey map.

How to identify moments of truth

  • Hold a team meeting with the customer-facing departments. These specialists generally know what motivates and frustrates clients and what are the highs and lows of their current emotional journeys.
  • Look at the data you have. Support queries, contact center logs, call transcripts, survey results, online reviews: any kind of customer feedback you collect. Chances are, your clients have already indicated the moments of pain and glory.
  • Collect (more) research data. You can send out an email survey asking customers to describe the moments when they feel excited or disappointed. Customer interviews and other user research methods: focus groups, diary studies, observational sessions, etc. — will also do the job.
  • If your project is still in the early stages of development, it's a good idea to look at your competitors. You can even try their service as a customer. This will help you identify their moments of truth and provide some insights on how to handle them in your service in the future.
  • If you're looking for a comprehensive approach to identifying moments of truth, consider involving your team in a project review process. By gathering insights from customer-facing departments and analyzing data such as support queries, contact center logs, and customer feedback, you can uncover key moments of pain and glory in the customer journey. Additionally, conducting user research and examining competitor experiences can provide valuable insights for identifying and addressing moments of truth in your service.

How to highlight moments of truth in UXPressia

At this point, you’re probably wondering how to add moments of truth to your journey map at UXPressia. No matter which of the following options you choose, you can use the journey map legend to share the approach with the whole team.

Using a text section

You can use any text section to mark a moment of glory or a moment of pain. Simply add it to a new or existing section, like the ones describing the process or problems. Use different text formatting: fonts, colors, icons, or styles to make the ‘moment of truth’ indication stand out from the rest of the text.

using a text section for moments of truth

By adding a specific channel icon

Add a new Channels section:

adding a new channels section

Mark moments of truth with your own custom channel icons or use the ‘Star’ icon from the default icon set. Delete the empty tiles that do not contain any moments of glory or pain. The end-result would look something like this:

moments of truth as channels

By tweaking the experience graph

Add a new Experience section:

adding a new experience section

You can get creative with how you use the graph to show moments of pain and moment of glory. One way to do it could be to keep the emotions that the customer’s going through, but use the text sections where customer quotes usually go to spell out the moments of truth:

experience graph with moments of truth

With touchpoints

Last but not least, you can use a dedicated touchpoint section to show moments of truth on your journey maps. Each touchpoint comes with a visual tag:

adding new touchpoints

Now, after you add touchpoints to the map itself, you’ll be able to tell apart moments of pain, moments of glory, or just moments of truth in general:

touchpoints on a journey map

On the left-side panel, where personas and touchpoints are displayed, you can also filter by touchpoint category:

filtering by touchpoints

Key takeaways

Moments of truth are the most memorable parts of a customer’s journey. Positive instances are called moments of glory, while negative encounters are moments of pain. To recognize and track them for different personas, you’ll need to take a closer look at what your customers expect before the experience and what they’re saying, thinking, and feeling during and after it happens.

It’s essential to consider an end-to-end journey since moments of truth may happen during any stage. Moments of truth have a significant impact on the overall business image, and, consequently, on retention and revenue. Work on eliminating major pain points and replacing them with enough glorious occurrences to retain more customers and turn them into happy brand ambassadors.

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6 years ago

Used this info for a workshop on moments of truth in customer journeys. We have been getting low ratings, but only have resources to improve one stage at a time. Now we have goals set to fix our worst moment of pain.

1 year ago

I own a small coffee point, and we do a similar practice during regular staff meetings. We look at online reviews and note the positives and negatives that customers share. Then it’s reinforce the positive, eliminate the negative. Say, we had instances where baristas mixed up regular and plant-based milk, which was a big no-no, so we started storing them on separate shelves. Now I know that’s called looking for moments of truth in customer journey 🙂