What is a Moment of Truth?

A moment of truth is an interaction between your customers and product or customer service that is so impactful it influences their perception of your brand. Some people expand on this definition to add that moments of truth require high amounts of emotional energy.

We’re using a slightly different interpretation than Carlzon’s definition above, because moments of truth don’t only have to happen the first time a customer interacts with your employees, and they don’t always require employee interaction. They can happen at any point during a customer’s relationship with your brand, which is why it’s so important to focus on creating a positive experience at every point in the customer lifecycle.

Your frontline employees will occasionally play a critical role in these moments of truth. After all, you may have the best product in the world, with amazing branding at an affordable price point, but if your customer service is lacking, it will sour your customers’ perception of your brand.

Why are Moments of Truth Important?

Put simply, moments of truth can be make or break moments for your customers. When handled well, a positive moment of truth can lead to long-term brand loyalty and advocacy. When handled poorly, you may lose a customer forever—along with anyone they may have referred to your brand.

High-quality customer service often reflects a high-quality company. Your goal should be to facilitate positive moments of truth at every opportunity and empower your customer service team members to do the same. You should also ensure your products can sell themselves on their own (with informative and engaging packaging, high-quality materials, etc.)

How Many Moments of Truth Are There?

How many moments of truth might a customer encounter during their time interacting with your company? Public opinion on this differs a bit, but normally customers can experience between three to five moments of truth during a customer lifecycle. We’ll be detailing four discrete moments of truth and sharing ways to create positive experiences during each moment below.

What are the Four Moments of Truth?


A graphic depicting the four moments of truth

1. Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)  

Google coined the term Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) in 2011 in response to the evolution of consumer research and decision-making. According to Google, the ZMOT is an online decision-making moment, or, “the moment in the buying process when the consumer researches a product prior to purchase.” Consumers put a lot of time and thought into what they want to buy. For some shoppers, the time between deciding to buy something and actually making a purchase can be several months.

You can influence the ZMOT by showing up when customers begin this research process. Digital ads, SEO, customer reviews, and a rich online presence can help ensure you’re engaging customers before they ever interact with your brand or customer service in-person.

2. First Moment of Truth (FMOT)

The First Moment of Truth (FMOT) was defined by Procter & Gamble: they explain that a shopper makes up their mind about a product within seconds, and the FMOT is when that decision is made during their first encounter with your products. Maybe they pick up a bottle of shampoo and read the description on the back of the bottle, or a salesperson tries to pitch them a new hair serum that promises to resolve dry, damaged hair. The FMOT goes well when your product (or customer service team) can clearly show how your product can fulfill their needs. Their perceptions during this moment will influence whether or not they make a purchase.

3. Second Moment of Truth (SMOT)

The Second Moment of Truth is when a customer truly experiences your product for the first time. It can happen before or after a purchase. For instance, if a customer samples the aforementioned hair serum in-store, they’d be experiencing their SMOT. But if they buy it in-store without trying it, then test it out later that day, they’d be experiencing their SMOT post-purchase. Their satisfaction with their experience will dictate whether or not they continue a relationship with your brand.

4. Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT)

The Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT) occurs when a customer develops an emotional response to your product or service and decides whether or not to share their opinions on their experience. Let’s say someone is in the market for a new set of luxury sleepwear. They purchase a matching set from your brand, try it on, and love it. Two weeks after their purchase, they receive an email from your company soliciting their feedback on their purchase. Because they love their new pajama set so much, they give it a five star review and write up their thoughts. Or, if they bought it in store, they may point out the same set next time they’re out shopping with a friend.

Here’s an important thing to note: one customer’s UMOT (buy a product, love it, and share a review about it) may become the ZMOT (Zero Moment of Truth) for another customer early on in the research process. That’s why it’s important not only to facilitate positive customer interactions, but also to encourage happy customers to share their feedback for others who may be in the market for your products.

Improve Your Customer Knowledge to Improve Your Customer Experience

Understanding the Moments of Truth is the first step towards facilitating better customer interactions and fostering long-term brand loyalty. Another important step in this process is ensuring you know everything there is to know about your customers.

If you’d like to better understand your customers and their decision-making, the team at Starlight Analytics can help. Our suite of custom research services, including social listening and price testing, include proprietary data modeling techniques that offer a thorough, practical approach to learning more about your customers. We can help you identify the key insights you need to connect on a deeper level with your customers. Because the more you know about your customers, the better you can make their customer experience.

Contact us to get started.