Pity the poor used car salesperson. Survey after survey shows these purveyors of the pre-owned work in one of the least trusted professions, mired in a cesspool of lobbyists, telemarketers, and (gasp!) business executives. There are many reasons for this distrust, but part of it has to be the frustrating ordeal of buying a used car.
Given the industry’s reputation, and my own encounters with it, a recent auto dealership commercial caught me by surprise. It featured a customer so enamored with the used-car buying experience that he, purportedly, gave his endorsement without compensation. After extolling the virtues of the salesperson, the service department, and the dealership as a whole, he made an amazing statement: “I had an extraordinary buying experience.”
Internal auditors are generally not included in surveys of “trusted professionals,” but I imagine we would not appear particularly high or low on such a list. Our reputations have improved significantly over the years, though we are still haunted by lingering perceptions of audit professionals as snitches, nitpickers, compliance tyrants, and even bayoneters of the wounded. These perceptions are dying a well-deserved, none-too-soon death. But they still drive some people’s approaches and reactions to internal audit.
Accordingly, I think any of us would be shocked to hear someone say, “I had an extraordinary internal audit experience.” But shouldn’t we be trying for just that level of service? Shouldn’t we be doing the extra work that would turn even our friends, supporters, and advocates into raving fans? Shouldn’t we be trying to make every internal audit an extraordinary experience?
If so, we first have to figure out what an extraordinary audit experience looks like. And that means we have to identify and understand every step every stakeholder experiences in every internal audit project.
During the 1980s, Jan Carlzon, CEO of Scandinavian Airlines System, coined the phrase “moments of truth” to describe each and every time the customer comes into contact with an organization or department. He described how these moments of truth represent the point in time when customers are forming their opinions. By focusing on these moments, he suggested, the organization or department could better manage them, thereby better managing customers’ perceptions and creating a more positive experience.
For internal audit to deliver service our stakeholders will consider extraordinary, we must identify each and every one of these moments. We must determine why each is occurring, understand what the customer wants from that touch point, and develop ways to make each of those individual experiences the best they can be. If we manage those touch points — if we make each of those moments unforgettable — then, and only then, will our stakeholders walk away saying, “I just had an extraordinary internal audit experience.”