Lex Tannenbaum

Have you ever taken the time to reflect on how the choices you’ve made in your life have got you to where you are, or to wonder what might have been had you taken a different path?

We’ve all come to times in our life when we’ve been faced with a ‘moment of truth’,  a decision we’ve had to make, or an obstacle we’ve had to overcome, to get to where we currently are.

Business works the same way, with seemingly insignificant moments of truth playing a huge part in determining whether customers continue to use our services, and recommend us to friends and colleagues.

This concept of the ‘moment of truth’ is a vital element of customer service.  A ‘moment of truth’ occurs each time a customer, or potential customer, interacts with your company, product or service, in such a way that a judgment can be made.

In the airline industry, for example, these moments of truth occur when the customer is booking a ticket, checking in, entering the plane, and receiving service on the flight.  At each of these interactions, the customer will make a judgment on the quality of service, and that judgment will determine the desire and willingness to use the airline again.

In late 1981, Jan Carlzon became the CEO of Scandinavian Air Services (SAS), a struggling airline, losing money, and ranked 14th out of 17 with regard to service. His brief was to turn it around, and make it profitable.

Within a year of his taking over, SAS was not only was profitable but was also  the most punctual airline in Europe. Carlzon’s most visible strategy was to focus on customer service.  He noted that:

“Last year each of our 10 million customers came in contact with approximately 5 SAS employees, and this contact lasted an average of 15 seconds each time.  The SAS is ‘created’ 50 million times a year, 15 seconds at a time. These 50 million ‘moments of truth’ are the moments that ultimately determine whether SAS will succeed or fail as a company.  They are the moments when we must prove to our customers that SAS is their best alternative.”

Carlzon went further to demonstrate how important moments of truth are.  SAS conducted a customer survey, in two parts. In the first part, they distributed survey forms to 30,000 customers as they boarded the plane, asking them questions on 4 issues: the cleanliness of the plane, the cleanliness of the toilets, the competence of the pilots, and the mechanics of the engines.  The forms were collected before the plane took off, and results were all good – the plane and the toilets were exceptionally clean, the pilots were overly competent, and the mechanics of the engines were excellent.

The second part of the survey was similar – with one difference.  Before the passengers boarded the plane, the staff left coffee cup stains on the tray tables on the third row from the back, and then folded the trays back up.  They handed out the survey forms as the passengers boarded, and collected them before the plane took off. The results were similar – except for the third row from the back.  Without exception, the passengers in that row said that the plane was filthy, the toilets were dirty, the pilots were incompetent, and the engines weren’t in good condition. Remember – this was before the plane took off, before anyone had used the toilets, before the passengers had a chance to judge the pilots or the engines.  

What SAS found out was that when a passenger folded down of a tray table,  that was a vital moment of truth. If the airline couldn’t take the trouble to clean the tray tables, it obviously wouldn’t clean the toilets properly, the pilots wouldn’t be properly trained, and the aircraft maintenance would be sloppy.  

Paddy Lund, a dentist is Queensland, found a similar moment of truth in his surgery – in the opposite direction.  He had a receptionist who was a bit obsessive about cleaning – he was constantly wiping and sweeping and dusting the reception area, and he drove Dr Lund to distraction.  He was just about to discipline the receptionist, when he heard one of his patients remark to a friend that if he was so particular about keeping his reception area clean, he must have all the best equipment, and be a fine dentist.  He discovered an important moment of truth.

What is your moment of truth? There will be many in your business.  Can you identify them, and make sure that your customers, or prospects, will be so pleased with their interaction that they will want to come back?

The success or failure of your business could depend on your answer.

Want to get started building processes around your key customer contact points? Book a chat with Business Coach Lex Tannenbaum today.