Moments of Truth

That title comes from the book by Jan Carlzon, former president of Scandinavian Airlines.  He is credited with changing SAS from an also-ran airline, losing money and having a reputation such that you could rely on its flights being late, to one recognised as being one of the most punctual in the world.  Carlzon’s focus was on customers, recognising that, without them, business was a waste of time and money.  His star idea, encapsulated in the title, is that each customer experiences a moment when he or she realises what the company they’re dealing with is really like.  There may be later moments when theta view is reinforced, or possible changed, and it can also apply to products.

It doesn’t happen for every customer in the same way, at the same time or for the same feature.  Indeed, the same set of circumstances can lead to opposing realisations for different customers.  It’s not a formula for planning and delivering customer satisfaction from the back-office – it relies on front-line staff being sensitive to customer needs and reactions – certainly for such a service driven business as an airline.  But the principles can be applied to almost any business.

The best way to appreciate the situation is to recall your own experiences as a customer – we’re all customers and will have such moments.  Take restaurant visits and, from your own experiences, you will try to recognise some of the times and experiences that made you think “this is a good restaurant and I want to come back” or “never again!”  Sometimes it may be the food, other times the service or, perhaps, just the welcome at the front door; it might be the range on the menu, the table you were given or the overall ambience that evening.  It’s likely to be different for each restaurant and a return visit might not turn out as expected.  But, when companies recognise such moments they can respond and reinforce and make the good service the norm, rather than the exception.

In his book, Carlzon points out that (at the time of writing in the mid 1980’s) that each of SAS’ 10million customers had an average of five contacts with its staff each year, with each contact lasting an average of 15 seconds – 50 million moments of truth each year and 50 million opportunities to dermic if the company will succeed or fail.

The same can apply with a product you buy, the time you realise it was a good purchase and you’ll be buying another (or from the same supplier) or recommending it to friends – or when you realise it was a mistake…

(Carlzon, Jan. 1987. Moments of Truth. Cambridge, Mass. Ballinger.)

(Posted as a blog 14th July 2013)