Moments of Truth

Moments of Truth

Jan Carlzon, former president of SAS, Scandinavian Airlines took the old phrase ‘the moment of truth’ and applied it to business in a very powerful way. The airline had been performing poorly when he took it over but within a very short space of time he had turned it around to become one of the most successful in the industry, respected as a model of how things should be done. Then (don’t they all!) he wrote a book. He entitled the book ‘Moments of Truth’ .

He proposed that every critical point of customer interaction with the company is a moment of truth. For most businesses the most critical moment of truth is the actual transaction and that’s why Artefact raises the topic at this point in the strategic marketing model. But there are moments of truth before the transaction which may prevent the transaction from ever taking place, like if the prospective customer asks you a question and you don’t answer it. There can be moments of truth after the transaction which may prevent the customer from ever coming back again, like if he/she requires some after sales service only to find that you’ve lost all interest now that you’ve pocketed the money.
Carlzon defined moments of truth thus:
” Any time a customer comes into contact with any aspect of your business, however remote, that customer has an opportunity to form an impression.”

When you phone to make your flight reservation, it’s a moment of truth. You get efficient, friendly, speedy service, or you get music played at you, recorded messages, long delays and you come away totally frustrated. When you go to check in for your flight, there’s another moment of truth. The service provided by the cabin crew is another, and so on.

Every single one of these – and the many other major and minor – key points of interaction between the customer and the supplier provides an opportunity for you to shine or to disappoint. Each is a moment of truth. Carlzon’s airline operated in a culture focussed on the product, the package, the engineering, the scheduling. All of these are necessary but the customer must not be incidental to the process. Carlzon’s achievement was one of marketing. He put the customer at the centre of the process. So, when it came to the transaction – check in and fly to your destination – the objective was to give the customer a great experience. Sure you had to make the plane fly safely and on time and with the baggage going in the same direction as the customer. These things were essential, but not the objective. They were incidental to the objective! So staff smiled, the food improved, the check-in lines were shorter and faster. Staff were anxious to avoid problems for customers and if there was one, to fix it flexibly, creatively, quickly! What a difference!

When the customer transacts with you it may be a good, bad or indifferent experience. You know which one it has to be. Examine the points at which the customer comes into contact with your business on the following basis and ask in relation to each point of interaction “is there anything at this contact point which might make my customer’s experience less than excellent?”

Artefact provides just a few examples to get you started, but you should make the list that’s right for you. Do not allow any part of your customer’s total experience with you to be any less than a magical moment of truth. That goes double for the transaction, the most critical interaction of them all.

Point of Transaction:
Post-Transaction: .
When the customer….
Sees your banner ad
Wants an easy payment method
Needs help with assembly
Sees your website
Wants quick delivery
Needs a problem put right
Seeks information
Wants no errors in specification
Needs maintenance
Tries to place an order
Wants batteries included
Needs parts/accessories
Wants a test drive
Can only collect on the weekend
Needs advice