I first became aware of the concept of “Moments of Truth” while reading about the financial recovery of the SAS Group and Scandinavian Airlines…Scandia Air. A man by the name of Jan Carlzon had been appointed CEO of this cash-strapped, problem plagued airline. Mr. Carlzon was extremely successful in the European hotel business but was now charged to overhaul, retool and re-incubate this business model to a profitable enterprise while embracing a complete corporate brand identity re-design. An MBA graduate from Stockholm School of Economics, Mr. Carlzon was in this leadership role from 1981 to 1994.
WOW! What an opportunity…only one way to go and that is upward….but also an astounding challenge. This airline was ranked 14th out of 17 European airlines for on-time arrivals.
After much contemplation, Mr. Carlzon decided if the airline was going to make an abrupt “turn-around,” it would only happen if predicated upon a concept he labelled “Moments of Truth.” A Moment of Truth was defined as any time a customer was touched, whether direct or indirect, positively or negatively, by Scandia Air!
And so the process began. Mr. Carlzon personally met with each functional group of the company. He set the tone of what the Scandia Air customer experience was to mirror - the standards that must be met and the metrics, the KPIs, Key Performance Indicators, that all would have to adopt and use for measurement of performance. A laser focus was put on meeting and/or exceeding objectives.
His aggressive agenda was laid out to the flight crew, the flight attendants, ticketing agents and the marketing department. No one was overlooked. He met with the luggage handlers, the AirFrame/Power Plant mechanics, the maintenance staff, the ramp crew, legal and all support staff. Everyone had to be acutely aware of daily expectations. Everyone had to be on the same page.
This discussion went far beyond just being nice to people, being courteous to people or looking happy. It was about creativity and doing…thinking about what would make a positive, unexpected difference to the customer regardless of whether it was big or small.
For example, a ticketed passenger is on board, at a window seat, looks out the window and sees her suitcase kicked around the tarmac like a hockey puck…not a positive “Moment of Truth”….not acceptable…and not part of the emerging culture.
On the other hand, an elderly, confused, distraught looking passenger was noticed by an SAS employee. This employee approached the passenger, determined the need and escorted her to the gate. The passenger was not just left at the gate, this employee made sure another team member took over and ushered the passenger to her seat on the aircraft!
SAS had weekly contests. Employees would submit examples of outstanding “Moments of Truth” and winners were selected and recognized and rewarded. Un-Truths were also cited so they could be eradicated from the SAS universe.
Customer centricity became the order and rule of the day. The culture slowly but surely shifted. Eyes were wide open looking for opportunities to serve: those “Moments of Truth” to exceed customer expectations.
So what about implementation? The change was driven by decentralization - empowering employees to make decisions. As Mr. Carlzon said, “No frontline person has to wait for a supervisor; we now solve problems on the spot.”
A huge training initiative began. Called First Wave, it became The Scandinavian Service School which was so successful it was exported to other airlines such as British Airways and Japan Airlines..
Not only were the benefits of the training seen outside the organization, but an internal metamorphous took place as well. Co-workers became more respectful of each other, more willing to assist each other in providing extraordinary service to the customer. Ideas and innovation took root. It tested the strength and fabric of systems and processes and the need for change and created Champions of Change.
In just two years, SAS went from 14th in on time arrivals to be named Airline of the Year in 1983 and 1984 by Air Transport World. In just two years, a total transformation was engineered by a Transformational Leader.
Who provides this kind of Leadership in your company? And what do you do with this information? Get the team together. Determine “Moments of Truth” for those on the phone, in vehicles, frontline and face-to-face, in marketing, in branding, in social media. Define the goals and the requirements and measurements. Don’t totally direct your efforts externally. Look for those important internal “Moments of Truth” as well.
Then track results. Do not risk missing those golden “Moments of Truth” with your customers and with your employees. And be sure to share performance numbers: where we are and where we need to go in order to move the needle forward.
Ask yourself, “What was a “Moment of Truth” I created for a customer today? Or an employee? And add more positive moments day-by-day, week-by-week, employee-by-employee until your company is the one that customers come to because it always exceeds expectations.
Noteable Quotes from Jan Carlzon
- “We have 50,000 moments of truth every day.”
- “An individual without information cannot take responsibility.”
- “I learned that before you reach an objective, you have to be ready with a new one, and you must start communicating it to the organization…the pathway to the goal is what is important, not necessarily the goal itself.”