Moments of Truth
Jan Carlson, the head honcho at Scandinavian Airways, turned the one-time troubled company around from operating in the red to highly profitable. How? By focus ing on those specific moments when a customer could make a judgment call about his company. He called these instances “Moments of Truth.” I like this concept and refer to it often as a fundamental element of winning over prospects and clients. It takes discipline to effectively cash in on this idea, but it is time well spent.
Where and what constitutes a moment of truth in business? Here is an example. If you are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to travel for business and frequently stay at hotels, I want you to check the answer to this question (number 2 pencil, Ho!). Who is more important to you:
___ A. The President of the hotel chain;
___ B. The associate manager who mans the registration counters; or
___ C. The person who makes your bed and sets your room straight each and every morning?
I don’t think I have to tell you that it is almost never choice A and rarely B. The chamber maid dressed in black and white work clothes humbly slinks through the hallways with her head bowed in fear that she may make eye contact with one of the guests. Yet she and her work are the most frequent Moment of Truth in the hotel.
Jump To The Pump
New Jersey and Oregon are still the only two states in the entire U S of A who believe that their citizens aren’t quite squared away enough to pump their own gasoline. (I suppose New Jersey’s Governor supports this law to insure that dumb Jersey guys like me don’t stick the gas hose into the exhaust pipe and ruin the meticulous balance of nature we enjoy in the Garden State.)
The truth is, who in their right mind wants to step out into the cold and rain while inhaling noxious fumes (from the gas, not the Jersey air!) while “filling er up.” I find it quite civilized to roll into an establishment built for refueling automobiles and simply say, “To the top if you please!” This requirement to “use an attendant” creates a Moment of Truth and an opportunity that station owners in pump-it-yourself states do not have. The trouble is, the owners in attendant states usually miss the opportunity.
More often than not, the hired “gasser uppers” are minimum wagers, take-me- as-you-see me, “customer? . . . what’s a customer?” types. The owners of the station can usually be found where the real profits are made . . . back in the bay polishing a number 6 hex wrench.
From the safe vantage point of my cozy and ergonomically correct driver’s seat, here is how I interpret this Moment of Truth:
- Owners in the back . . . new guys in the front.
- Customers in the back . . .prospects in the front.
- Polite knowledgeable customer service guy (a potential closer) in the back . . . guy without a clue ignoring prospects at the pumps.
If it were my gas station, I would hire a good mechanic to take care of repairing my customers’ cars — the best mechanic money could buy. Meanwhile, I (the guy who cares most about the business and knows how to make people feel comfortable) would man the pumps and gently persuade the prospects to eventually trust me with their cars and their pocketbooks when it came to expensive fix-it jobs.
Truth Or Consequences
Moments of Truth are everywhere . . . each time the phone rings . . . when someone enters your place of business . . . when you or your staff provide any information or assistance to prospects or customers. Each and every time an outsider can make a judgement about you and your company is a Moment of Truth.
Since these Moments are critical in converting prospects into customers (and retaining them as customers) then we better begin polishing our image where the rubber meets the road . . . at first contact.
Here is what I want you to do. Starting right here, from now on, recognize and pay homage to those individuals in your company who actually touch the customer. Don’t miss a single opportunity to help sensitize these “goodwill ambassadors” to the Moments of Truth they will confront each day. Get them feeling good about themselves by reminding them of the importance of the work they do.
Who are the most important (based on first impression) people in your company? And what are the most common Moments of Truth? You need to ask and answer these questions.
One often overlooked Moment of Truth occurs with your switchboard operator or receptionist. This is your company’s first line of communication. The receptionist/operator’s actions and reactions communicate and advertise the caliber of your firm. They speak volumes for and about the company’s personality, its care of personnel and its overall style of doing business. These key people are usually the most modestly paid professionals, on the lowest rung of the corporate ladder, and get the least marketing training. Yet, they are in fact, among the most important people on the food chain. Where managers often go wrong is to treat receptionists/operators as “entry level” personnel (whatever that means).
Employees, if trained to understand the importance of their Moment of Truth, can be among your greatest competitive advantages in this day of price discounting and impersonal technology. Every employee is in a position to do the company good . . . or harm.
One Final Point: The people who care most about the business, and know most about the business, are often the hardest people for customers to speak with. The lowest paid and newest employees are always the easiest people to speak with.
So, if you aren’t doing so now, immerse yourself in direct prospect and customer contact. Learn to identify those hidden Moments of Truth, evaluate how you and your firm perform at those moments, and work toward a five-star rating.