“Last year, each of our 10 million customers came in contact with approximately five SAS employees, and this contact lasted an average of 15 seconds each time. Thus, 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.” Jan Carlzon, “Moments of Truth” (Chief Executive Officer of Scandinavian Airlines System Group from 1981–1994)
The customer experience phraseology has moved from moments of truth to touchpoints, but the philosophy behind the wording is even more valid today in our world of high tech and low touch.
I have just had to take my car in for a service. Let’s be clear, this is always a grudge purchase, especially when the motor plan has expired. My early experiences of garages were of very male, oily, dirty places with a tattered car or ‘girlie’ magazines lying around. Thankfully the motor-service industry has grown up and cottoned onto the fact that their customers are male and female and often quite discerning! This particular garage has clearly identified some of the customer touchpoints and they have made a concerted effort to touch positively.
It was a seamless process of being greeted and directed by security through to being dropped off by a courtesy vehicle. Friendliness, efficiency, plus a dash of humor ensured that despite having to fork out on stuff I can’t wear or eat, I was a happy customer. I estimate that the whole drop and go procedure lasted a mere twenty minutes, the majority of which I was seated comfortably catching up on the Olympics whilst sipping coffee. If at any one of the touchpoints, I had received apathy or a lack of courtesy, I would have had a very different opinion. This is how easy it is to make or break the customer experience. Carlzon was instrumental in turning around SAS and he did so by making sure that every moment of truth with a customer was as easy and pleasant as possible; more specifically, the person in charge of each moment was exactly that – in charge. S/he had the ability and responsibility to act to ensure the customer had a positive experience.
Just as the car service industry has stepped up to the challenge, so can any business. Here are a few trends you may wish to consider when evaluating your touchpoints:
Do it faster! My teenage kids listen in horror and fascination with my tales of the dinosaur age when people had no cell phones. Imagine their expressions when I told them about ‘party lines’ and ‘nommer asseblief?’ The Y generation are the instant, 24/7 generation. They have literally never had to wait for anything and they really don’t ‘get’ dated concepts such as office hours or 7 day turnaround times. Their world is available at the touch of a button whenever and wherever... Time is something they and perhaps most customers give you very grudgingly. Don’t waste it.
Do it simpler! Make it easy for me to transact with you. If it can be automated or digitalised then do so, but make sure it works. This frees up precious time and energy to make sure that at the points where human touch is necessary or desirable those moments of truth are memorable. A brilliant smile, a gesture of consideration, a willingness to bend the rules for a reason.
Do it expertly! Quality is simply not negotiable. Not only do returns, refunds and reworks damage the bottom line, they damage reputation. Social media is littered with requests for people to recommend ‘reliable’ or ‘honest’ service providers. Are you a dependable provider and are your staff empowered to make the right decision?
Do it fairly! The ‘green’ dollar is becoming very powerful and I am not referring to the US greenback. Customers, especially younger customers are concerned about the environment. They are sensitive to how a company treats its staff and they want to know from where products are sourced. Is your business aligned with accepted fair trade principles and is your carbon footprint light or heavy?
Do it warmly! It’s simple really. Be nice.
Work hard to make every 15 seconds with your customer count. Your reward will be when you count the Rands in the bank.
Author: Janet Askew
Janet is a trainer, coach, speaker and writer who is passionate about promoting women in business and SMME development. In addition to her consulting work, she is a director of Essentially Natural and serves on the board of the Wot-If? Trust.