Did your customer service offer a moment of truth today?

Let me share a couple of moments of truth from my day today.

It’s been a long one. I’ve been tramping round a trade show all day before making my weary way back to my hotel. I’d planned to pick up my bag, catch up on some work for an hour or two then head to the station for a late train home — a slave to the post 6pm ticket bargain!

I trundled into the hotel bar (which at 4pm was deserted) and was greeted warmly by the barman.

We chatted as I looked around, mentally attempting to pick the best spot for a mobile office. We joked about laptop v’s bar table heights and the backache that might ensue. A temporary ‘standing desk’ at the bar perhaps? Maybe not.

We collaborated over suitable table selection. Coffee was ordered. Laptop set up. I cracked on.

Now all I had ordered was a basic black coffee. I was expecting a cup of filter at best.

What arrived at my table a moment or two later was freshly made coffee, all the accompaniments, a glass of iced water and a few chocolates on the side to sweeten my day. Perfect.

Fast forward a few hours and I’m catching the train.

Should I grab some food at the station? Heck no! Remembering I’d I opted for a bargain first class ticket — complementary dinner will be available surely?

I board the train. There’s a menu at my seat promising all sorts of delights. It’s been a loooong day.

I’m so ready for food.

The trolley trundles down the aisle.

It’s a very sad, empty looking trolley….

Heart sinks.

Despite celeb chef James Martin’s face smiling up at me from the menu, in which he promises all sorts of treats, the only thing on offer was a soggy sandwich.

“It’s all that’s left” — news delivered by a sullen hostess in a tone which said ‘take or leave it I — don’t give a toss’.

I’m immediately reminded how often my old and new worlds collide.

Prior to this current, exciting realm of home decor entrepreneurship, I inhabited the world of corporate learning and development. I spent my days as a customer experience guru. Hours (or days….or weeks….) spent teaching the finer points of customer service. How to balance the delivery of five star service with the commercial awareness needed to succeed in today’s business world.

A world I now find myself competing in.

A world where I diligently strive to wow my customers.

A world where I’m endlessly bemused by the shockingly low level of service delivered by others.

Let me tell you a short tale about one of my heroes in all things customer service.

He is a Swede by the name of Jan Carlzon. Back in the day I would trot out his wise words at every opportunity.

Cue much rolling of eyes from my students.

Jan Carlzon became CEO of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) in 1981, during desperate times. The airline was in bad shape and staff engagement was at an all time low. And the passengers? The all important customer? Did anyone care? It seems, my friend, that no-one did. Desperate times indeed.

Our hero turned things around for SAS.

Within two years of Carlzon taking over, Air Transport World would vote SAS ‘Airline of the Year’.

This incredible change of direction, and the methods employed to accomplish it, is chronicled in Jan Carlzon’s book Moments of Truth which was first published back in 1985. These are not new fangled principles people!

In his book Carlzon explains that the ‘moment of truth’ occurs in those 15 second encounters that exist between any front line employee and the customer. By focusing on getting those moments right Carlzon was able to reverse the fortunes of his whole organisation.

Without exception we are on the receiving end of these moments of truth daily. We’re constantly forming impressions of organisations based on these, often brief, interactions. We then make decisions on starting, continuing or ending our dealings with said businesses based hugely on those short ‘moment of truth’ encounters.

  • The coffee barista who makes the effort to remember your regular order.
  • The driver who pulls his bus away from the stop when you know he saw you running to catch it.
  • The store employee who rushes to open the door for you when you’re laden with bags and a brolly.

The good, the bad and the downright ugly. They all make an impression.

  • The barman who engages you in friendly chat and brings you a little extra with your coffee.
  • The hostess who makes no apology for or make up for the lack of meal options on your train.

Whose company do you think you’re going to spend your hard earned cash with?

Whose company will you recommend to friends?

Whose company will you promote or berate on social media?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a global organisation or a one man band, the principles remain the same.

You need to make the effort to create daily, positive moments of truth for your customers.

Look for examples as you go through your day. Notice the good and the bad. Decide what you’d like to emulate and what you definitely don’t.

At the end of each day can you honestly say ‘I gave some great moments of truth today!’

Not all positive moments of truth come at a cost to you or your business, most cost you nothing at all.

The cost of a negative moment of truth? That could be a price too high to pay.

Which will yours be?

Written by Lynn McMurray

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