Quite a few years ago, Jan Carlzon wrote a book titled Moments of Truth. At the time, Calzon was the CEO of Scandinavian Airlines Systems and had helped the company reorient itself to become customer-driven. In his own words, a company that recognizes that its only true assets are satisfied customers, all of whom expect to be treated as individuals and who won’t select them as their airline unless they did just that.
I love the story that opens the book. Rudy Peterson, a business man, had forgotten his ticket and was able to fly all the same thanks to the promptness of one of the airline’s ticket agents. How many times have I heard from a friend who had not had such luck and had to fork more funds to buy another ticket instead!
The moment of truth for Carlzon was every opportunity to make a difference when in contact with customers, by and large on the front lines. Is your organization actively engaged on the front lines? Are you actively involved in satisfying customers?
The example of the airline hits it home for me as nowadays there are more occasions when airline travel is more than challenging for all involved. It seems that the employees on the front lines often are power-less. In Carlzon’s words, “An individual without information cannot take responsibility; an individual who is given information cannot help but take responsibility.”
It seems to me that social media tools can help achieve even greater information sharing inside organizations. That employees in the front lines should be able to have all of the collective power of the organization to put at the service of customers today.
Customer-engagement is critical for the success of an organization and in a knowledg-driven economy, the power of information cannot be underestimated. And with instant messaging and mobile applications look for that expectation of fast response to be increasing.
Why not arm your colleagues on the front lines with every bit of intelligence you can gather on that customer right in front of them? Why not align the whole organization to reach out and help? There are many defining moments in a business. Few of them would qualify as moments of truth if they don’t involve knowing and even anticipating what a customer wants and needs.
In a customer-driven company, the distribution of roles is radically different. The organization is decentralized and the responsibility rests upon the people on the front lines. The extensive changes in this flatter organization need to start at C-level. As Machiavelli wisely wrote, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
What’s your moment of truth?