Moments of Truth: Measuring Where it Matters Most

You can’t monitor and audit every tiny facet of your business, or you won’t have time to run the business.  So where does execution matter most?  It matters most in the critical moments I call Moments of Truth—the moments where execution can mean the difference between success and failure.

Moments of Truth are those critical times when a customer forms an impression of you, deciding whether your offerings and their standards see eye-to-eye.  Though they vary from industry to industry and business to business, every business has them.

Jan Carlson took over the reins of Scandinavian Air at a time when the airline was suffering an $8 million loss and turned it around to a $71 million profit within one year.

He created a miracle with more than a hope and a prayer or even a little charismatic leadership. He created a strategy that was so airtight it left no room for misinterpretation.

Carlson started his “miracle” by identifying every “Moment of Truth” that each customer encountered. He defined a Moment of Truth as each time a customer had the opportunity to form an impression of the business. He felt that at each of those Moments, a customer would either feel better or worse about Scandinavian Airlines. He felt that if he managed every one of those Moments meticulously, he could create extremely positive impressions consistently, thereby increasing the amount of repeat and referral business.

He identified some of his Moments of Truth as being the cleanliness of the waiting area, the announcements of the pilot, the check-in process, and even the cleanliness of the plane. If a customer saw a coffee stain on a tray when it was pulled down from the seat back, Carlson knew that the person’s first thought would be, “Oh my goodness, I wonder if they remembered to service the engines.”

But that’s unreasonable, you say.  Darn right it is. But Carlson is grasping something that too may people miss about human nature—that passengers WILL make unreasonable assumptions about whether coffee stains really have anything to do with something more serious. Why? Because the human brain makes those leaps. One impression creates concerns for other areas.  So it’s essential to manage the perceptions.

As a frequent traveler on planes, I pray every day that the same person who cleans off those trays isn’t the one who services the engines! I think not. But each person’s perceptions create his or her reality.

The real question is, how do you apply a system that turned a company from a devastating loss to a sensational gain in only one year so you, too, can create such a powerful benefit for your company?

In addition to the areas of sales, service, and culture, you also need systems and accountabilities to make sure that your defined key initiatives get accomplished in a timely manner.  Such systems ensure that all of your team members are working on the things that matter most without being distracted with the minutiae.

It is critical that every organization starts this process by being very clear with all team members about the 3-5 key initiatives and the 3-5 key results that are to be completed each quarter.

Each team member should have a quarterly plan, including a timeline for their contributions to achieving the overall objective. They should bring the plan to their supervisor each quarter to make agreements and list exactly what they accomplished in the last quarter and how it compared to the plan.

Best of all, your productivity-killing low performers will have no place to hide and will need to shape up or start shopping their résumés.

Leave a Reply