In 1986 Jan Carlzon, the former president of Scandinavian
Airlines wrote a book, Moments of Truth. In his book,
Carlzon defines the moment of truth in business as this:
"Anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a
business, however remote, is an opportunity to form an
From this simple concept, Jan Carlzon took an airline that
was failing and turned it around to be one of the most
respected airlines in the industry.
Some examples of moments of truth in Jan Carlzon's airline
- When you call to make a reservation to take a flight, when
you arrive at the airport and check your bags curbside
- When you go inside and pick up your ticket at the
- When you are greeted at the gate
- When you are taken care of by the flight attendants
onboard the aircraft
- When you are greeted at your destination
All of these are main moments of truth, and notice that they
are all controlled by people. There are many moments of
truth that are not controlled by people, such as
advertisements (radio, television, billboards, newspapers,
The emphasis of this article is on the moments of truth
that we, as people, have control over. These are the points
of contact that our customers and clients have directly with
us and our organization.
Mentioned above are a number of the main moments of truth,
not just at Jan Carlzon's airline, but in virtually all
commercial airlines. These are the main ones.
While these may be the most important, there are lots of
small ones as well. For example, you might be walking toward
your gate at the airport and walk by a couple Scandinavian
employees. They look up and smile at you. Now that may be a
small moment of truth, but it is an important one. It adds
to the total experience of the customer.
Disney has taken the small moments of truth to an even
higher level. They understand the importance that these small moments
of truth have on their customers. They train their cast
members (Disney's term for employees) to acknowledge the
guest (Disney's term for a customer) with a smile or facial
expression if within ten feet. If the cast member gets
within five feet of the guest, they are to acknowledge them
All of the little moments of truth, combined with the
major ones, with the addition of the product or service your
organization is selling, add up to the overall level of a
Jan Carlzon said there are good moments of truth and bad
moments of truth. I believe there is a third type - average
moments of truth. Average is middle-of-the-road - simply
acceptable, but not great. I have a term for the good and
bad ones. The bad ones are referred to as moments of misery,
and the good ones are referred to as moments of magic.
Our goal should be to create all great moments of magic,
even if they start out to be moments of misery. Sometimes a
customer may have a legitimate complaint.
We not only need to fix problems and complaints, we also
need to give customers a reason to want to come back and
continue to do business with us again and again.
Even if we fix a problem, it doesn't mean the customer is
coming back. For example, if you own a restaurant and one of
your guest's meals is over cooked, don't simply fix it or
take it off of the bill. Consider giving the guest a
business card with a note that gives him or her a round of
drinks or a free appetizer the next time they come back.
At times these moments of misery may not even be our fault.
The customer may just be having a terrible day. For example, a customer may be checking into a hotel.
This person may have had three flights delayed and he or she
is in a very bad mood.
It is not the hotel's fault the
customer is unhappy due to the airline's delayed flights.
But, it is the person who is checking in this irate customer
who has the opportunity to start to turn the customer's mood
around. It is an opportunity to take someone else's moment
of misery and turn it into the hotel's moment of magic.
So, manage your moments of truth. Seize every one of them,
even if they are moments of misery, as opportunities to show
how good you and your organization are. This will go a long
way in building long-term customer loyalty and total
About the Author
Shep Hyken is the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard
Presentations. As a professional speaker and best-selling
author, Shep helps companies develop loyal relationships with
their customers and employees. For more information on Shep's
speaking presentations, including his customer service speaking
programs books, tapes and more please contact (314) 692-2200.
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