Manage Your Customer Service Moments of Truth and Create Moments of Magic®

Author

Shep Hyken, Contributor

November 26, 2014

This is my first article in Forbes, so I thought it might be good to start at the beginning. I write and speak on customer service and experience. My belief is that customer service isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense that, unfortunately, isn’t always as common as it should be. So, to kick things off with this first article, I’m going to go to what I believe is a basic foundational customer service concept, which is about managing your customer interactions.

Back in the mid 1980’s I read an article by Jan Carlzon about managing Moments of Truth in business. Later, Carlzon would write a book titled Moments of Truth which went into detail about how he used this concept to turn around Scandinavian Airlines to become one of the most successful airlines in the industry. For me, this concept is where a great customer service experience starts.

Carlzon defined the Moment of Truth as any time the customer comes into contact with any aspect of a company, however remote, he or she has an opportunity to form an impression. Carlzon said that Moments of Truth could be good or bad. I believe there is a third way, which is average. That’s neither good nor bad. The bad Moments of Truth I refer to as Moments of Misery™. The average ones I refer to as Moments of Mediocrity™. And the good ones I refer to as Moments of Magic®.

Moments of Misery™

These are complaints, problems, negative experiences, friction; anything less than a positive interaction. It’s not a matter of if you will ever have a Moment of Misery. It’s when. Even the best companies have them, but these great companies have trained employees and have a system on how to turn them around.

Moments of Mediocrity™

Another word for mediocrity is average. In other words, not good or not bad. Just okay. Just satisfactory. And, satisfactory is not good enough to create loyalty. If you ask your friend how dinner was at a restaurant and the response is, “It was okay (in other words, satisfactory),” you will probably want to spend your money elsewhere. Satisfactory or average is mediocre.

Moments of Magic®

The type of experiences you want to create for your customers are Moments of Magic, which are simply above average interactions. Don’t let the word magic fool you. Most people think that magic has to be over-the-top or a “Wow” type of customer interaction, but it doesn’t. It just has to be above average. However, the key is to be above average all of the time. That’s what the best companies do. They create customer interactions that are above average… all of the time. They are consistent and predictable.

Carlzon went on to use the airline as an example. There are many obvious Moments of Truth when traveling: the passenger makes a reservation, checks bags on the day of departure, checks in at the ticket counter, is boarded at the gate, is greeted at the destination, and picks up the baggage at the baggage claim carrousel. However, in addition to these main touch points, or Moments of Truth, there are other times that the passenger may interact with employees of the airline. For example, a flight attendant from a different flight may wave or smile at the passenger as he or she walks by. While that is not a main Moment of Truth, it is still an important one. Every interaction, however remote, is an opportunity for the customer/passenger to form an impression.

The goal is manage every Moment of Truth and create an above average (Moment of Magic) experience. Even if you have a complaint or a problem, the way you handle it is really an opportunity to turn it around and create a Moment of Magic. You don’t have to deliver an over-the-top or above-and-beyond experience. You just have to be above average – all of the time. The best companies know that their customer service must be above average, consistent, and predictable. That’s what makes the great companies amazing.

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