Moments of Truth

Imagine transforming an airline business from $30 million of loss into millions in profit within 2 years… and to then being voted, “Airline of the Year.” That’s a dramatic turnaround by anybody’s standards. Well, that’s the story told in, “Moments of Truth,” by Jan Carlzon of SAS – the Scandinavian Airline that has turned it business round more than once in this fiercely competitive market.

How about the account of the Brighton Florist who moved from £220,000 turnover to £1,200,000? Would that get you interested… perhaps even ‘excited’? What then if was to share with you that this was achieved by linking ‘Moments of Truth’ to Giving Impacts that change the world? Moments of Truth have evolved into “Connected Moments of Truth.”

What Is A Moment of Truth?

For Jan Carlzon and SAS as an airline, a moment of truth is that 15 second window where a frontline member of staff interacts with the customer (remembering that the customer drives the health, the cash flow, of the business.) Carlzon and his team restructured the airline so that the focus emphasised empowerment of all customer-facing frontline staff (including those who cleaned the washrooms) so that these customer-heroes could make decisions to help customers have an amazing experience.  If you asked one of the cleaning team where to check in, they knew everything you needed to know.  One team; one great experience.  The team also redefined the business the airline was in. It switched from flying aeroplanes to meeting the travel needs, dreams, and aspirations of their customers. In fact, it was this transformation in purpose that led to our own business’ trademark approach to learning and development: Entertrainment. I realised we were not necessarily just in the training business, we were in the entertainment business – the business of giving the student such a positive experience that the learning transformed their future performance. It wasn’t just about what people learn, it is about how we make them feel.

In our organisation, a moment of truth is:

Any encounter with another person – whether they be the external customer, the internal customer, members of our community that we serve, random strangers, and even our competitors!

Hey, we’re even nice to animals!!

Our goal is simple:

We aim to exit each moment of truth with all the above people, leaving them feeling great!

Back to Brighton

Flowers Unlimited have created a miracle of growth by breaking every part of the business flow into small processes (cf. Michael Gerber – “The E-Myth.”) Each of these – even when they don’t directly ‘touch’ the customer – is a moment of truth because everything affects the end experience for the customer.

Paul Dunn of posed this question to us when recommending this methodology for re-engineering our own customer experience:

“Is this how an inspiring enterprise would do this?”

  • How you give your business card,
  • how you answer the phone,
  • your answerphone message – all these benefit from a positive answer to this question, “Is this how an inspiring enterprise would do this?”

As an example, Flowers Unlimited don’t have ‘delivery drivers’, they have “The Deliverer of Happiness.” And when “Danny” the Deliverer of Happiness delivers the flowers, the person commissioning the gift (Sally in the example below) gets a personalised email, direct from Danny in the van (not while driving, of course!) There are many similar steps that produce what I call “Customer Delight” along the customer’s journey from choosing the flowers through to the delivery and well beyond. This means that Flowers Unlimited have extended and evolved the concept of moments of truth through to “Connected Moments of Truth” (as Paul Dunn calls them.)  [Oh, and if the recipient is not in and a neighbour is fortunate enough to take in the flowers on their behalf, the neighbour gets an award for being a good neighbour and a box of delicious chocolates!]

Connections from Business Owner to Team to Customer to Community to the World

Flowers Unlimited is one of an expanding number of organisations who tie in their business connected moments of truth to a bigger, broader, bolder vision: Buy One; Give One.

Let me share the best part of the process that really thrilled me. One of the steps in the customer journey that Flowers Unlimited has enhanced is the actual arranging of the flowers. Let’s say “Laura” is the team member who has created the arrangement. Laura sends a picture to the customer – creating yet another moment of truth, but it gets better. A few days after the delivery, the customer gets a certificate of giving or a certificate of gratitude, with the explanation that Laura has chosen a giving impact as part of the way Flowers Unlimited is connected to the bigger picture of the world in which we do business. Specifically, Laura’s chosen impact is feeding families in Africa. Here’s an example of the wording Paul Dunn shared with us…

Hi Sally,

We just want to say ‘thank you’ for using us to deliver that beautiful gift of flowers to Melissa. And to make that ‘thank you’ really matter, we thought you’d like to know that we’ve provided 17 people with maize grains in Kenya to help them and their families build sustainable food supplies.

And that’s been made possible by our membership of the Global Business Giving initiative B1G1. It means your gift to Melissa goes on giving multiple times and saves lives as well.

Thank you so much for being a client. We’re privileged to serve you.

How would you feel if you were Sally? Do you think Sally is going to tell Melissa? How about if you were Laura, working in an organisation that empowers their staff to make a difference like this? How would you feel if you were those people who benefited in Kenya? This is the perfect outworking of the adage:

Give someone a fish, and they can eat for a day; teach a someone to fish, and they can eat for a lifetime.

Proactive Conclusion

I want to talk with you.  Not ‘at’ you.  Not ‘to’ you.  ‘With’ you.  Together.

Let’s be blunt. Splitting your business into tiny processes, each of which can be enhanced, will make you more profitable. You don’t need to be a philanthropist to make this work as an entrepreneurial thinker. It’s good business strategy and we all need to do this as soon as just one of our competitors realises how powerful it is. If we don’t innovate in this way, we will become extinct… an ‘also ran’.

SAS recovered and thrived… and then dived again. They’ve had to continuously revise their approach to stay sharp, sparky, and innovative… but that’s exciting, isn’t it? We’re on a moving timeline where everything changes every day – so we need to stay connected and we need to stay ahead.

However, if any company just does this to make more money, they really are a dinosaur. Why? Because our staff and our customers have changed their expectations. Not all of our team members are interested in money – they are interested in meaning. Meaningful work – work that makes a difference – has a value placed upon it. And our customers are more discerning than ever before. Some would rather save the Planet than litter the Oceans and our future with plastic. Customers inside and outside our organisations are increasingly ecologically literate, emotionally literate, and tribal – they want to belong to something that counts.

Adding value to our customer experience, giving empowerment value to our team members, and adding value to the community in which we live and move and have our being, adds value to our bottom line.

Business for good is good business.

At Entertrainment and The Boardroom Education we build “Living Organisations” that matter – vibrant Tribe-based collaborative companies that create raving fans. We build companies that 10x their profitability, and do so by making a massive impact in the World. We build companies for good.

If you’d like to discover whether you’re the kind of organisation that could have a MASSIVE Transformational Purpose (and thus massively transforming profit), let’s chat.

You can call me personally on 0 777 8 221 222. You’re likely to catch my answer machine message occasionally, but that’s OK, loads of people say they love the message! I’ll get back to you because you matter too.

I love making a difference, Jacqui loves making a difference, and we love working with inspiring people who also love making a difference… together.  Sounds like win-win-win and a lot of fun to me!  Win for you, a win for us, and an ongoing win for the wonderful world in which we live and do business for good.

Thanks for your attention.


The Boardroom Education