On a quick trip to the USA, I returned to my seat, after a stop in Auckland NZ, to discover that my book was missing. Feeling helpless and vulnerable (someone had invaded my space) my attentive flight attendant returned with a bundle of brand new first class magazines; this kept me busy all the way to LA!

I have retold this story for 17 years and it mirrors the impression created in the opening story of this week’s book’s first page.

Lurking in my office library, I uncovered my tenth book to review; the infamous, Moments of Truth. It’s stood the test of time, erect, although gathering dust, aging and slightly discoloured, however, it’s retained its status as the bible for anyone wanting to seek a customer driven business to compete in the service economy.

Published in 1987.

As a consumer of products and services, our service expectations have heightened in this era of instant global communication. Never before, have we bought more, ordered more ad travelled more. And boy, do we love our ‘service’ stories. We gravitate to amazing service endeavours and congregate and compete with our bad experience stories.

Today, we expect ‘moments of truth’ and have the mechanisms to communicate if we do … and if we don’t. Given the intelligence available we can be remarkably surprised and delighted. However, as Jan Carlzon, author of Moments of Truth and at the time, President of Scandinavian Airlines, reminds us that it’s the people who make the moments of truth happen for others.

Rereading this ‘service bible’ was pleasurable– following Jan’s storytelling – travelling together as he reversed the balance sheets of not only Scandinavian Airlines but two other companies. Talking to us from pages typed almost 30 years ago, how he set strategies, restructured teams and how his teams implemented changes; the why, the approach and how it all eventuated – successes and failures.

It’s a short easy read. No frills, no ego just straight to the point. (I think it’s unScandinavian to have ego and to belittle each other.)

What popularised this book when it was released is that it’s written in the days of ‘command and control, where engagement of staff was limited, and the competition was around creating the tallest organisational pyramid structures furthering the executive from the frontline, opposed to enabling the decision making by those ‘touching’ the client who demanded speed, service, decisions and delivery.

Fabulous moments in the book revolve around exploring the role of a leader ensuring that their staffs’ ideas were implemented, that women should be on the executive team, given their blend of leadership traits (different to men), that the horizontal level of management should be removed unless they were ‘on the floor’ engaging with the customer enabling the frontline team to create great service and moments of truth.

Enabling impressionable memorable moments

If you still don’t know what a ‘Moment of Truth’ (or MoT) is, it’s about memorable impressions formed and created when you come into contact with a business – this can be negative and positive. I recall doing work at the NAB, identifying with teams, all the touchpoints where impressions could be made. This in itself makes you realise that customer service is really customer intelligence!

The philosophy of Moments of Truth still has potential in 2016 and beyond. And I wonder why so many are yet to implement it. Yes, it’s ambitious and still conflicts with those ingrained views that authority and command equate to leadership however with the help of the likes of Patrick Hollingworth* who climbs mountains and focuses on flattening Business Mountains aka pyramid vertical styled organisation structures, we might see more change over the next 30 years.

I’m sure we have all created our own moments of truth but more importantly, what are you doing to enable your staff to provide these moments. Empowering them with the accountability to make decisions, using funds or their intuition to potentially save multiple funds in the long run.

This book reeks of leadership. Jan clearly articulates the responsibility of leaders and the accountability bestowed to staff to make the decisions often required of their managers to treat customers with the respect they expect and deserve ensuring they receive the service which people will talk about for 17 years.

Let me know if you choose to read this book – I’d love to discuss how to bring it to life in your business.

*I listened to Patrick Hollingworth speak at The Future of Leadership event this week – such a coincidence that I was reading MoT’s ‘Flattening the Pyramid’ chapter that same day. Check his website www.perterhollingworth.com  

I’m endeavouring to read 52 Business/Professional/Personal Development books in 52 weeks. Yep, that’s one a week. As I read each book, I’ll share my thoughts, learning and recommendations. If there is a book that you’ve been meaning to read, let me know and I’ll read it for us!