Can you manage the Moments of Truth?

April 1, 2004
A FEW years ago, Vanderbilt University professors Anthony J. Zahorak and Roland T. Rust conducted a survey in which they discovered that 40% of customers

A FEW years ago, Vanderbilt University professors Anthony J. Zahorak and Roland T. Rust conducted a survey in which they discovered that 40% of customers in typical retail-oriented businesses won't come back even though they're satisfied.

That surprised Shep Hyken, a professional speaker and author who works with companies and individuals who want to build loyal relationships with their clients.

And then he read that a consulting firm in Boston estimated that the figure probably was closer to 80%.

“How can that be? Satisfied customers not wanting to come back?” Hyken asked in his presentation, “Cultivating Your Corporate Culture,” which served as the Business Forum that wrapped up The Work Truck Show. “Well, it's easy. They're just satisfied. There's a big difference between satisfied customers and loyal customers. We can attribute that same thought process to the people we work with. When we're dealing with employees, there's a big difference between satisfied employees and loyal ones.”

Seventeen years ago, Hyken read the book, “Moments of Truth,” by Jan Carlzon, the former Scandinavian Airlines president who radically transformed his company into a market leader. Hyken quoted Carlzon's definition: “A moment of truth is anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, and has an opportunity to form an impression.”

Those “Moments of Truth,” according to Carlzon, can then become “Moments of Misery” or “Moments of Magic.” But Hyken added another: “Moments of Mediocrity.”

A cab ride to remember

Hyken told a story about what he thought was going to be a “Moment of Misery.” Standing outside the Dallas Convention Center on a blisteringly hot day in 1986, he hailed a cab to the airport. The driver — who had disheveled hair and one-week-old facial growth and was clad in cutoff shorts and a sleeveless shirt — jumped out of the cab.

Said Hyken, “I'm thinking, ‘What's the inside of the cab going to look like? I am going to get into this moving sauna and a spring is going to rip my pants.’”

“Get in the cab,” the driver said. “It's nice and cool in there.”

And Hyken did. It was immaculate, with two neatly folded newspapers on the seat, along with a bucket of ice and two soft drinks. The driver said there was no charge for the papers or the drinks. It would be a $22 flat rate.

“Are you in a hurry,” the driver asked, “or is it OK if I do the speed limit?”

Hyken, taken aback by manners and courteousness that seemed be the antithesis of a cabbie, said he was in no hurry.

“Ever seen the famous fountain at Los Colinas?” the driver asked. “You've got to see it in person!”

And so they stopped at the fountain, and Hyken was amazed by the image of horses galloping across water and the appearance of splashes where the hooves met the water.

When they reached the airport, the driver said his name was Frank and asked Hyken for his business card. He asked Hyken to call him two or three days in advance of his next trip to Dallas and give him the airline, flight number and arrival time. He said he would be waiting for Hyken.

“Frank not only managed the ‘Moments of Truth’ along the way, but he created some ‘Moments of Magic,’ ” Hyken said.

Thank you

To Hyken's amazement, he received a thank-you note from Frank four days after the cab ride. Hyken said that in subsequent trips to Dallas, Frank was always there. And every Christmas, Hyken received a Christmas card from Frank.

Hyken said this is what's interesting about the concept of loyalty vs satisfied customers: The average cab driver in Dallas in the 1990s, working six days a week on 12-hour shifts, made $19,400 a year. Frank, working the same amount of days and hours, made over $100,000.

“The difference was that he didn't have satisfied customers,” Hyken said. “He had loyal ones.”

Hyken listed five ways to build stronger relationships:

  • Manage the first impression

    “You set the tone for the interaction that is to follow. It could be the way you walk into a meeting, the way you greet somebody, your body language, your facial expression.

  • Expertise of your business

    You want your customers and employees to seek you out individually as a source of information.”

  • Build rapport

    Talk to people on a level past business. People love to talk about themselves — unless they have kids. Find out as much as you can.

  • Enthusiasm

    “You need to be excited about what you do. It doesn't mean jumping up and down and being crazy. It means enjoying what you do and having a passion for it.”

  • Communication

    “The ability to understand people, because people will say one thing and mean another. You need OSP — Ordinary Sensory Perception.”

About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.