During my sales seminars, talking about the connection between customer care and profits, often I tell a story story, a true story: the story of Jan Carlzon and Sas.
In 1981, the SAS Group (Scandinavian Airline System , which controlled the Scandinavian airlines) figured 14th in the ratings of 17 European airlines , when it came to punctuality. He was losing about $ 17 million a year, and it was close to bankruptcy.
An almost unknown Jan Carlzon was called to the chair of the group and, from the beginning of his tenure, made an important observation: in a year , about 10 million Sas customers came into contact with an average of 5 Sas employees, with interactions that lasted an average of 15 seconds.
In total, 50 million of short contacts per year. In each of these 50 million interactions , the image of Sas was ” re-built ” in the mind of the customer, by the behavior of the employees of the airline group.
“These 50 million moments of truth,” asserted Carlzon, ” are able to thrive or fail our company .”
Carlzon hit the target in full, with a simple concept , yet extremely effective: each customer contact is a moment of truth , regardless of its subject and duration. Setting a program of “total quality ” applied to these 50 million contacts per year, Carlzon was able to reverse the fortunes of Sas , relatively quickly.
In 1987, when SAS was preparing to become one of Europe’s most successful carrier , Carlzon wrote a book, still to the fore, titled ” Moments of Truth “.
As just one example, if a citizen of Rome, making a stroll through the streets of the city, would met a stranger asking him the time, could react in three different ways:
· Neutral: he tells the time , stopping only for a moment and without any emotional involvment;
· Weakening : he tells the time, without stopping and listlessly (the other, a foreigner, does not understand even one single word);
-Empowering: stops and found that the other person is a foreigner, he says the time and shows him the subway station, closer taxi stand, and urges him to visit some of the best monuments in the surroundings.
These same behavioral methodologies applies to a sales transaction, and act as brakes or accelerators of turnover and related profits. Every transaction between a customer and a supplier is subject to these rules, empowering or disempowering.
No one can avoid mistakes at 100%, even Sas employees after the “Carlzon cure”. Mistakes are a fact of life. What matters , in these cases, is to learn from the error, to avoid to perpetrate again it in the future.
How can you create , systematically and effectively , empowering contact with your customers?
The magic answer is that companies (and their salesmen / women) should remember that their first goal is to please the customer. Not pleasing him for the sake of making a profit, but just pleasing him, fullstop.
More often than not, the opposite occurs: companies are geared to making turnover or saving costs and at first place they put the adherence to rules, procedures, protocols, invoking the most irritating argument: “… this is contrary to our policies. “. Said to a customer, the sentence sounds like “Your satisfaction is contrary to our policies”.
Obviously, the above model is the easiest to follow, the fastest, the least expensive in terms of resources used. Equally obviously, it is the one leading even the most established company straight to the ruin. To verify this , just ask any customer.