One of the more memorable books in my library was published in the summer of 1987. It was written by the Jan Carlzon, CEO of SAS Group, owner of the airlines Scandinavian Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines Ireland. I had been reading of him in the business press so I was anxious to read the book when he was first translated into English. The title? Moments of Truth.
Mr. Carlzon took over a company losing many millions of dollars each year. Within the first year of his leadership the company was first among European carriers in on-time punctuality. His days in the hospitality industry served him well and I greatly admired his work. I was 30 years-old. He was joining the ranks of others who mentored me through books and stories of his leadership.
The moments of truth Mr. Carlzon talked of were the moments when his airlines had contact with customers — passengers. Every moment was important. Critical to success. He understood that and trained for it.
My 15 years or so of retail experience (at the time I read the book) connected immediately with Mr. Carlzon’s philosophy and strategy. Touchpoints or moments of truth was critical in my industry. I realized it was crucial for any business in any industry.
The book gave language to my philosophy that I had been preaching for a number of years in my own work. Touchpoints needed to be all be magical if possible. Otherwise, they had to be consistently excellent. Predictable and replicated at the highest levels.
It’s hard work, but I learned that happy employees and customer-friendly processes helped. I also learned that things slip when you neglect them. Or when you ease up the focus on them. Entropy occurs. It’s natural. And it impacts everything including the service we render to prospects and customers.
Maintaining the strongest connection possible on the touchpoints of your business is crucial for your success. It’s too easy to think we’ve got them all figured out and assume things are working as they should. Don’t get complacent with it.
Step 1 – Catalog every single touchpoint inside your company.
Make note of every possible way people can interact with your company. Every email, phone, social media or live interaction should be accounted for. This should answer the question, “How can people contact us?” as well as, “How can we contact them?”
Step 2 – What systems are in place to ensure your company is responding promptly and appropriately?
This should be documented and not left to chance. For now, make sure you have what is currently happening — or what is currently supposed to be happening.
Step 3 – Randomly test each touchpoint and measure the results.
Commission help from people to test your people and the systems currently in place. Have people call, email or send social media messages. See how well your people and your systems are currently performing. Do not use people inside your business. Do not alert people that you’re doing this. Tell no one. Just do it.
Gather the information on each touchpoint. Just here you’ll be tempted to jump in the big middle of people when you spot a failure. Resist knee-jerk reactions. In order to figure out the current status you need to finish the exercise of going through every single touchpoint multiple times. You don’t want to let one incident fool you into thinking every incident happens the same way. Test each touchpoint as many times as you practically can. More is better. You’ll see a pattern develop. It may be great. It may be poor. Don’t disrupt things…yet. You must have a sense of reality first.
Step 4 – Time to huddle with your inner circle and make sure everybody is involved to improve the touchpoints.
Present your findings. Curb your emotions if the results were poor. This isn’t the time to vent. Look in the mirror. Things are this way because you stopped paying attention so get angry with yourself first. Better yet, get busy fixing things.
Calmly present the findings to the team. Insist that nobody leave the meeting and go browbeat the employees involved. Make sure everybody in the room understands the objective is to first, implement improved systems (which will include training people) and second, to instill a culture where superior touchpoint experiences can be delivered 100% of the time. And when that expectation isn’t met, you want to make sure there’s a safety net of some sort in place to recover the person and make amends for any bad experiences (and it’ll happen).
Step 5 – Systematically start improving the processes. Think about creating some small teams of people dedicated to improving every touchpoint.
No touchpoints happen in a vacuum. It’s critical that each touchpoint be considered individually and within the context of the entire company. So if you appoint a 3-person team to tackle the social media touchpoints, make sure they don’t silo themselves away from the other touchpoints.
It’s helpful if you have all the touchpoint teams (should you go this route) come together to compare notes and exchange ideas. This is also a great way to foster greater collaboration and cooperation inside your company.
Step 6 – Bring everybody involved together to review the suggested recommendations. Have each team present their suggestions to the entire group.
Debate them. Discuss them. Decide “what’s next?”
Figure out what actions will be taken. Everything must be documented. Including whatever training may be needed.
Step 7 – Execute the changes.
Do whatever it takes to make the changes simultaneously. I would not recommend you fix phone calls without addressing the other touchpoints. Wrestle the entire thing to the ground in one fell swoop. Find a way.
Step 8 – Test the changes and adjust accordingly.
Every process requires tweaks. Battle plans are great when you’re in the tent figuring out what to do. Once the bullets start flying, those plans often need to be adjusted. Do it. Don’t be fearful to adjust things based on how they work in the real world.
Step 9 – Nail it down once you figure out what works best.
Now it’s time to establish the non-negotiable standards for your touchpoints. This is how you want it done every single time. Standardize the processes and make sure everybody knows what’s expected. Reiterate that these will be the standards for which you’ll hold everybody accountable.
Preach the message that the goal is an excellent customer experience for every touchpoint. This isn’t about making it easy for your company necessarily, but it’s more about making it as frictionless as possible for the person contacting your company.
Step 10 – Randomly test it and constantly discuss it. Refine it as necessary.
Don’t ever trust it to just happen again. Stay on top of it. Pay attention to it and you’ll achieve excellence. Take your eye off of it and it’ll slip.
Touchpoints are an area where you can’t afford to slip. You can’t afford to be mediocre. You must be outstanding! It’s a primary way to strengthen your customer base, improve your brand and create greater loyalty.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!