In 1981 Jan Carlzon took over as chairman of one of Europe's
most poorly rated airlines, Scandinavian Airline Systems
(SAS). That year the company reported an $8 million loss,
after having lost $20 million the previous year. Carlzon
quickly implemented many changes; the most important of
which was to manage the interactions that SAS employees had
with its customers.

In 1987, Carlzon wrote a book entitled, Moments of Truth, in
which he said, "Last year, each of our 10 million customers
came in contact with approximately five SAS employees, and
this contact lasted an average of 15 seconds each time. Thus,
SAS is 'created' in the minds of our customers 50 million
times a year, 15 seconds at a time. These 50 million 'moments
of truth' are the moments that ultimately determine whether
SAS will succeed or fail as a company."

Carlzon hit upon a concept that is simple yet profound. Every
single contact between any employee and a customer is an
important contact, regardless of its length or content. The term
"Moment of Truth" describes a contact that is neutral in nature.
For example, someone asks you what time it is and you tell
him - - simple, neutral, and no emotions involved.

As we all know, however, there are other kinds of interactions
between employees and customers. "Moments of Misery" is a
term that I use to describe interactions that have negative
outcomes. For example, if you were walking down the street in
New York City and asked someone for the time, you would
probably be told where to go rather than what time it is. This
alternate information -- and the nasty attitude -- would be a
moment of misery for you (unless you found it amusing).

On the other hand, what if the New Yorker stopped to give you
the time, asked if you were from out of town, and then
recommended some museums and tourist attractions to visit. I
have given that positive outcome a name -- preposterous.
Actually, he calls it a "Moment of Magic." A moment of magic
is an interaction that exceeds the expectations of your
customer and leaves him/her with a positive impression.

Every interaction between an employee and a customer is
either a moment of truth, a moment of magic, or a moment of
misery. Moments of misery are a fact of life because people
and companies are not perfect. Mistakes happen, which is
unfortunate, because research has shown that people talk about
their bad experiences more than their positive experiences.
Customers tell an average of 20 people about moments of
misery; but they tell only ten people about moments of magic.
To break even, therefore, you have to create twice as many
moments of magic. Of course, the point is not to stay even; it
is to stay ahead by managing interactions and making them
moments of truth or magic.

How are moments of magic consistently achieved? The
bottom- line answer is that a company has to be customer-
driven (versus operations-driven). Simply stated, a customer-
driven company puts the needs of its customers first. An
operations-driven company puts its needs, policies, and
procedures first. A customer-driven company bends over
backwards -- and may break its own rules -- to please its
customers. An operations- driven company uses its policy
manual as its Bible and will, if necessary, disappoint
customers by invoking the most ignorant excuse on the face of
the earth: "I'm sorry, it's against company policy."

Customer-driven service is important to every company.
The key to increased profits and a far more
pleasant business environment is to treat people well and
provide customer-driven service -- no matter who they are.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Tony Alessandra has a street-wise, college-smart perspective on business, having realized success as former a graduate professor of marketing, entrepreneur, business author and keynote speaker.

Dr. Tony Alessandra is president of, a company that offers online 360º assessments; Chairman of, a company that created the first Online Learning Mastery System™; and is the founding partner of, a company that provides corporate training and consulting based on The Platinum Rule®.

Dr. Alessandra is a widely-published author with 17 books translated into 50 foreign language editions and is featured in over 50 audio/video programs and films.

You can contact Tony Alessandra at or call him at 1-330-848-0444 ext. 1