Business Book Classic: Moments of Truth

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Moments of TruthFor a long time, we didn’t have to worry about business book “classics” because there just weren’t that many business books. Today gazillions of business books are published every year. Some are great, others are horrid, and the vast majority are mediocre. It’s the bell curve at work.

That’s why it’s worth going back to some high quality business classics. I call a business book a classic if it was first published more than twenty-five years ago and is still worth reading. Here’s a look at Moments of Truth by Jan Carlzon.

A “moment of truth” is that short few seconds when a customer and someone from your company connect. That’s all it takes for the customer to decide what kind of company you are and whether he or she will be your customer again, given the chance.

That’s not a unique insight. Today it’s received wisdom, but there’s more to this book. It’s easy to imagine Moments of Truth as a book about excellent customer service. It’s about that and something more.

Moments of Truth is about the leadership and organizational things you need to do to make great customer service happen. That’s why it’s a classic. This book is still relevant because it demonstrates why the classic top-down, hierarchical management of the Industrial Age only mushes things up when you have any goal other than efficient production and economies of scale.

Carlson’s big insight was that if you want to do a great job of serving customers, you need a different, flatter form of organization with decision making as close to the customer as possible. You need less hierarchy. You need fewer silos so that you can have what Carlzon calls “more horizontal communication.”

You want the people who are in contact with the customer to take appropriate action on their own. So you have to set things up to encourage what we now call “psychological safety” for them. You also need to make sure that those people have the resources (including training and time) to do the job you want them to do.

Bottom Line

Moments of Truth is a great book if you have a business that produces great experiences instead of lots of products.

Now it’s your turn

What books would you nominate as business book classics?

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