“Our customers’ lives and our lives are made up of moments,” says Dan Heath, co-author of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact in today’s episode. Do you think about how you can create remarkable moments for your customers? Dan and I talk about what a power moment is, the recipe for creating one, and how these experiences affect us in our personal and business lives.
Create Peak Moments for Your Customers
As Dan mentioned in the interview, customer experience leaders and practitioners are in the business of moment design. And when designing these “moments” for customers, we have to think about how to turn them into peak moments. A peak moment is when you have a unique experience that rises above the rest and is usually composed of four elements. During his research, Dan found that these four elements seem to pop up again and again in peak moments:
- Elevation: moments that lift us above the everyday and spark positive emotions (birthday parties, athletic competitions, etc.).
- Insight: change our understanding of ourselves or the world we’re in in an instant (“aha moments”).
- Pride: moments that capture us at our best. Other people are recognizing us for the work we’ve done: award ceremonies, marathon finish lines, moments of praise from mentors.
- Being drawn to other people: groups that bond together through struggle of something. This can be deep, personal conversations, thoughtful gifts or gestures from friends or colleagues and even successful product launches.
A peak moment doesn’t need to have all four of those elements; there are plenty of peak moments that might even have one or two of the four. But since we’re in the business of moment design, we should try to make liberal use of all four.
Build A Culture That Supports “Wiggle Room”
You may know from some of my social media and blog posts that I’m a fan of Southwest Airlines. Southwest places a heavy emphasis on customer experience, and last year, I actually interviewed Sonya LaCore, the company’s vice president, about the CX friendly culture that Southwest Airlines has created. It’s embedded in the culture; it’s a part of their values. I mention this because Southwest Airlines is a company that Dan and Chip Heath feature in their book, due to its spontaneity enabling culture.
Dan tells the story of flight attendants using the intercom to congratulate a couple on a flight who were getting married the next day, which can be considered an everyday thoughtful kind of moment, but the flight attendants took it a step further. The flight attendants invited others to extend well wishes or advice about what they’ve learned in their own relationships by writing it down on cocktail napkins which would then be collected and handed to the couple as the plane’s wedding gift to them.
Southwest has enabled their frontline to act on the spur of the moment and deliver these unique experiences. There’s a culture of spontaneity that’s fostered and encouraged. What’s important to know about cultivating these kind of moments is that they also come from owning a sense of individuality while representing the company. When it comes to peak moments, some may even expect this kind of experience while flying Southwest, but it has to be a thoughtful moment that’s not continuously replicated. This kind of thing can only happen when you trust your frontline, give them some “wiggle room” to allow them to put their own personal stamp on an unexpected experience.
Increase Positive Variance
In addition to building in wiggle room for thoughtful experiences, Dan shares a secret to great service operations that he learned from Scott Beck, a high-level executive who’s had a hand in forming and managing major retail companies like Blockbuster Video and Einstein Brothers, “decrease negative variations and increase positive variance.” When it comes to business, experiences need to be consistent and positive. For example, you can’t have one Einstein Brothers shop deliver a perfectly toasted bagel and another shop that burns your bagel. There needs to be a system in place that delivers the right amount of toasting every single time.
But there’s a caveat that comes with having a system in place, which takes the human element into consideration; it’s about service. You can’t have a one size fits all model for the customer service provided. Some customers come in a hurry, some just want to chat, some come in with tears in their eyes after something that just happened to them. When you increase the positive variance, you hire carefully and support your staff with the right incentives so they can adjust to the situations they encounter with customers. There should be a good blend of being reliable and enabling people to deliver a memory in that moment.
Stop Filling Potholes and Build Peaks
Dan shares great advice for business leaders when it comes to the high-level execution of peak moments. He says that leaders have to focus on building peaks rather than running around fixing smaller, pothole problems. You can spend your whole career fixing potholes, but invest in building those memorable moments that will set you apart from others. Let go of the smaller problems and chase the big ones so you can really move the needle and create loyal, happy customers.
I really enjoyed this conversation with Dan because of the high-level, easy-to-understand concepts that he shared, which affects all of us. I’m sure most of us have experienced a peak moment at some point, where we were delighted beyond our expectations because of an unexpected thing that was done for us. There really is power in these moments because they can turn us into loyal customers, and encourage positive word of mouth about the company.
I encourage you to learn more about Dan and his brother Chip by going to their Heath Brothers website. You’ll find plenty of resources to help you build peak moments within your organization and for your customers.
About Dan Heath
Dan Heath is the co-author, along with his brother Chip, of four New York Times bestsellers: Made to Stick, Switch, Decisive, and their new book, The Power of Moments. The Heath Brothers books have sold over 2 million copies worldwide and been translated into 33 languages.
Dan is currently a Senior Fellow at Duke University’s CASE center, which supports entrepreneurs who are fighting for social good. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.