The Power of Moments: A Q&A with Chip and Dan Heath

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Anybody who has read any of Chip and Dan Heath’s books know that they’re compelling and well-researched. I was lucky enough to receive a pre-release of their latest book, The Power of Moments (now available), and I highly recommend it to anybody looking to create great employee or customer experiences.

Even better, I was able to score a Q&A with the authors on the book and lessons it offers to CX professionals. But be warned – not all of them will match how you’re likely organizing your work! With that…

You discuss the importance of creating memorable moments, with the best opportunities occurring in times of transition. In journey maps, we focus on moments of truth, which we define as “interactions with a disproportionate impact on customer loyalty.” These sound similar – do you agree, or see a distinction between the two?

Definitely similar, but a couple of clarifications: In the book, we’re exploring defining moments in life. We do talk a lot about the customer experience (and the patient & employee experience as well), but we’re also interested in a very broad range of experiences, from big social moments (graduations, weddings) to quiet personal ones (e.g., you suddenly realize that you can’t bear another day of your current job).

Journey maps are probably 80% aligned with our thinking. Our quibbles with the tool are twofold. Journey maps often clarify how you can smooth over customer trouble spots. But in the book we’re obsessed with “peak” moments—memorable and meaningful positive experiences. So journey maps may help you fill pits and fix potholes, but we want to help you build peaks. Also, journey maps focus too much on today’s journey, rather than what could be tomorrow’s journey. As a small example, Fitbit sends its customers celebratory “badges” via email, such as the March of Penguins badge for walking 59 miles, the same distance that Emperor penguins march in order to mate. (Which leaves you feeling simultaneously flattered and a little upstaged.) That’s a small peak moment that Fitbit conjured out of thin air. The badges didn’t solve an existing customer problem or neatly map to a customer touch point. They made up the touch point!

 

In creating these moments, one recommendation I enjoyed was to “break the script.” Essentially, understand the expectations, then do something radically different to delight customers or employees, such as the Popsicle Hotline at the Magic Castle hotel. But, as you say in the book, “reasonable people” will want to dilute the effort, to make it more scalable or less expensive. What advice do you have for a CX pro who is trying to convince internal teams of the need to break the script?

Let’s talk about the Magic Castle hotel. On TripAdvisor, it’s rated the #1 hotel in L.A., based on thousands of reviews. But if you saw the photos of this place, you’d find it pretty underwhelming. It looks like a budget motel painted bright yellow. So how could it possibly outrank the #2 hotel: the Four Seasons at Beverly Hills? Because the Magic Castle understands the power of moments. By the pool there’s a red phone—if you pick it up, someone answers, “Popsicle Hotline! May I help you?” You can order up popsicles for delivery, poolside—they’re brought out on a silver tray by someone wearing white gloves like an English butler. And there are countless other moments like this at the Magic Castle. The hotel staffers realize that guests will forgive a lot of “average”—average rooms, average beds—as long as there are certain moments worth cherishing.

You cannot create moments like this without breaking the script. Read through 25 random TripAdvisor reviews. How many people are raving about a hotel experience that perfectly matches one’s expectations? No one’s going to go home and effuse to their friends about a “tasteful lobby” or a “highly efficient check-in process.” But they’ll certainly tell them about the Popsicle Hotline.

 

You discuss peaks and valleys in the customer experience. One of your hardest messages for CX pros is to stop focusing on removing the negatives, and redirect that energy into delighting neutral customers. That’s really hard to do when you hear about the frustration felt by customers in a valley. What words of reassurance do you offer that this is the right approach?

Here’s why you should focus on creating great moments: Because the payoff for building peaks is much larger than the payoff for fixing potholes. We did a study with Forrester Research, using the data from their massive annual CX Index survey. And part of that survey is to ask consumers how they felt about their last experience with a certain brand (Dell, Southwest Airlines, Progressive Insurance, and so on). The consumers provide a score from 1 (very bad) to 7 (very good).

So imagine that you were the CCO of one of those brands, and you get this data. Some customers are happy with you and some aren’t. In response, we give you the option to choose one of two plans. Plan A would be to eliminate the negatives: You could move all your 1s, 2s, and 3s up to a 4. Plan B would be to elevate the positives: You could move all your 4s, 5s, and 6s up to a 7. Which would you choose?

Here’s the surprise: Plan B is 8.8 times more valuable in dollar terms than Plan A! Why is that true? Two reasons: There are way more mildly positive customers (4s, 5s, and 6s) than dissatisfied customers, and also, the more a customer likes you, the most he/she spends.

The further surprise is that, when we asked executives at well-respected service companies how they spend their time, they estimated that they spent 80% on eliminating the negatives. We’re spending the great majority of our time on the less valuable path!

That’s a huge opportunity. Just by reallocating some time from potholes to peaks, we can achieve big gains.

 

More of the customer experience is moving to digital interactions, rather than through people. Many consumers prefer online or mobile banking, and banks are reducing branches. How do you create a Moment through digital means?

Be “responsive.” That’s a term from the research of Harry Reis, a social psychologist. Responsiveness means that we treat people with understanding, validation, and caring. When any kind of relationship deepens—whether it’s a marriage or a business partnership—it’s likely because of a responsive moment. And we can deliver responsive moments online. Here’s an example: When Wells Fargo customers use the bank’s ATMs, the first screen shows two choices highlighted at the top in lime green. Those highlighted choices are the last two things that YOU did with your ATM card (e.g., withdrawing $80 or depositing a check). That’s responsive. It means Wells Fargo is paying attention to you—trying to understand your goals and make it easier to achieve them. (We are well aware, of course, of the many ways Wells Fargo has undercut that same trust and concern.)

 

Many business-to-business experiences seem like tricky situations in which to build Moments, such as shipping raw materials to manufacturers, creating and selling databases, or providing investment products to financial advisors. How can these types of companies create Moments?

Not every business is going to be able to try something crazy like the Popsicle Hotline. We understand that, and that’s not really what we’re lobbying for. What we share in the book is that there are three common situations when people deserve moments: in transitions, at milestones, and at times when they are struggling or suffering. Every business brings on new customers—that’s a transition. What are you doing to ensure that their first experience with you is a great one? Every business can celebrate customer milestones: The 10th year they’ve used your investment products, or the 10,000th employee that logs into your database, or the 100,000th pound of raw materials you’ve shipped to them. (Remember the March of Penguins badge – Fitbit makes you feel good by celebrating a milestone you never would have been aware of, if they hadn’t noticed.) And finally, every business has customers that are struggling. How can you be of service to your customers in the tough times?

Not every business needs a Popsicle Hotline. But every business needs to create moments that matter.

 

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