Southwest Airlines is known for adding whimsical moments, including witty announcements, to the often stressful and monotonous experience of flying. For Chip and Dan Heath, however, Southwest is doing much more than simply entertaining its passengers; it is creating memorable, positive moments of the experience, which, as the authors explain in their fascinating new book, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, is exactly how we remember our lives. Our minds are not filled with start-to-finish memories of events but, rather, certain defining moments that remain with us while much of the other details disappear. The Power of Moments explains why certain moments - and not just the big milestones - stay with us forever and how organizations can create these unforgettable moments for their customers.
According to the Heaths, memorable or defining moments will consist of one or more of the following four elements:
Elevation. “Defining moments rise above the everyday,” the authors write. There is something extraordinary and often unexpected about such moments.
Insight. Defining moments may consist of “a-ha” moments when we experience a burst of revelation
Pride. Defining moments, the authors write, “capture us at our best — moments of achievement, moments of courage.”
Connection. Many defining moments are social moments, moments that are stronger for having been shared with others.
Creating Defining Moments
Understanding these core elements, organizations can emulate the efforts of Southwest and other companies and create the memorable moments that will differentiate them from their more mundane competitors. The authors offer specific how-to’s for companies seeking to create “peak” experiences for their customers, help them gain insight, reinforce their pride and pave their way to greater connections with others.
For example, one way to elevate the experience of customers, the authors write, is to break the script — that is, to insert the unexpected in the stereotypical expected experience. Southwest Airlines’ funny announcements break the script — no other airlines (nor passengers) had previously seen the entertainment potential of the safety instructions!
One strategy for creating a defining moment of insight is to help people “trip over the truth.” As an example, the authors describe how one Microsoft leader was able to help company decision-makers trip over the truth that Microsoft’s fast-growing cloud-computing service was not customer-friendly. Scott Guthrie, the executive in charge of the service called Azure, devised a simple and elegant plan: he invited his senior managers and software architects to an off-site meeting and challenged them to build an app using Azure just as customers would. “It was a complete disaster,” Guthrie told Fortune magazine. Within two days, the managers and architects “had produced a plan to completely rebuild Azure,” the authors write.
The authors also illustrate how companies can multiply the moments of pride through multiple milestones. For example, instead of asking your team to increase sales by 20 percent, offer them a series of milestones such as 1) receive a glowing thank-you letter; 2) make it a full week without getting the lowest score on customer satisfaction surveys; and 3) solve the number-one complaint from the last month of surveys.
Companies can also create moments of connection by creating shared meaning, as one hospital system did by bringing its 12,000 employees to one place to unify them around a new customer-experience vision.
As with their previous best-sellers Made to Stick and Switch, The Power of Moments, filled with scores of case studies and supporting academic studies, is insightful, surprising and witty — and is sure to propel the academic rock-star brothers to the best-seller lists once more, and with good reason.