By Vanessa Gavan
For a long time I’ve been really interested in human-centered design — it’s so clear that to connect and engage with people, you have to stand in their shoes and empathise with them. Once you see the world from their perspective, you’re in a position to do something for them that surprises and delights them. Working out how to do that authentically, consistently and effectively is the hard part — that’s true for leaders, and it’s true for every business trying to connect with customers.
Last year I became very interested in the recent work of Chip and Dan Heath. They’re brothers who’ve written several New York Times bestsellers; Chip is a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business and Dan is a Senior Fellow at Duke University’s CASE centre, which supports social entrepreneurs.
The Power of Moments, their latest book, came out late last year and is built on the premise that the memories that stay with us throughout our lives are in fact a series of special “moments”, like a highlights reel. We recall the best or worst moment of an experience, as well as end points, and forget the rest. In business, that translates to an opportunity to connect with your customer — and your own employees — in small but meaningful ways.
“There are lots of opportunities we can create with our customers and employees that we just overlook because we’re not thinking in terms of moments.”
Chip Heath, Author and Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business
We work closely with a lot of CEOs and companies who are doing amazing things on developing their customer journeys. I see Moments fitting in here as something to overlay, bringing a different focus to get quick wins. Essentially, it’s figuring out how to make the peak moments memorable — and managing the pits to turn them into peaks. The Heath brothers’ work brings the focus on how to achieve this. They talk about building peaks rather than fixing potholes: a smooth road is just a smooth road, a road with a joyful surprise is a memorable journey.
When we are designing experiences at Maximus to connect with people, we are naturally thinking about how to heighten and elevate the emotion to give it impact and make it memorable. I’m a psychologist, so to me it’s almost automatic to do that. The work that the Heath brothers have done has reminded me that most people don’t have a mental model for doing that. They can’t easily see why — much less how — you would do it, but they do know it feels different when those moments are there for them.
The Heath brothers have multiple examples of these moments being created bringing huge impact with customers. I think my favourite is the Popsicle Hotline — a so-so hotel in Los Angeles is always near the top of all hotels in LA on TripAdvisor … ahead of five-star name brands. How? Because they have created a way to peak customer delight by having a red wall-phone near the pool — the Popsicle Hotline. Kids pick it up and order a free popsicle, which are brought out on a silver tray by someone dressed like a butler and wearing white gloves. And there’s a menu of other free snacks, too. Kids just adore all that of course. No matter that the foyer of the hotel is dowdy or that the rooms have a view of the car-park, the lasting moment — the feeling people have when they recall that hotel — is joy.
Chip and Dan are phenomenal thinkers and the psychology behind the model is so robust and clever, which is why I’m really excited that Maximus has partnered with them to bring their methodology to our clients in Australia.