How to define a moment when planning your customer experience?

It’s surprising how managing time is an important factor when planning customer experience. While experiences are expanded and contracted over time, it is the perception of time that is really in question. The perception of time is what enables the elasticity of the experience you are willing to design. And it’s in the elasticity that your margins (and your customer’s satisfaction) can contract or increase.

I have posted an article on LinkedIn showing how a customer experience needs to be designed over different time scales.

For instance, when a consumer is deciding upon taking a trip to Mexico, that may take months. When their mind is made up, they may take a few days browsing tickets. When booking tickets, time is calibrated in seconds — the website response time must be flawless, browsing variations should have a reasonably short loading time, shopping carts fully workable, easy sign-up and so on. Research is clear on how site abandonment escalates quickly in relation to waiting time.  And then we’re back to a more granular time scale when the consumer is browsing, discussing and booking vendors they may buy from — hotels, local transport, restaurant reservations, local trips. From them on, I like to count time as a countdown to departure. You may evaluate the trip in T-minus 7 days, for example.

So by understanding how time can be broken into different scales, case by case, we can understand where most customer journey projects fail. They are often thought out in a one-size-fits-all manner. While that may be good to understand, say, the peak and end of the experience you offer, it makes a big difference when deciding on how to actually design every moment of the experience.

Moments: a relevant definition for a customer-centric context

Most customer journey projects I have come across are high-level principles (awareness, consideration, intent…) wrapped around touchpoints. And that’s okay, because touchpoints are where things really materialise.

But journeys are also subjective, and subjectivity is often a layer kept at the abstract level. Which is a shame, because business people are not often good with abstractions — yet, we cannot ignore these. Business people pay people like me to think about these abstractions, take care of them, and turn them into a simple, yes-or-no concept with a dotted line at the end of the page. Win-win!

So in order to successfully mix objective interactions (the touchpoints) to the subjective perception of the journey, I have developed my own way of planning the experience. To me, the essence of “moments” is the combination of a timestamp with the correspondent emotional response. That will define a time unit. A “moment”. A chunk of time, based on the emotional response that a certain event triggered. Sounds complicated? It’s not.

Basically, I take the customer’s perception instead of minutes, seconds or touchpoints. For example:

“I’m at the line waiting for my coffee (and I get impatient);
Then as I approach the counter and choose from the menu what kind of coffee I will have (and I get excited)”.

Tt is the consumers’ emotional needs that will influence how they break their own journey down into moments.

That’s an excellent way of understanding what’s missing from the real need perspective of the consumer. Knowing where the action happens — the touchpoints — is, of course, a must. But that is the easy part. You still end up with a “pushing services” type of mentality if you don’t put yourself in the shoes of your consumer. And, furthermore, evaluate and research what are their objective and emotional needs at each given point in time. It is their emotional needs which will change the perception of time during the journey. Therefore, it is their emotional needs that will influence how they break their own journey down into moments.

A scale for moments: Google’s idea of micro-moments

Micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device—increasingly a smartphone—to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped.

More about micro-moments here.

In my next article, I will tell how I created a useful overlay above moments: momentum, which is the “aftertaste” or predisposition that each moment leaves in the consumer’s mind — and that’s where the opportunity of properly approaching them is.