John Jantsch: Let me ask you something. What’s the last time a company exceeded your expectations? That gave you a memorable moment? Think about it. Think about your past, your childhood even. Those memorable moments. Those things that exceeded your expectation. That surprised you that you think of today fondly. Are there ways for companies to create those moments so that we can have better experiences? My guest on this episode of The Duct Tape Marketing podcast, Chip Heath, author of The Power Of Moments, why certain experiences have extraordinary impact thinks there is definitely a way for companies to understand this kind of impact and to create it. Check it out.
Hello and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Chip Heath. He is a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business and the co-author of a book this show made quite popular called Made To Stick. And, today we’re going to talk about The Power Of Moments, why certain experiences have extraordinary impact. So, Chip thanks for joining me again.
Chip Heath: Oh. It’s good to be back.
John Jantsch: You’re going to let me get away with that claim that I single-handedly made, Made To Stick popular?
Chip Heath: Oh. Well, you have the Duct Tape theme right. So, that’s just something we shared in common from the very beginning.
John Jantsch: That’s right.
Chip Heath: So, I think together we’ve brought Duct Tape to prominence in the business environment.
John Jantsch: There you go. It has never enjoyed such a healthy period of sales or acknowledgement. So, let’s define moments. Because that’s a key promise of the book and it’s probably a good place to start.
Chip Heath: Yeah. The notion of moments is that that experience happens and we don’t record the film strip of experience in our minds. And, so we take a vacation and there are few things that stand out about that vacation. A few memories that we carry away. People have done research on like university careers and it turns out in your entire four or five year university career about 40% of your memories are from the first six weeks of Freshman year. Because that’s when you’re encountering lots of new stuff. You’re doing things for the first time. You’re going out to a party and nobody’s waiting up for you when you get home.
So, that four years of experience is a lot of experience, but what we record are snapshots and important peak moments, really awful [bit 00:02:29] moments. But, it’s not the whole thing its parts. What that says is that we’re designing experiences for customers or employees or our kids at home. What we want to design for is the moments that they’re going to remember because they’re not going to remember the whole thing.
John Jantsch: You know what’s interesting is … I mean I vivid … Every now and then I’ll get these vivid flashbacks from childhood. I mean some might be dramatic, or I don’t know, even traumatic. Although, I didn’t have very much trauma in my life growing up. But some are not. Some ar just like trivial. So, why do you think that is?
Chip Heath: Well, that’s what we tried to find out in doing the research for The Power Of Moments. We were interested in not just random memories necessarily, but, we’re interested in memories that people regard as important and meaningful. And that combination of memorable and meaningful we started finding some consistency in those. So, for example one class of moments is a moment of insight. I mean when something really becomes clear to us that we hadn’t realized before. And, very often those realizations are not positive. You might realize that, “Man, this is not the job for me.” Or, “I’ve been doing this the wrong way.” And, so that’s a very vivid, meaningful, memorable moment, but, it’s not necessarily positive.
John Jantsch: Would you say that there is a common kind of psychological thread that runs through all of your books?
Chip Heath: I think what Dan and I have been interested in is can we take what psychologists know and what sociologist know in the social science and make it practically useful. So, in this book what we’ve drawn on for example the psychological of utility research literature on what people remember and why. And, we tried to say you know if you’re a hospital administrator, and you’re designing a patient experience, what would you carry over from that? So, for example one thing that we know from the psychology is that people remember surprising events.
So, how would you break the script of, you know, a hospital stay? I think, you know, if you’re sitting in a hospital bed, and you’ve got very little else to do, I think that’s the time to take off the dietary restrictions. You know? Unless there’s something physically [inaudible 00:04:49] about ice cream. I think if you want to eat ice cream every meal you should be able to eat ice cream every meal. I think thinking through those experiences and thinking through what’s going to be remembered later, another principle that we find is moments connection are really important to people.
So very often the hospital settings the person coming through is in a hurry, and they kind of buzz through, and they take a look at the chart, and they ask two questions and then they’re gone. But, a few hospitals have found if you just take time to introduce yourself and before you leave you ask, “Is there anything I can do for you right now?” Patient satisfaction scores go up dramatically. Just from those two smallest tweaks. So, establishing those connections are really useful, and it’s not something we always think [to 00:05:39] [do 00:05:39].
John Jantsch: So, you mentioned two. I think you actually cover four in the book. You said insight and connection. And, then elevation. So, explain elevation then.
Chip Heath: So, the four principles are insight, connection, pride, but elevation is a little bit jargoning. When we talk about elevation we have mind experiences that stand out because they’re more sensory and vivid than normal. So, sitting in a national park and looking at the beauty of the national park is an elevated moment because it’s so visual, it’s so [comforting 00:06:14], it so visceral. But, if you think about a birthday cupcake is a prefect compact elevated moment. Its got sugar, fat, and flame all in one object. And, turns out that a lot of our memories are these very sensory experiences.
So, one of my favorite questions to ask is, to ask the crowd, “How many of you have a box from an apple product that you just couldn’t bear to part with?” Because it’s such a well crafted box. What’s amazing is about 40% of the crowd, in any random crowd, will have boxes … A little embarrassed to admit it, but when you look around there are the people raising their hands and suddenly they feel like there’s a social movement there. But, what’s amazing is the speech I was [inaudible 00:06:59] enough to realize that if we get the right box. And, I love the boxes for iPhones because there’s such a sense of drama as that vacuum suction as you’re trying to unveil your iPhone and it takes a while and then it pops out and it’s perfectly nestled in that beautiful box. A lot of people have such a sensory experience with that they can’t bear to part with it later on.
John Jantsch: Yeah. That’s as you said, the insight to do that. But, that is an investment. That thing is engineered to the 100th degree, right?
Chip Heath: Yeah.
John Jantsch: And, everything about that was maybe as important as the phone itself.
Chip Heath: Yeah and I think it takes somebody with the view of the whole experience that Steve Jobs used to have that in order to make that investment. Because I think very often in our work we don’t have that in to review. You know? So, like I love checking into Double Tree Hotels because there’s a warm baked cookie there. And, that takes some extra expense to engineer the little heaters or whatever they keep the cookies in behind the front desk. But, how much better is that experience, the check in experience than the standard where they kind of ask you how your day was and it doesn’t matter what you reply they give you the same three minutes of typing away at the terminal and then they hand you a key. It’s all very generic. It’s only Double Tree that’s kind of mastered how you make that moment special.
John Jantsch: So, one of the things that I notice about …At least moments I remember particularly when it comes to interacting with a business is that they … I was used to being treated a certain way and they didn’t treat me that way. And, I’m talking about a positive experience. So, they exceeded my already kind of warped expectation.
Chip Heath: Low expectation [crosstalk 00:08:57]
John Jantsch: Yeah. A lot of time I’ll tell businesses the good news is it’s not really that hard.
Chip Heath: Yeah. I think one of the most remarkable stories in the book is the number two rated hotel on Trip Advisor is not the Four Seasons, they’re number three in LA. There’s a kind of chic boutique hotel that attracts the Hollywood elite. It comes in at number one. It’s called Hotel Bel Air and it cost you 800, 900 dollars a night. But they’ve got beautiful marble bathrooms with heated floors. Which is exactly what you need in LA of course.
But, number two is called the Magic Castle Hotel and it’s in a converted 1960s apartment building. So, the facilities are not particularly striking. They charge Hyatt Hilton level prices, but they are always booked and so occupancy rates are off the charts relative to the hotel industry. Their secret is they’re masters at creating small moments. And, so at the side of the pool, which is much smaller than the Hotel Bel Air pool, it’s a tiny backyard pool. They have a red phone that looks like it might be cold war era surplus. You know, from those critical calls that the United States and the Soviet Union used to make between the presidents. And, above the red phone is a sign that says Popsicle Hotline.
So, you walk over to the phone and you pick it up and a voice on the other side says, “We’ll be right there.” And, a few minutes later, out of the front office emerges somebody wearing white gloves and carrying a silver tray with popsicles on it. And, they pass it around the pool and the kids are grinning and the business people at the pool are grinning. There’s no better recipe for happiness than a cold popsicle on a warm Los Angeles afternoon. That simple act … I mean, popsicles are pretty inexpensive. They’re flavored sugar water. Yet, the impact of that moment is huge. It comes up over and over again on the responses on Trip Advisor what do you remember about your stay.
I think that’s a peak moment for a lot of people for their vacation is just that notion that, “I called the Popsicle Hotline and they came out with popsicles on a silver tray.” I look at that and I think, “Why aren’t we doing more of this?” I mean, it’s just like you said it’s so easy if you take the time to think about it. But, yet, we’re not thinking about it.
John Jantsch: Well, so, I mean the simple conclusion would be that, well we just have to … Whatever we do now today we just have to find a way to find a way to exceed expectations. Trick people maybe even into liking us. Or, to surprise them in some way. Is that … I mean, is it as simple as that? Like let’s sit in a room and think of ways we can surprise our clients?
Chip Heath: Well, I don’t think surprise is the whole story. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine continual surprise. But, every time I check into the Double Tree it makes me happy to get that cookie. And, yet you think about the typical hotel the snack bar is the same whether you’re in Austin, Texas or New Orleans. And, what if a hotel took the time to have one snack and one beverage that was symbolic of the town? It was produced locally and you’d have a sense when you walked into the hotel room that this is a different experience. This is … “I’m in Now Orleans.” Or “Wow, I’m in Austin, Texas.” You don’t get the jalapeno lollipops anywhere else other than Texas.
So, I think the trick is we need to start thinking about those positive moments and what we find in our research is that 80% of the time for most organization they spend thinking about dealing with complaints. Certainly if the Magic Castle Hotel had cold showers people would be worried about that and that would be the theme of the ratings as opposed to the Popsicle Hotline. But, conditional on not having any obvious flaws I mean instead of filling in the minor potholes if we took the same amount of time and started thinking about how do we create more memorable meaningful experiences, I think we’d be way ahead.
John Jantsch: Well, so that leads me to … Again, I’m sure that people that are listening today, but certainly people that then get the book … Ultimately they want the answer for, “Okay. How do we build that into our experience? Where do we start?”
Chip Heath: Well, I think the elements that we talked about earlier are good places to start. Can you make the experience more sensory? And, so Steve Jobs did it with the box. Double Tree does it with a cookie. A restaurant could do it with an appetizer that is compliments of the chef. A restaurant could do it with their … They pass out lavender scented towels in first class cabins. But, there’s a hospital I encountered that made [inaudible 00:14:04] of patients just by having lavender scented hot cloths that they would pass out right before bedtime. And, the scent and the heat was such a nice comfort right as you were going to bed that it made a difference in the patient experience. And, again, that’s not expensive. It takes a little bit of thought about how do we create a positive moment for people?
I love an example we pulled up from the web of a praise for a cable television company, which are hard to come by very often on the web. But, is a repairman who was working behind the TV cabinet and brought a hand held vacuum cleaner and vacuumed up all the little dust bunnies that were behind the cabinet. And, this is what I think is brilliant. The guys said, “You know it’s really hard to get access to this and I just wanted to do something for you because I’m back here already.”
And, notice that what he is doing is excusing the homeowner for being a bad housekeeper. Because we’re all bad housekeepers in that particular spot. But, yet he did something thoughtful in the process of that customer interaction and that’s a great example of connection. Because when we talk about connection, what we find in the research literature is that if somebody does something where they understand us and they validate our situation and they care for us, that’s when we feel that we’re in a relationship with someone. And, notice that cable TV guy has understood my problem. I can’t clean back there. Has validated it. It’s not your fault. It’s really hard to get to. And, he’s cared for us in a very simple way. I think if we spent more time as business people brainstorming how do we create those moments of understanding and validation and caring, I’d think we’d be way ahead.
John Jantsch: You know one of the things that I often do when I work with organizations … Particularly there’s like if you sell a product and people buy that product online and you have competitors that do the same thing. Everybody pretty much has the same process in a lot of cases. You buy the product, it gets shipped to you, you have the confirmation email that comes out, maybe you have the 30 days later an email. I think that a lot of times if you just kind of map out all of those touch points and say, “How, could we make our email confirmation, just like really make them laugh?” Or, something like that. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to kind of reframe stuff that everybody else is doing, including yourself.
Chip Heath: Yeah. I think it’s a huge opportunity and I like your highlighting laughter because that is a way of kind of tapping into elevation. We get this analysis with Southwest Airlines about one of their moments, which is the flight safety announcement. Every business traveler has heard a gazillion of those. But, Southwest has for a number of years occasional you’re flying on a Southwest flight and somebody will do a funny version of those. My favorite line from the funny Southwest announcement is, “If there’s a loss of cabin pressure an oxygen mask will drop. Please affix yours and help any children traveling with you.” And then they say, “Now, if you’re traveling with more than one child you may have to think about which one has more potential. Which one is less likely to put you into a home.” And, that always gets a laugh.
And, it turns out these lines, the best lines from these things are printed on posters in the corporate cafeteria. So, there engraved on the walls. And, so they’re well known and used over and over again. But, they’re only used in about one and a half percent of the flights. So, we convinced Southwest Airlines analytical group to figure out what the impact of that was. I turns out if you hear one of those, because it’s a fun moment, because it makes you feel better about Southwest Airlines and the flight crew that you’re working with … The typical traveler that flies more than once a year, it takes them an additional half a flight in response to hearing one of those funny flight safety announcements.
John Jantsch: That’s funny.
Chip Heath: And, the bottom line implication of that is 130 million dollars. It doubled from one and a half percent to 3% the number of funny flight safety announcements. So, when you talk about the value of humor, that’s a pretty strong return from memorizing a few jokes. And yet, most of us don’t have the generic confirmation email. There’s no humor in it. There’s no elegance to it.
John Jantsch: You talk about the memorable ingredient, I think, that these moments end up ultimately having and would you say that that’s a bit of an art? I mean it’s great for us to sit around and go, “We should design memorable moments into everything.” But, would you say that sometimes you kind of catch lightening in a jar? That you get lucky sometimes and you create one of those memorable moments that just becomes … Like maybe an employee did something and everybody went, “Wow. That was awesome.” And, next thing you know it’s like part of the company manual?
Chip Heath: Yeah. I think that’s how things happen most of the time. What we’re hoping to do is short circuit that process and get you there a little bit sooner. Lightening in a jar is actually part of the cover of our book.
John Jantsch: C’mon give me a little credit.
Chip Heath: Yeah. Yeah. So, what we think is that you don’t have to start from scratch. By understanding these elements that we’ve talked about a little bit in this podcast of connection and elevation and pride and insight, you can engineer better moments from the start. So, building those properties in gives you a head start on what’s going on. We can use them in our family life too. Birthday parties are great at elevation and connection. You’ve got food, great food that … Or at least kids like with your kids birthday parties. We’ve got connection because we’re bringing in their friends. But, if we added a moment of pride? Like some families are smart enough to mark off on a doorsill how tall their kids are every year and you get a sense of, “Wow. I grew an inch and a half last year.” That’s a moment of pride. But, it takes some … A little bit of effort every year to do that.
What if we got a time capsule that went along with that and we collected one example of the math worksheet that you were doing last year and the pictures of the friends that you had last year and the TV shows that you loved to watch. Wouldn’t it be fun to reminisce about what’s changed in the last year? We graduated from My Little Pony to the next show. We graduated from two digit addition to three digit addition. I think a little bit of extra work in terms of family encounter creating experiences for our kids, or a little bit of extra work in business crafting experiences for our customers, we don’t have to start from scratch. If we use the four elements we’re at least thinking in the right ballpark.
John Jantsch: And, I think some of it is just a mindset. As you said, if we at least add that ingredient into our thought process we’re, even by accident, we’re likely to create a better experience and so we’re better off for that if nothing else.
Chip Heath: Exactly. And, it also helps you spot the brilliance of the employee that has done riff on something. If somebody comes up with something that helps people have an insight then we ought to keep that in the mix. Because that’s part of the things that we know that are going to be memorable and meaningful to people later on.
John Jantsch: Okay. So, we’ve been talking about a lot of really positive things, a lot of happy stuff here, so let’s end on a downer. You want to?
Chip Heath: All right.
John Jantsch: So, there’s also a possibility that somebody could listen to this or read this book and start designing some very fake moments. That’s a good analogy for the times we live in. So, is that potential there? You know we’ve all had these customer service calls where they’ve been given a script that is supposed to be like a memorable moment and it’s really just annoying. Is that potential there if we don’t do this authentically?
Chip Heath: I certainly believe that you can do these things in a … Authentically. There’s a moment that has been, I think been designed in the training program at many hotels where they instead of handing you the key across the counter, they walk out to the side and point you to … And, that can come across as contrived. But, think about the moments that we create for each other in most of our cultural ceremonies. You say, are weddings authentic or inauthentic? But, oh, they’re wonderfully inauthentic ceremonies that relate to an authentic purpose. And, birthday parties are planned and scripted. If you’ve ever been a parent planning one of these things, you know they’re incredible amounts of effort. But, there in … The service is something good. And, I think as long as our intentions are good people will give us the credit for doing … For trying to do things. I think we’ve got so much room for improvement that if something’s coming causes inauthentic, let’s drop it and figure something out. There’s infinite room for improvement.
John Jantsch: Visiting with Chip Heath the co-author of The Power Of Moments. Tell us where … I know people can find the book anywhere books are sold, but is there anywhere else you want to send people who are listening to get additional information or in touch with you?
Chip Heath: Well, if you’d like to read the first chapter of the book it’s on our website heathbrothers.com
John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, Chip thanks so much for joining us and hopefully I will bump into you next time I’m out there in sunny California.
Chip Heath: Excellent. Thanks for having me.
John Jantsch: Hey, thanks for listening to this episode of The Duct Tape Marketing podcast. Wonder if you can do me a favor? Could you leave an honest review on iTunes? Your ratings and reviews really help and I promise I read each and every one. Thanks.