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What are micro-moments and how are they transforming the customer experience?

20th Jun 2017

Customer journeys and customer touch points are important at the macro level, but buying decisions are made pre-consciously in the micro-moment experience.

I absolutely love video conferencing. Yesterday, I had a video conference call scheduled with a new client. She is the CEO of an entertainment celebrity’s brand.

We were planning to discuss one of their websites and how we could improve the experience of the guest within the first few seconds after arrival so the guest becomes more likely to make a purchase. When we started the call I could see the frustration she was feeling even before a word was spoken. I felt my body shift in my chair; I felt myself go into coach mode.

The future of customer experience

For several years now, I have imagined the day when customers and employees will be fitted with biofeedback devices that provide updates to each other wirelessly that we are biologically too slow to be consciously aware of or our bodily senses are not capable of detecting. I can see in my mind how these devices can even trigger an appropriate emotional reaction in the employee to the emotional state of the customer, although the employee is unaware of the reason for the trigger. And, in this emotional state, the employee serves the customer in the best possible manner because he or she is triggered to do so.

Far fetched? Maybe. But, my reactions to the expression of frustration on the CEO’s face that appeared on my computer screen yesterday were automatic. I did not have to think about them. I could only reflect on the fact that I was aware that I did make adjustments to my body posture and my demeanor and that my mind shifted to a different set of operating instructions which I identify as ‘coach-mode.’ Technology should be able to enhance this natural ability.

Micro-moments of experience

What happened to me was a micro-moment experience. Psychologists and neuroscientists believe a moment of human experience is about three seconds long. So, experiences that happen in less than that timeframe are micro-moments. I first learned of this term while reading Barbara Fredrickson’s research on the positivity ratio and love. She examines how micro-moments of positivity have profound and lasting effects on relationships and human performance.

Researchers have also shown that our conscious awareness of a decision being made can be delayed by up to seven seconds. This means that we are not consciously making many of our decisions using the logic of our conscious, rational mind. Instead, our emotions are guiding our decisions in a pre-conscious or sub-conscious manner.

Applied to customer experience research

In our research of customer feedback in emails, surveys, pre-sales applications and conversations, we have been able to show that specific pre-conscious nuances in language are indicative of behaviours that will be taken days, weeks or even months in the future resulting in a purchase or a account termination.

More and more of our research is aligning. It seems that the customer journey matters on a macro level, but it is the micro-moment of experience that captures the attention and determines how the customer will interpret their journey. While the journey design is important, the identification and optimisation of key micro-moments is the real opportunity for customer experience and user experience professionals in the future.

The DNA of a micro-moment experience

I currently believe that micro-moments of experience have three fundamental characteristics. I refer to them as the 3 F’s. 

  • They are fast, happening between a fraction of a second and a few seconds as described above.
  • They focus the customer, usually pre-consciously, on a tiny detail that sets his or her expectation for the future moments or determines how past moments will be interpreted.
  • They involve feelings. I define feelings very specifically here as the conscious awareness of an emotion. The science of emotions demonstrates that a multitude of emotions are firing in our body all of the time in order to transfer information around the body and to or from the brain. Yet, only a small number of emotions ever reach our conscious awareness in a manner that we can say, ‘I feel…’ about them.

Examples of micro-moments

Here are five examples of micro-moments that we have discovered in our research and which made a difference for our clients’ customer experiences and their sales.

1. Brand Promise

As early as 2008 I became aware of the impact of just a few words uttered in a micro-moment. A hotel was having an unusually high number of complaints related to the type of bed (i.e. king or queen) in a guest’s room, location of the room, the speed of check-in, long waits, and more. After some investigation the team I was working with discovered three words in the reservation script that were setting false expectations. The agents were telling guests that they “guaranteed your room.” This was not the reality. No rooms were guaranteed.

A single micro-moment experience altered the entire perspective of the guests’ stay.

Once those words were changed to “noted your preferences” the satisfaction scores doubled and the complaints disappeared. A single micro-moment experience altered the entire perspective of the guests’ stay.

2. Product Positioning

A client that conducts trainings for small business owners was doing well, but they were intrigued by some of the case studies we presented. They asked us to do an audit of their pre-sales applications to see what we could discover. We returned with over two dozen findings and recommendations. One in particular made an immediate impact. We found that buyers were more likely to express interest in the expertise of the company’s trainers than non-buyers.

Using this insight, our client altered their subtle patterns of their language during the initial training sessions to focus on the teaching about availability of the company’s internal expertise and to deemphasise their external network of experts. The change of a micro-moment experience resulted in a 90% increase in sales for the next tier of training. In essence, those who were not pre-disposed to buying at the start of the training learned to value the internal expertise during the training so they chose to invest in more training.

3. Decision Point

A resort company asked if we could help them improve their room upgrades from one-room suites to two-room suites. They found that their overbooking of one-room suites led to giving away free upgrades to two-room suites and the returns for the additional capital investment were not sufficient.

We analysed their guests’ feedback and found that there were several comments from past guests who expressed delight at the experience they had (as a result of paying for) the upgraded suite. We worked with our client to create small updates to the sales page where the prospective guests of a one-room suite would see a testimonial and other subtle evidence of the value of the two-room suite prior to booking the room. The early results are proving promising. Guests are unaware of the social influences we put in place and are deciding to adjust their behaviours pre-consciously.

4. Thank You Again

A real estate firm reached out to see how we could help them improve their social reputation and word of mouth referrals. We did an initial audit of the online reviews and found that the company was doing nearly everything perfectly. So, we dived deeper into their operations. We found that they sent out a survey for their internal benchmarking and tracking. In this process they had an automated ‘thank you’ message delivered to the client who submitted the survey.

I encouraged the CEO and her team to also send a handwritten ‘thank you’ with a $5 gift card. This was a complete surprise to their clients because they thought the electronic ‘thank you’ was the end of the process; they already had psychological closure. That additional micro-moment of surprised delight made a noticeable difference. It triggered a desire in the heart of the client to reciprocate. Within two weeks of implementing this new step, the CEO reported that word of mouth referrals were up and they were directly attributed to the handwritten note and gift.

5. Homepage Conversions

Many of our clients, like the CEO of the entertainment celebrity’s company I mentioned at the beginning of this article, believe they have greater opportunities to convert visitors who arrive on their homepage. We’ve worked with consulting companies, health and wellness firms, even a bicycle manufacturer who was moving to online sales.

We audited their customers’ feedback, their customers’ behaviours and the current customer journeys (i.e. the homepage and website experience). In each case we found between five and seven immediate opportunities for improvement that can impact sales. These include minor changes to the pictures, the presence of logos of clients or third party certifications, short quotes from customers that validate the value proposition, and more.

Where to look for micro-moments

When you have an awareness of the power of a micro-moment you can evaluate your customer experience in a new way. The emotions expressed in written comments, the words your staff consistently hears, and even the expressions you detect on customers’ faces can all become data for you to analyse. Then you can examine the under-utilised assets you have that will trigger positive micro-moments. These could be:

  1. Logos of clients or awards that languish at the bottom of your homepage.
  2. Testimonials or quotes on social review sites or in your survey responses.
  3. A picture of a customer engaging with one of your team members.
  4. Opportunities to surprise or delight with a small gift.
  5. Gamification of a process.

These small, seemingly insignificant elements of the customer journey, or of a customer touch point are in fact the most influential elements responsible for triggering positive micro-moments.

You know it when you see it

While I was on the video conference with the CEO yesterday, I walked her through several examples of where her team could make improvements. I continued to coach her until I saw it: the ‘Aha!’ look that washed across her face followed by her joyful expression, ‘I got it! I know I should do this but until you told me I just didn’t think about it.’

Sometimes an outsider can more easily and quickly see the opportunity for improving micro-moment experiences because to them, everything is new.


Tony Bodoh is the co-author of the #1 best selling book, "The Complete Experience: Unlocking the Secrets of Online Reviews that Drive Customer Loyalty" and he is the creator of the Admiration Equation.

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