Word-Of-the-Week #718: Defining Moment

May 10, 2018 by  

Defining Momentan experience that transcends an ordinary experience. 

When was the last time you had an experience that surpassed your expectations? Have you ever created a defining moment for one of your guests, clients, customers, members, family, or friends? Who do you know that doesn’t like a nice surprise?

San Diego UT columnist Neil Senturia on “Elevating the ordinary into life-changing stuff” once again makes a great focus for our week.

“Why do we remember things? And how does memory influence customer retention and satisfaction? 

When my daughter was younger, and I was still CEO-ing at full tilt, I would gather the junk that the vendors/booths were giving away when I went to a conference. I was really good at scoring pocket calculators (1996-8), which I would send to my daughter who was 11 at the time. She loved them. Now here it is 21 years later and when I get junk from a conference, I send it to her with a note telling her “that there were no pocket calculators available.” She loves it (the last item I sent was a rubber shrimp, since I am now in the sustainable fish racket). 

The point of the story is a simple one. We had created “a moment” that informed our relationship forever. Meet Chip and Dan Heath, MBA graduates of Stanford and Duke, who have written a book, “The Power of Moments.” They did some research and found that the top four hotels in Los Angeles on TripAdvisor are the Beverly Hills Hotel ($875/night), the Hotel Bel Air ($1,120/night), the Peninsula ($815/night) and the fourth one is the Magic Castle Hotel ($209/night). Heath describes it as “a converted two-story apartment complex from the 1950s, painted canary yellow with an Olympic size pool, if the Olympics were held in your backyard.” 

How does this happen you might ask? Heath says that the hotel creates “defining moments.” The hotel has the “Popsicle Hotline.” You pick up a red phone at the pool and you hear “Hello, Popsicle Hotline.” You then request a Popsicle in the flavor of your choice, and an employee wearing white gloves delivers it to you on a silver platter. That’s it – just a Popsicle. 

Now think this one through carefully. The Popsicle costs 10 cents, the employee is already on a salary, the white gloves are washable, the silver platter is not sterling, so the total cost of this extravaganza, this defining moment, this “are you kidding me” experience on a unit-cost-basis is well under $3 – all in. Yet, the customer is nutso, over the top, wow, and the hotel runs 95 percent occupied and is No. 4 on TripAdvisor. You gotta love America.

The Heath brothers had discovered the power of “elevation moments” that transcend ordinary experience. The “I didn’t see that coming” moment – a special glass of wine on the house, a surprise at work, where the cost of the surprise, or the over-the-top delivery is de minimis compared to its effect. They call this the “Power of the Free Popsicle.”

  • And this quote from the Heath brothers, “Certain brief experiences can jolt us and elevate us and change us—and we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our life and work.” 

This week’s focus is on creating a defining moment. How easy is it for you to remember “over the top” experiences you’ve had? Did they make you want to do more business with that person or company? What one thing could you do to create an “elevation moment” for your guests, clients, customers, members, family, or friends?

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