A few weeks ago, I was flying to Dubai to talk at a leader’s conference and I managed to sleep through the food service. When I woke up and asked if there was any food, the hostess responded with an abrupt and unhelpful “no.” Now there’s a truth to this: I had missed the ‘official’ meal time. However, in this brief moment the air hostess was creating a micro experience for me. A micro experience that left me hungry and wishing I’d flown with another airline…
Why are micro experiences important?
In this article we’re magnifying our interactions, in order to understand how micro experiences- the small, simple moments you might miss- can have macro effects. All of our interactions, good and bad, are made up of multiple micro-moments. Even one sales call involves numerous micro-moments, and the sum of those experiences will shape the customer’s experience of the company. So, this month we’re asking the following: are you conscious of the micro experiences you are creating in the everyday? And can you appreciate the micro experiences that other people are creating for you? Don’t underestimate their power. These seemingly small and simple moments create a ripple effect that can impact the dynamic of a whole relationship. To echo Google’s micro-moments advertisement campaign, “Life isn’t lived in years, or days, or even hours. It’s lived in moments.” And I believe this is true for all of our experiences, whether they be personal or professional, intimate or global.
How can we use micro experiences?
Personally and professional we want positive experiences, not just transactional relationships. In a recent key note, Adobe executive Brad Rencher said that: “As consumers, we’ve become quite demanding. And the theme that ties this all together isn’t the things we want, it’s the experiences we demand – the sum total of all of a customer’s interactions with a brand, from awareness to purchase to consumption, are now critical… so at each touch point, consumers feel uniquely understood and important.” For the customer, positive micro experiences are the moments that “delight me at every turn” (Adobe, Experience Index.) They are the bite-sized moments that make customer service and everyday interactions feel present and personal.
Micro sizing customer service
Micro experiences are what differentiate you personally and they are what differentiate organisations commercially. Aside from offering the lowest prices one of the best ways a company can differentiate from their competitors is by providing superior customer service. According to Adobe’s Experience Index, 78% of people agreed with the following statement: “whether in store or online, businesses should provide a personal service.” Which involves putting people before products. Flipping the formula so that it’s not simply a service or a transactional relationship: we want customer service and every day interactions to be personal. WeWork (a shared office space company who started out in 2010) demonstrates the power of putting people before products, as this year, the company became the largest corporate office occupier in central London. Miguel McKelvey co-founder of WeWork stated that: “As a company we really don’t care about numbers, what we care about is delivering an experience. When we have meetings, we don’t discuss square foot objectives. Instead, we ask ‘How can we make sure that the experience is awesome today?’” It’s interesting that McKelvey lands on ‘today’ because great customer service is about meeting customers where they at, in the present moment. People- at both a cellular and consumerist level- are constantly changing. So, consistent customer service is about striking a dynamic balance: a type of balance found in motion and built out of many, many micro experiences.
David Eldeman (global co-leader of Digital McKinsey) gives a great example of how companies can harness the power of micro experiences: “a moment when you’re travelling is wanting to get into your hotel room and not have to queue to check-in. With the Starwood app, you can check-in right on the app. As soon as you enter the property, beacons recognise that you’re there. You verify your identity with a fingerprint (if you’re on an iPhone), the app provides your room number and then you simply hold your phone up to the entranceway to the room and in you go. That’s an amazing way for a brand to help you in a moment.” Both of these companies are no longer interested in selling office space or hotel rooms: they are interested in selling their customer’s an experience. And this model of customer service can be applied to almost any organisation: make it about the people, not the products by creating positive interactions through micro experiences. Starting as soon as they pick up the phone…
The Power of Personal
“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts”
– Winnie the Pooh.
On a personal level how do we create micro experiences every day? According to Wikipedia personal experience is the “moment-to moment experience and sensory awareness of internal and external events or a sum of experiences forming an empirical unity such as a period of life.” So, personal service is made up of multiple, positive micro experiences. A great example comes from my colleague Katie who recently got married. The lady hosting the wedding reception created so many micro experiences in the build-up to the wedding- simple, small gestures like a free drink and a meal whenever they dropped by- that nothing on the big day could have possibly shaken her experience of the host. Even the misdelivered crab for the starters was dismissed with a laugh because ultimately the many, many micro experiences meant so much more than this one potential ‘disaster’.
Equally, we can take the shine out of positive experiences if we don’t manage the micro experiences. Another example from Katie involves a property management company who are going to be looking after her flat while she’s living in America. They’ve taken the most amazing photos of her flat and have created a fantastic Airbnb profile. But these great experiences have been undermined by a lack of contact and clarity. The micro-moments, the moments that might not seemingly matter (like taking 5 days to reply to an email) have hugely impacted her relationship with the company. And micro experiences have macro effects because as we all know: every happy customer is a walking, talking endorsement for the company.
Make the most of the moment you’re in
“Wealth stays with us a little moment if at all: only our characters are steadfast, not our gold.”
How can you become an expert at creating memorable and impactful micro experiences? As my partner Tom used to say, rather than thinking, “I wonder what will happen today?”ask yourself this: “I wonder what I will create today?” Suddenly, you’ve switched the script: you’ve chosen to consciously create your impact, in each and every (micro) moment.
Whilst the air hostess I mentioned at the start might have not been able to offer me a meal, she missed an opportunity to shape my experience. I wonder whether instead of a “no”, she could have offered me some snacks, fruit or even just a tea. And perhaps my experience would have been very different had I been flying first class simply. However, I believe positive micro experiences aren’t to do with cost because ultimately what makes them magical isn’t the stuff: it’s the present and personal interaction with the person in front of you. It’s a smile, a heartfelt thank you or a “this is what I can do” because it’s just as easy (and free) for someone in economy class to offer us as smile as it is for someone in first to not. So, with this is mind, can we challenge ourselves to give away micro experiences for free? Because if we allow micro experiences to transcend class and cost we can give them away to everybody.
Thankfully, there are always opportunities to practice this skill. Even when you’re waiting in line for your coffee. How do you want to interact with the person working on the till? Your interaction might last less than 30 seconds but in those few seconds you are creating an impact whether you choose to take charge of those seconds or not. So, it’s up to you whether you decide to shape the experience…for yourself and for all the other people in the coffee shop. How are they going to feel after you leave the shop…?
“Yet what each one does is by no means of little moment. The grass has to put forth all its energy to draw sustenance from the uttermost tips of its rootlets simply to grow where it is as grass; it does no vainly strive to become a banyan tree; and so the earth gain a lovely carpet of green.”
Of course, consciously creating micro experiences all the time would be exhausting and incredibly difficult. We are human: we have brains, bodies and buzzes in our pockets that are constantly taking us away from the moment. Therefore, we have to choose when we want to show up. We have to decide which moments matter most. This might be as simple as stopping yourself briefly before putting your key in your front door this evening. A short pause that brings your back to the present moment and connects you to the people around you. From here you can ask yourself: what micro experiences do I want to create today? And what positive micro experiences are going to be created for me?
Remember: it’s the simple things in life.