May 16 Do you know what makes or breaks your customer experience?

Journey maps are flexible tools that we use to understand the customer’s thoughts, feelings, and actions within an experience. But with limited resources, it can be difficult to prioritize what parts of a journey are most in need of investment. To that end, we have been pushing our clients further by using critical moments to identify the points in a journey that make or break an individual’s experience.

Imagine your service journey as you buy cable and internet from a provider. You’ve done your research, purchased the package you want, and scheduled a date for the technician to set up the device. Once the logistics are organized, the technician shows up, connects some cables, and within seconds, you are connected to the internet!

While each of these activities and interactions are integral to the customer experience, when we take the time to speak to the customer, understand the context, and gather quantitative and qualitative data, we really see and hear the accentuated frustration, effort, or delight that define a critical moment.

If we revisit our example, there are many opportunities for a customer to feel delight or stress. Finding information and the right internet package for your new home can be overwhelming, scheduling the technician can potentially turn into a nightmare, and the expectation around connecting to the internet is that it should be instant, seamless and automatic.

A critical moment is a touchpoint that has the most potential to make or break the entire experience. They are not always pain points, but can also be positives that hold the experience together. Oftentimes a critical moment reveals a truth behind certain behaviors and intensity of emotions, sometimes even without the customer’s realization. When we sense from the customer that a high amount of their emotional energy is invested in the outcome, or that they have large gaps between their expectations and reality, we identify a critical moment that should receive priority attention.

Why Emotions Matter

Interestingly, research shows that positive emotions are more correlated to satisfaction than successfully completing a task. For example, in a 2016 survey, Forrester found that ‘the way an experience makes customers feel has a bigger influence on their loyalty to a brand than the effectiveness or ease of the experience.” That’s why simply fixing your pain points is not always enough to drive long-term loyalty— rather it pays to also invest in the emotional experience of your customer.

Through the lens of behavioral psychology, we understand that people are more likely to remember experiences that are emotionally charged. After an entire journey, they will only remember the highs, lows, and end of an experience, and these are the moments that matter when they evaluate their level satisfaction. We think of critical moments as points of ‘highest highs and the lowest lows,’ which when fixed, have the most potential to drive customer satisfaction and NPS.

Finding the Optimal Point of Intervention

When we identify critical moments, we make sure that they are points that a company has direct influence and control over, as opposed to external forces. For a business, highlighting these moments help the team focus on the optimal point of interaction and where to prioritize investment. As a leader, finding a critical moment means making sure you aren’t only looking at metrics, but taking a holistic approach to understanding touchpoints based on their performance and their relative importance to the customer.