Written by Diana Serrano
Jeannie Walters is a CX expert with more than 20 years of experience as a consultant, coach and speaker. Additionally, she’s an official member of the Forbes Coaches Council and a featured instructor for LinkedIn Learning. Scroll to the end of this interview for links to her courses and a 30-day free trial.
Our team was fortunate enough to interview her on all things customer “micro-moments.”
Q: What is a customer micro-moment?
Jeannie explained this is a term she invented. Think of a micro-moment as the inverse of an over-the-top PR story. After all, grand gestures are very rare in the customer journey.
Micro-moments are small, seemingly insignificant interactions between brand and customer. The bad ones go unnoticed because customers don’t usually complain. These experiences are only slightly annoying, but they’re significant because they build up over time and erode trust.
Jeannie offered a great example: “You’re in a relationship with a friend or a loved one, and all you do is once a year make a big deal about their birthday. But you basically neglect them for the rest of the year. That’s not a successful relationship,” she said.
Meanwhile, regular people don’t have the clout to qualify for special attention from brands. Jeannie emphasized the potential in building trust across the consumer base through small moments over time.
She challenged CX leaders to ask: “What are scalable small things that we can do throughout every customer journey, to show customers that we care about them, that we empathize, that we are investing in the relationship?”
Q: How can companies identify micro-moments both online and offline?
To help companies identify those valuable yet overlooked moments, Jeannie recommended journey mapping. When journey mapping, professionals should play the part of the customer, imagining each exchange with the brand. Also, companies shouldn’t assume that customers will only engage through one channel.
“You need to think about the whole people in the ecosystem they live in. You’ll start seeing these moments where you can really serve the customer just by being more aware of the moment they’re actually in, then reflecting a better micro moment in response,” Jeannie advised.
For instance, the only regular communication some customers get is an invoice. This is a missed opportunity for personalized communication. To the customer, each month with the company was a slightly different experience.
Q: What sets apart companies that are better poised to deliver good customer moments?
CX is about a meaningful experience for the customer, not corporate “blah.” Getting everyone in line with this idea makes for a team with the right mindset and a clear strategy. Good companies are set apart by having a clear strategy that the whole team knows and believes.
“You have a strategy in place to deliver your customer experience that is well-defined and well-articulated, so that every single person in the organization, from the executive to the people who clean up at night, understand what is the experience we’re delivering.”
Q: Is there room for creating special customer moments in difficult times?
Jeannie was adamant that it’s always important to create special customer moments. Today, we live in a world where everyone has more anxiety, Jeannie highlighted. Customers are trained to be cynical and skeptical, to expect companies not to care. Savvy brands find ways to reassure the customer, moments to say “you’re good, we’ve got you covered.”
“There are no small moments, in some ways, because every single one of these moments is amplified right now,” she said.
Jeannie advised customer-focused teams to think through what the brand represents and set expectations accordingly.
“It’s all about setting expectations and then delivering on those smaller promises throughout the journey.”
Lastly, Jeannie added that it’s indeed possible to use automation to improve these high-value moments. There are ways for companies to add thoughtful touches even when interactions don’t happen person-to-person.
“I think there are so many places right now where customers are looking for very specific guidelines, very specific help. And we can automate that for them,” Jeannie pointed out.
Q: Over the course of your career, has there been a shift in customer attitudes?
Jeannie commented on the impact of social media breaking down communication barriers. Today, customers can give their unfiltered feedback on a brand, for all the world to see. This sometimes makes it harder to serve customers, as they can approach brands in a defensive mindset after seeing negative reviews.
“The customer expectations are increasing so much and customers are getting more defensive. That’s why I’m so big on being proactive and setting expectations,” she said.
Jeannie reminded companies that customers have many perfectly reasonable demands, some of which aren’t met. So, the company must communicate very clearly and deliver as promised, down to the smallest detail.
“Customers are more demanding … and rightfully so. They also have much richer, more robust relationships with brands now … that go on for many years. [Companies] have control over our personal data and very personal parts of our experience.”
Q: Do you have any favorite examples of companies capitalizing on small moments?
Jeannie called out MailChimp. She said this company’s responses are friendly, even in unexpected places like error messages. The thoughtful, encouraging writing belie a team that cares about the customer.
“I think we underestimate the power of language and the power of those small phrases … you know, making sure the tone reflects your brand, making sure that it feels one-on-one.”
Jeannie advised other teams to take that lesson to heart, using language that brings a little moment of joy to the audience. There are many business phrases that have become meaningless. Just think of the “we appreciate your business” at the bottom of a receipt.
Q: Are some parts of the customer journey more important than others? If so, how can they be identified?
Jeannie explained that she prefers to hone in on moments right around purchase. For B2B transactions, those first few months after purchase are crucial. Too often, companies ship off new customers to the account management department, where they receive less attention.
“A lot of the times what happens is we manage the customer journey based on our org chart in that moment, instead of the actual customer,” she said.
When she works with clients, Jeannie focuses on finding ways to be proactive instead of reactive. She emphasized customers can be wooed away if they don’t feel engaged and valued.
“Going back to that relationship example, think about when you have that relationship where all of a sudden it’s boring, because yeah, it’s working the way it should, but there’s nothing to it. Suddenly, somebody else comes along and they look really exciting,” she explained.
For identifying and bolstering important moments in the customer journey, Jeannie also stressed recognizing good employees. These individuals have in-depth knowledge of pain points along the customer journey, as well as customer requests. Jeannie advised taking those insights and turning them into best practices.
Q: Anything else you want to mention?
Jeannie commended CX leaders.
Customer experience leaders are in the business of dealing with hard truths. This is a job that takes courage. It’s difficult to tell the rest of the team that what they’re doing is wrong for the customer. Anyone who aspires to be a CX leader should be prepared for pushback.
Q: What learning resources do you recommend on this topic?
Jeannie Walters recently started an Ask Me Anything weekly webinar series to address the needs of customer experience leaders today. You can sign up here: www.experienceinvestigators.com/cxama
Also, be sure to check out Jeannie’s LinkedIn Learning courses.
LinkedIn Learning 30 Day Free Trial:
Creating a Positive Customer Experience
Customer Experience: Journey Mapping
Journey Mapping: Case Study in Action
Customer Service Blueprinting
If you crave more learning, check out our virtual CX book club session below: