By Joe Johnston and Amit Garg

Jan 28, 2020

Why product moments are important

Finding the ‘just right’ experience

We all know the story of Goldilocks and the three bears: the little girl wants to find the perfect porridge. Not too hot, not too cold, but juuust right.

If Goldilocks was a business and the porridge an experience, you end up with the question: how can businesses find the just right experience for their customers? 

According to a recent Accenture study, 77 percent of customers feel a brand earns their loyalty if it takes immediate action when they are unhappy.

Conversely, the same study found that after a bad experience, 38 percent of customers gave a portion of their wallet to a different business, and another 39 percent stopped doing business with the brand. 

Those numbers are astonishing, and it got us to the realization that:

  1. Trust is earned when brands are there for customers in the moment, and
  2. It takes only a moment for brands to lose their customers’ business. 

Moments are emotional, and emotions dictate behavior. By designing for moments — for the emotions we want customers to feel when using the product — we can be sure to achieve that elusive ‘just-right’ experience.

We refer to these as Product Moments, and they form an overarching theme to our design philosophy here at YML.

How do you capture the right product moments?

Designing the right thing, the right way

Identifying the most important moments in your customer experience is just as crucial as designing for them.

In an ideal world, we’d kick off a project, come up with great ideas, design them, develop them, launch them, and get it all right the first time. Luckily, and you’ll see why in a moment (ha ha), our world doesn’t work that way. 

Rather, in our world the best and most efficient way to design the right product is by doing the right research. We’re not talking about a drawn out 6-month-hire-a-consulting-firm-with-100-page-reports type of research. There’s a time and place for that.

For capturing moments, we stand up and leave the office. We spend time with people in their space as they interact with the product (or your competitor’s). We ask the right questions that help us get to the right information. 

We’re lucky that our jobs require us to interact and empathize with people, face-to-face, so that we may design a part of their life to be just a bit more delightful. The crux of capturing the right moments lies there: do the research that helps you understand the behaviors, attitudes, desires, and frustrations of your customers.

Gathering that wealth of information helps create a future forward story with customer needs at the heart of the to-be product, and allows you to design for moments that drive better experiences and better business outcomes.

Experimentation focuses on understanding user expectations, behaviors, needs, and motivations through methodical, investigative approaches. Insights are then used to ensure that all product design decisions do benefit the user.

Let’s address the elephant in the room: design research is never really done. 

We capture questions from all of our stakeholders, send out surveys, host interviews, and conduct contextual research. But questions lead to answers and even more questions, and even more research.

For the insatiable UX researchers, marketing campaigners, designers, and strategists here, we know that feeling - and the frustration of research not making it into a project plan.

At YML, our approach to the ‘just right’ research with our partners is fourfold:

  1. Know what you don’t know. Gather all your assumptions and knowledge gaps, then draft questions that will fill them. 
  2. Draft a set of learning objectives and share it around to make sure there’s understanding on what the research will gather. 
  3. Create a prototype of something (yes, as part of research) that can be put in front of people, and see how it performs. We don’t call it ‘validation’ because we don’t assume that we’re right.
  4. Follow a directional, 2-week (agile) experimentation sprint that can run in tandem with design or development sprints depending on the phase of the project. 

For identifying moments, this almost always involves conducting field or remote research like interviews or mobile video diary studies (we like dscout). By seeing it ourselves, we recognize workarounds, physical artifacts, and motivations that are subconscious to our participants.

From the field: Look for the“wooden ruler”

While conducting observational research for a financial digital product, we conducted desk ride-alongs asking employees how they went about their day and how things got done. As you can imagine, the employees dove into several different applications going from one to another copying and pasting info across systems, showing all the normal challenges with complex financial software. 

While walking through all the same flows and challenges with the final participant, we noticed an old wooden ruler on her desk. You know, the ones we had in elementary school. We made a note to ourselves to ask her about it at the end of the ride-along. 

As we ended our conversation we asked the question: “Why the ruler? Her colleagues chuckled and she blushed and said, “It’s for me to keep track of my check list”. She said, “We have to follow a very rigorous list of items to make sure everything is done in the right order”. She had a hand written checklist on her desk and she used the ruler to keep track of each item she was on, and would move it down the list as she completed tasks.

This observation would later become the key to streamlining the digital product. Something we captured in a few days, not months, would point us in a direction that would have huge impact on the product. This manual checklist was integrated into the flow of the digital product and allowed the company to remove errors and increase productivity of investments going through the system.

Without this observational research the team would have never seen or uncovered the hidden pain points that can completely change a digital product’s success.

How to keep a customer focused mindset when designing for product moments

In their book on customer centricity, Peter Fader and Sarah Thomas lend us their definition of product centricity and how it vastly differs from customer centricity in practice:

  • Product Centricity is the practice of selling as many products as possible to as many customers as possible, no matter their level of anonymity.
  • Customer Centricity aligns the development and delivery of a company’s products and services with the current and future needs of its highest-value customers while also recognizing - and celebrating - customer heterogeneity. This practice maximizes these customers’ long-term value to the brand. 

Let’s unpack these for a minute. A product centric business strategy is not inherently bad. For some, it works.

A perfect example is the classic side of the street souvenir shop you see in tourist hotspots around the world. Owners of these shops don’t really care who you are, as long you buy their product, and as much of it as possible. For them, all customers are made equal and generally have an equal chance of a transaction.

We don’t really expect shops like these to transform with a customer centric business strategy because it wouldn’t be a worthwhile investment. Their value isn’t different enough from their neighbors to warrant a strategic overhaul (although admittedly, it would be a fun thought experiment). 

On the flip side, key to the definition of customer centricity is the recognition, acceptance, and celebration of customer diversity in the broadest sense. It’s the belief that in fact not all customers are made equal, and therefore don’t always deserve (or need) an equal share of your company’s valuable resources.

A customer centric brand seeks to understand the qualities and characteristics of its highest-valued customers, and strategically aligns business operations to meet their needs.

The culmination of these efforts leads to boosted CX metrics across the board, but most importantly to an increased customer lifetime value, or the value a customer brings to your brand over their lifetime. Achieving true customer centricity of course doesn’t happen overnight.

Transitioning from product to customer centric requires an organizational culture shift with a forward momentum increasing in maturity. We see our clients in various stages along the customer mindset maturity scale.

Our calling is to arm our clients with the tools, strategy, and execution to get to full customer-mindset maturity, and designing for moments is a key step along this path. We’re proud to have done that for leaders in entertainment like UMG, health and wellness like dosist, and insurance like State Farm.

Orchestrating moments across the organization

Connecting the dots

At YML, we take pride in design not living in isolation. A great solution can only be great when it fits within the holistic brand experience. When designing for moments, we take a service design approach to align internal services like roles, processes, and workflows including all physical and digital touchpoints.

It’s important to start with defining who the consumer of the service is - and we intentionally say consumer because Product Moments can apply externally (customers) or internally (employees) - and knowing the moments that matter to them. Then we define how the different parts of your organization can work together to support those moments. 

We treat products like theater: there’s a front stage with actors performing for an audience. Behind the curtain are backstage coordinators that support the actors in putting on the show. Those backstage do just as much to shape the final performance as those in front.

Your customers, employees, technology, products, processes and operations, your business model... all these relationships formulate who you are as an organization. The backstage employees, technologies, and processes help to power the touchpoints, that are then delivered by frontend technology and frontline employees into moments that the customer experiences.

All the pieces play their part in making the experience come to life.
The benefit of using a service design approach is that it guides decision making for the whole organization. Teams are able to see why their work matters and what value it brings to both the customer and the business. It brings to light the careful orchestration of all touchpoints, and the moments they’re designed to support. 

Creating a Product Moment Map

The details of a Product Moment Map

Moment Maps are like short fiction stories about how you want your customer to experience your brand. The only difference is that these stories are meant to become real.

How do customers become aware of you? What happens in their life where they will need you? How will they use a product or service you offer? Start by writing the story of each moment: what led to it, what’s happening during, and what happens after the moment has passed. 

Next, define the type of touchpoints that you’re providing in those moments. Is it an employee? A checkout screen? Maybe a kiosk? They usually fall into one of five categories:

  1. People, including employees and other customers, encountered while using or delivering the product.
  2. Place, such as the physical space or the virtual environment through which the product is delivered
  3. Props, such as the objects (Digital & Physical) used while experiencing the product 
  4. Partners, including other businesses or entities that help to produce or enhance the product
  5. Processes, such as the workflows and rituals that are used to produce the product (this relates the people, place, props, and partners)

Because you know your customers and your business so well, next describe the work that needs to be done, both in front and back of stage, to deliver on those touchpoints.

An employee that reaches out during an accident, a recommendation engine to suggest a product on a site, or a 3D map of a store for customers to browse -  these resources and processes either exist in your business now, or don’t and need to be built. You can even prioritize the moments based on the potential impact they might have on your business. Now you have a roadmap.

Finally, define the outcomes that you expect to see when fiction becomes fact. You can call them “metrics”, but they could include more than traditional KPIs. Use this space to talk about both business outcomes and the impact on your customer.

By following this process, you start to see customer centricity take shape: you’re crafting a business plan based on moments that define a customer’s experience with you, and everyone in your organization can see how their work supports your customer. 

How it’s different from a journey map

We know there’s other cartographers out there, making journey maps, experience maps, and the like.

While useful as a research deliverable or in compliment to a persona, we’ve found that limiting the map to thoughts, feelings, and emotions doesn’t result in the action needed to deliver on the moment. That's why many end up as stale posters on the wall or even rolled up in the corner collecting dust. Instead, we see a journey map as the precursor to a Product Moment Map. 

The value of Product Moment Mapping

  • Alignment - Share alignment across the product teams, leadership and the organization
  • Execution - Visibility in prioritization and the ability to make decisions  faster as teams.
  • Scale - Brings visibility on how a product moment can scale across the product teams and organizations
  • Organization - Easily see how the product teams needs to be aligned to execute the work and what product moments need to be road mapped into features. 
  • Cost reduction - Increased visibility and speed to marketing due to product team alignments 
  • Reduced Churn - Due to the team alignment less time spent on what should be done and how it should be done. 
  • Faster to market - Faster decisions and alignment creating with product teams lead to faster prototypes and faster to market with quicker feedback cycles to narrow the focus on product moments.

How to start Product Moment Mapping? 

The best way to design for product moments is to immerse yourself in the process, and YML is here to help.

Reach out to us and let’s make something that matters for your customers and your business.

Additionally, take a look at tangible examples of how designing for product moments is already driving impact for category leading brands like State Farm, dosist, and Universal Music Group