“The moment of misery”: that one moment when your customers really listen

Igor Pauletič / / Customer Experience

I’m firmly convinced that the days are numbered for content marketing as practiced by most companies today. The amount of content generated by marketing in just a few years has led to such communication noise that no one can hear or see anything anymore. And consequently also feel anything . . . well, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. But it’s a fact that a reboot is almost a necessity.

Are your promotional messages able to get past the communication noise to your target audiences?

Creating interest has become significantly more challenging than ever before. Just like organic positioning on Google. Even influencers have been driven into the zone of the inaudible. Well, they mostly drove themselves there. The relationship between the sincerity of their messages, brand loyalty, and the profitability of what they do is extremely difficult to capture in a formula that would be sustainable in the long run. Admit it: we consumers hear them less and less. Their influence is always diminishing. They are killed by the same thing as everything else that marketing touches. Communication noise.

When reading Jan Carlzon’s thoughts on “moments of truth,” I came to the conclusion that perhaps marketers could be taught how to break through the communication noise. Only then will marketing messages have a certain communication value.

“Moment of misery”: the moment I’m receptive to messages. “Moment of magic”: the moment I’m ready to spread them.

I think that every company needs to learn to recognize its customers’ moods, which could be defined as “moments of misery” and “moments of magic.”  Some other writers also use the term “moments of joy” instead. I think these are those rare moments when people really open their ears to messages. If only in the context of that moment.

When I experience misery, I listen. I’m receptive to the message. Especially because I want to banish get rid of that feeling of misery. And I’m also willing to do something, to get engaged. That’s when I hear messages from the provider that drove me to misery. But I also become alert and receptive to his competitors’ messages. The moment I experience a feeling of misery, I’m ready for change, for action. Without that feeling the likelihood of action is much, much smaller.

Let’s play with some real-life examples. Would your bank be able to sell you a loan more easily if it linked its message to your moment of misery?

You can imagine how a bank’s big campaign promoting consumer loans could play out. Television and the internet are full of these. Just like sales on women’s cosmetics and laundry detergent. You can easily imagine how many people were grabbed by these messages and what percentage of conversions the bank actually has in this situation.

Now let’s think about a different approach. Imagine what it would be like to hear a bank offer approval of a consumer loan right away (existing customers are supposed to be able to get it “right off the shelf”) if you received it in the form of an SMS (or as a push message from your mobile bank on your phone) right after a POS or ATM has rejected a transaction due to insufficient funds in your account. Or because there were insufficient funds for an automatic payment or you got a bigger Mastercard bill than usual. These are moments that we’ve all experienced before, and we know that we felt pretty miserable as customers. And we wanted the most elegant solutions to these problems possible.

I’m convinced that if the bank stepped in at the right time and in the right context, the customer would understand this as assistance. If the experience was “handy” enough, the cost of the service wouldn’t bother them too much, either. When I’m talking about convenience and ease of activating consumer credit in a moment of feeling miserable when a transaction is rejected, I mean a maximum of two clicks and a PIN code in a mobile banking app. Or a simple answer or two to an SMS.

Anticipate when and where your customers might experience moments of misery!

Your belief that you’re doing well because you have well-organized processes is death to managing the customer’s overall experience. In most cases, this moment of misery is primarily the “fault” of the customer, who got himself into this feeling. The seller’s problem is that we don’t know how to anticipate and properly react to these moments. I’ve had the ATM eat my bank card because I kept typing in the PIN of some other card. It was all my own fault! But I experienced real misery, when I realized that I’d have to become a detective in order to find out how to get my card back and get access to the money in my account. A single SMS or telephone call in that moment of misery could easily resolve the whole situation. In an instant. I imagine that the bank knows exactly when, where, and why the ATM ate someone’s bank card.

I remember a similar feeling of misery I had when I was waiting for a tow truck because I ran out of fuel on the freeway. Standing at the side of the road at night in the cold, wind and rain seemed to last an eternity. I would have felt infinitely better if they had sent me a “link” after my call for assistance so that I could keep track of where the help with the diesel can currently was on my phone. Uber figured out a long time ago that the customer can wait more patiently when he knows how long his wait will be. But my insurance company still doesn’t get it.

Create an overall customer experience plan. Think about how you can be different from your competitors.

If it’s true that we’re so highly dependent on our customers’ overall experience to develop our business, then the next big thing in marketing is precisely actively managing their experience. Company management will have their own customer experience officers (CXOs), and customer satisfaction measurement will no longer focus on determining the average customer satisfaction rating once a year, but mainly on detecting moments of misery (and identifying fans) at a very transactional level. At every contact with the customer. Ensuring customer’s responsiveness regarding their satisfaction will be a key thing, because the results of these measurements will be a key trigger for proactive communication with the customer. It seems that golden times are in store for InstantFeedback and SAP CX. Or are customers willing to put up with more than I think they are?

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