Learnings from “Designing Evocative Signature Moments” at Forrester CX NYC 2018

Kristin Zibell
6 min readAug 7, 2018
Photo by John Keene from Flickr, Creative Commons License

Did you know a piece of chocolate on a pillow could be a bad thing? Hotels commonly place a piece of chocolate with turn-down service, most likely to give a treat to the guest. But is it really a treat to receive candy right before bed? Is it really a moment of delight if you’re all ready for bed and now have the temptation of chocolate? No doubt hospitality managers and hotel owners designed this moment of the hotel experience with the hopes that it would delight, but did it?

This topic and those questions were raised by Ryan Hart and Anjali Lai at the “Designing Evocative Signature Moments” panel as part of the Forrester CX NYC 2018 conference. I joined them on this panel, along with P.V. Kannan, CEO 247.ai, to share my experiences on the topic of signature moments —

When do the little things matter and when do they annoy?

How can customer experience professionals and UX designers design these signature moments to be so evocative that they shift brand perception?

The Forrester Report “Differentiate Your Customer Experience with Signature Moments,” shows that many smaller interactions — or micro interactions — can elevate a brand by delighting customers in minute, but impactful ways. Forrester defines the signature moments as:

“Memorably crafted and branded micro interactions that deliver delight and value to customers in an often subtle yet definitively recognizable way.”

In a digital product, the customer experience of a brand extends to the user experience of the product. There many moments in a user experience that can be meaningful and have the opportunity to be evocative — the onboarding process, completing primary tasks and core actions, and getting help. All of these interactions must be usable and satisfying, but it’s the micro interactions that can extend a brand and add up to exceptional user experiences.

Ryan Hart, one of the co-presenters at the panel shared, “Carefully crafted signature moments are critical to elevating the overall customer journey. The more closely these journey micro interactions can be designed to align with customer expectations and emotions, the better chance a brand has of cultivating memories and loyalty.”

Paying attention to these micro interactions of delight sets the user experience apart because it creates an indelible signature for the brand in the customers’ hearts and minds.

At the Designing Evocative Signature Moments panel at Forrester CX NYC 2018 with Ryan Hart, Anjali Lai, and P.V. Kannan, I shared three techniques that I use to design evocative signature moments.

Photo Credit: Forrester

Obsessive Knowledge of the Customer

We can only create meaningful moments if we know what is useful to our customers. This understanding starts with user research. Specifically, it is seeking out what goals they are trying to achieve. Products, services, and experiences are tools and methods that help a user accomplish their goals.

We need to identify what matters to them so that the moments of delight are a map to what they need during those experiences. User and task analysis techniques, design-thinking framework, and the Jobs to Be Done model are excellent methods to identify what matters to customers.

No matter the framework, I start by asking these questions of the customers:

+ How do you currently accomplish this goal?

+ Why are you doing that?

+ What are the problems you have?

+ What help do you need?

+ What would that help give you that would make it better?

As Director of Product at Akili, I launched two products into a private beta test that served moms and teachers of kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD. I conducted user research to find what was meaningful and rewarding to them in managing their child’s chronic disease. At the macro level, the findings were no surprise. Mom needs help in making sure her child had the chance to be successful daily, which is challenging with this disease. I made sure in the design to have her motivation clear on the main task of the app — behavior and symptom tracking by having her child’s photo on the form.

I also learned that what she found rewarding was that glass of wine at the end of the day. This moment was her break for reflection and reenergizing, so she can gain energy to do it all again tomorrow. That moment was the micro-interaction I wanted to elevate. In the design of the Fengo app, I had an artist draw a happy wine glass and congratulations to give a little digital reward instead of a generic confirmation message.Innovate and Validate Quickly with Pilot Projects

With the grand scale of customer experience organizations of large companies, innovation means great risk. To minimize that risk and quickly innovate, I apply the Lean Startup principles and Continuous Discovery methods when starting projects or initiatives. With this pilot project approach, I want to move a project or product towards innovation through experimentation.

I believe all designs, until tested or used, are hypotheses of what we think will delight and satisfy users. I practice continuous product discovery to validate these hypotheses in a variety of forms — ideas, concepts, or prototypes — with users to make sure these interactions and moments are going in the right direction. I innovate by putting out an idea to a small sample so we can all see what works and what doesn’t for the next iteration will be better.

I also ask, can we identify a few moments in the experience that we can benchmark and test the impact of new signature moments so we may learn with small group of customers? For example, if there’s drop off during an onboarding process or low retention in an app, instead of redoing everything or running wild with opinions on the solution to the problem, I like to start with two studies:
1) A benchmark to see current level of usability and/or satisfaction and where micro problems exist — is it the placement of a checkbox, a missing step or confirmation message, or is everything just kind of “meh?”
2) Prototypes of small interactions to solve the problems and see where moments of delight can be found and where they fall flat. Measure the improvement as a way to “test” the hypothesis and dig deep into the qualitative feedback to find out the “why” behind the results.

Gamification Is Not The Answer To The Engagement Question

I don’t like the word gamification because it implies that digital products and experiences need to be like Candy Crush. The product team strives for ongoing engagement and retention because that’s the mark of a successful app, but retention is the result, not the means. I learned in researching behavioral economics — the science of incentives and rewards — that gamification is simply one system of rewards. Video games use rewards like badges and levels, intermittent bursts of incentives, and social pressure to keep players playing for reasons they are aware of or not. That behaviorist approach may not work for a customer service app or a loyalty program because engagement and retention result from meaningful, successful moments over time.

The book “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal states that products with strong engagement “fundamentally allow people to do what they wish to do” and reward them for it in ways that are meaningful to them. There are many other systems of rewards other than gamification. I read the book and conducted an audit of the product design to see how well it met the “Hooked” product criteria of triggers, motivations, clear actions, investment, and rewards. I found a few gaps and then brainstormed with the team on how to solve for them.

One of the solutions solved the problem of social pressure as a reward, but in the context of private health information and a pediatric “care team.” The result was a user interface that showed a photo of the child in the center and photos of the caregivers and teachers who are tracking their behaviors around it. The parent could see all those who support her child and see how frequently they were engaging with tracking.

Instead of striving to turn your customers into Skinner’s pigeons who are pressing buttons for a shiny object, impactful moments combine to create an entirely rewarding experience. That delight is what customers will return to again and again.

It was an absolute pleasure to be a part of this panel and attend Forrester CX NYC 2018. If you’d like to know more about how I practice designing evocative signature moments, please contact me.