It’s easy to tell the difference between a three-star and a five-star hotel. But when I quiz my audiences on the difference between a four-star and a five-star hotel, fewer people get the correct answer. Some people say a five-star resort must have a golf course, an award-winning restaurant, or a spa. Many four-star hotels have those, too.
Here’s the difference. A five-star hotel, resort or restaurant has something extra–staff who are trained to create emotional connections with customers to create ‘peak’ moments they’ll remember and share.
Once you understand the art and science of peak moments, your company, service and even presentations will stand out among your competitors.
A Peak Moment I’ll Never Forget
I recently stayed at the Four Seasons Seattle, one of only 150 hotels in America to earn the coveted five-star ranking by Forbes Travel Guide. The staff is trained to anticipate your needs, call you by your first name, and to provide exceptional service. They’re also coached to create moments you’ll remember–no matter how small the gesture.
When I opened the door to my room, I saw exactly what I expected from a luxury brand: great views, contemporary furniture, convenient amenities. Something unexpected, however, caught my eye. On the table, someone had placed a hand-written note and a dish of dried fruit, macaroons, and a sugar cookie with the cover of my latest book. The note wished me luck for my upcoming speech to executives of an international bank.
I soon realized how they must have known about the book and the reason for my trip. I had called a few days ahead of time to ask a simple question. Before hanging up, the staff member asked me a couple of questions–she must have put some notes in the system. The information I volunteered provided the ingredients for the employee to start a peak moment experience.
In their book, The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath write, “Research has found that in recalling an experience, we ignore most of what happened and focus instead on a few particular moments.”
The sugar cookie in my room was a peak moment because, although it’s a small gesture, it was unexpected. I also shared it on social media. That’s exactly what peak moments are designed to do–give you something to talk about.
The Heaths say peak moments provide a “critical lesson for anyone in a service business where success hinges on the customer experience.”
Whether you call it a ‘peak moment,’ or a flagship moment, or a wow moment–the key is to carve out a moment from of an entire experience that your customer will remember.
One tip used by five-star brands is to empower employees to create magical moments that are out of the ordinary–something unusual that inspires the customer to share it on social media or tell others about it. For example, Zappos encourages its call-center reps to write thank-you notes to customers after a phone call. That’s unexpected and memorable.
Peak moments don’t just happen; they are cultivated through a culture that celebrates employees who build such moments.
How to Build Standout Presentations With Peak Moments
Peak moments also lift presentations out of the ordinary. In my public-speaking book, Talk Like TED, I studied why some talks go viral. It often comes down to a shareable moment in a presentation–one that breaks the expected norm.
For example, viewers didn’t share a famous Bill Gates video because he uses PowerPoint slides. Slides are expected. They shared it because Gates surprised them when he released a jar of mosquitoes while explaining the challenges of preventing the spread of malaria.
The TED conference itself realizes the importance of peak moments. The first guideline they send to speakers: “Thou shalt not simply trot out thy usual schtick.” In other words, break the pattern. Surprise your audience.
The Heaths say hotel managers miss opportunities to increase customer happiness because they obsess about fixing every small complaint and never getting around to creating peak moments. The same holds true for peak moments in presentations. Speakers obsess over every font on every slide, and not on building memorable moments.
Here’s a tip. The wow moment centers around the key message of your presentation. For example, when Steve Jobs introduced the first MacBook Air, the world’s thinnest notebook, he said it was so thin that it could fit inside a manila office envelope. He walked to the side of the stage, picked up an envelope, and removed the computer from inside. The photographers went wild. Nobody remembers any of Jobs’s slides, but they remember the peak moment.
Your customers and audiences will not remember every aspect of an experience or a presentation. They remember moments. Give them something to talk about long after the experience is over.