Stop and think for a moment of a recent experience you’ve had doing business with a company. Usually those experiences that were either really great or extremely forgettable will come to mind first. Why is that? It’s because of the customer memories evoked from that experience. Since customer memories are what we remember most, it’s essential that your company focuses on creating positive ones.
Acclaimed author Colin Shaw recounts his story about why he passes several bait and tackle shops to get to his store of choice. The other stores are closer, likely have the same items he needs and probably at similar prices. Yet Shaw passes these stores to go to his favorite store. Why does he do this? Because the first time he was there, he connected with the workers in a personal, positive way, and that experience left him with an extremely positive customer memory, a memory that makes him want to come back again and again.
Everything is an experience
Absolutely every interaction we have in any business can fall into one of two categories: positive or negative. While we don’t often think about our run-of-the-mill experiences, it’s the polarizing experiences we remember and think about most.
Recently, I had an experience that I won’t forget for some time. It was a visit to the local car dealership. I had a few long-standing issues with my car that small local dealerships struggled to diagnose. I decided to go to the dealership because I had an expectation that the service would be second to none. Sure, I expected to pay more for the privilege of having the best techs work on my car, but at the end of the day, it was all about fixing the car and fixing it right.
I dropped off the car and the service rep was very personable and welcoming. He promised my car would be in good hands. The rep assured me that the company would do whatever it needed to in order to uncover my car’s issues and properly repair the vehicle.
I left the dealership that day with a very positive feeling. At that moment, I would have recommended the dealership highly. I made an emotional observation that doing business with this company was a positive experience and I felt good about doing business with them. This point in time is what Shaw refers to in his article as the “peak” point. More on that later.
The turning point
Creating a good customer memory requires carrying those positive vibes throughout the entire interaction, including the all important “end” of the transaction. Unfortunately, my end experience was a whole lot different than my peak experience.
When all was said and done, the dealership had my car for 22 days. During that time, they did not fix the original problem and somehow managed to break an air conditioning line, disconnect the odometer and burn out the motor in my driver’s side window. And, to make matters worse, the car was returned to me filthy; quite unlike the polished, showroom-like condition it was in when I brought it to the dealership. Long story short, any positive emotion I had connected to this dealership was transitory. These positive feelings were replaced with anger, disgust and distrust.
Finally fed up, I took the car from the dealership and drove it straight to my local car repair shop. They listened to my story then proceeded to fix the broken window motor. While it was there, they diagnosed and fixed the problem that the dealership charged me $1,700 - and took three weeks - to not fix properly. While I was left with a poor customer memory of the dealership, I instantly created a positive “peak” and “end” customer memory with the local shop. Where do you think I will be going for future repairs?
In Shaw’s article, he discusses the Peak-End rule, and its vital role in creating positive customer memories. He discusses the theory of Daniel Kahneman (Nobel-Prize Winning Economist and Professor) and Barbara Frederickson. Together, they theorized that what people remember most about an experience is the moment when they felt the most intense emotion and how they felt at the end.
From a Customer Experience design perspective, you should know where the peak emotion occurs during your customer journey and how the experience ends. Also, you should ensure customers feel, at these moments, the emotion that delivers value for your organization.
So, where did one shop succeed where the other one failed? Of course, successfully fixing the problem played a huge role in the local shop’s success. However, it was also at the local shop where the store manager looked me in the eyes and said, “We may or may not be able to properly diagnose your issue. If we do, we’ll certainly fix it. But if not, we won’t charge you a thing for the time we took to make our diagnosis.”
That assurance left me feeling very relieved that I wasn’t going to be ripped off again. The store manager connected with me through great communication. By extension, it gave me confidence that they would find a way to fix the problem. And they did!
In the case of Shaw’s tackle shop, his peak moment occurred when he made a personal connection with the people in the store, laughing and joking, conversing over a shared love of fishing.
Every experience you have doing business can be either positive or negative. Shaw reminds us that, “When you are building a brand, you want to make a brand promise and repeat it over and over again.” If a company knows what experience they are trying to deliver and know what emotions they are trying to evoke, they can deliver these experiences with regularity, leading to long-term success.
If your business focuses on creating a customer experience that gives people a positive experience at the peak of their transaction, and ensures that positive feeling carries through to the end of the transaction, chances are you will succeed in creating a regular, loyal customer.