Why do we queue up for hours for a roller coaster ride that lasts only a few minutes?
Why does hardly anyone leave it at a single tattoo despite the process being so painful?
Why do we know exactly where we were when we heard the news about 9/11?
But have no idea what our lunch was last Wednesday?
The explanation is surprisingly simple.
„ We, humans, are constantly fooling ourselves by constructing flimsy accounts of the past and believing they are true “(Daniel Kahneman, psychologist & Nobel laureate 2002)
Our brain has only a limited storage capacity. Due to the lack of space, we compress our memories. We do this by overwriting old impressions with new ones even during an experience. Only particularly intense moments are protected from this mechanism.
In combination, this leads us to ignore large parts of experiences in retrospect. Instead, we subconsciously concentrate on the emotional peaks as well as on the end, which was never overwritten by anything. This mechanism was given the name peak-end rule by its creator, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahnemann.
By skilfully applying this principle, companies can save costs in CX optimization and make their customers happier in the long term.
To achieve this, it is necessary to create emotional climaxes, prevent lows and ensure that the end is remembered positively. Ideally, you combine the effects of peak & end to achieve a particularly strong effect.
How can this look like in practice? Let’s start with a little story:
The Everyday Life of Customer Service
Mr and Mrs K go to a tennis tournament. Arriving there they start looking for a parking space. The search is unsuccessful. Mr K. seemed obviously frustrated. What kind of organizer doesn’t provide enough parking spaces? Considering those hefty ticket prices! Unbelievable. If only he’d stayed at home…
To alleviate the situation Mrs. K decides to collect the reserved tickets. Arriving there she describes her situation to the cashier T. And she is lucky, because T. proves to be very helpful. He lives only 10 minutes walk away and the parking space in front of his garage is free. Since he was about to have a break anyway, he will even accompany her there. Mrs K. is overjoyed.
Thanks to the help of the nice employee T. the two of them make it to game start on time. When the couple later tell their friend L. about the event, they rave about the great customer service. They already forgot the quarrels of the parking lot search. L. is contemplating to visit the tennis tournament next year.
Alright. Great reaction, but nothing groundbreaking. Employee helps customer in critical situation. That’s just good customer service.
Still, the story is relevant in the context of the peak-end rule. But why? To understand why, we have to briefly detach ourselves from helpful T., because his behavior is not quite standard procedure.
Most visitors who have problems with parking find a less happy ending to their story. Many will be angry and perceive the long search for a parking space as an emotional stress point.
It is these exact moments that will shape visitor’s memory in the long run. What are steps that the organizer can take to prevent this?
CX Optimization with Peak-End
The most obvious solution is to have more parking spaces. But there are probably good reasons why this was not possible. Perhaps the event is located in a densely populated area or the demand for parking fluctuates too much for full coverage to be economical.
Let us assume that the amount of parking spaces is fixed.
One could take advantage of the fact that the search for parking spaces is at the beginning of the event. It therefore does not influence the end, which is remembered strongly. If the organizer is able to surprise the visitor positively at the end of the event, he can minimize the damage.
For example, a shuttle service could take visitors to their cars if they parked far away.
However, this solution is not optimal. It improves the end of the experience, but only acts as a counterbalance. The pain point of the search for a parking space still exists in the visitors memory.
What other options are there? We recall T. He managed to turn a critical moment into a positive experience. in doing so, he turned the memory upside down according to the peak-end rule.
It is the most emotional moment that remains in the memory, not the second most emotional.
The goal of the organizer should be to systematize T’s actions (or equivalent alternatives). This way, he not only eliminates his weakness, but actually turns it into a strength.
Want to know how this could look like? Solutions to these kind of situations are the speciality of our Beyond Experiences team. We would be happy to discuss this with you. Feel free to contact us for more information.