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Customer experience is worthless.  Memories of customer experience are priceless.

At last week’s Digital Innovation Day 2016 in Frankfurt, I outlined a new vision for CX – one not focused on people’s problems but on people’s wellbeing, and using insights from positive psychology – the science and practice of improving wellbeing – to redesign products, services and experiences with people’s happiness in mind.

One example I spoke about in the positive vision of customer experience was how something called the Peak/End rule could be used in experience design.  The peak/end rule explains how happy we feel with an experience and is based on simple formula – quality of experience is the average between how you felt at the end of the experience with how you felt at the most emotionally intense moment (‘peak emotion’).  So no matter how many touch points you have in your customer journey – the only two points that matter from this understanding of customer experience is the point at the end, and the point when emotion is at its most intense.  Why? Because these are the moments (the peak and end moments) that get encoded into your memory – we tend to forget the rest. And because it is our ‘remembering self’, the self built on our memories that informs our judgements and  behaviour (such as buying more or again, or recommending), memories are what matter. In other words…

Customer experience is worthless.  Memories of customer experience are priceless.

The Nobel prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman demonstrated the Peak/End rule in practice by looking at the customer experience of a colonoscopy.  What he found is that customer experience is better with a far longer uncomfortable procedure but that has a less uncomfortable end (patient B), than with a far shorter procedure that involves less pain, but that has a more uncomfortable end (patient A).  As a result, doctors sometimes leave patients on the table at the end of a procedure, when there is less pain and discomfort – to engineer a better customer experience.


Two simple takeouts…

  1. If your customer journey map has an intimidating number of touchpoints to manage, focus first and foremost on what really matters to the customer experience – the last touchpoint and the most emotionally intense touchpoint.
  2. Stop focusing on customer experience itself, and start focusing on memories of customer experience.  CX is about memory making.  We are memory makers.
Written by
Dr Paul Marsden
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Digital wellbeing covers the latest scientific research on the impact of digital technology on human wellbeing. Curated by psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden (@marsattacks). Sponsored by WPP agency SYZYGY.