The Peak-End Rule or Why Customer Experience Should Never be Left to Chance with Customer Experience Management

Annie Wilmer

April 8, 2020

picture of a happy woman, next to it a picture of a thumbs up and behind it a picture of a sign saying "Come in we're open" and a picture of mountains, valantic blog article "Peak-End-Rule"

Once upon a time, people said that the first impression counts. But what’s the story with the customer experience? Does only the first impression matter or does the experience arise from the total of all positive and negative experiences that a customer has with a company? What influences our perception?

To answer the question about how we evaluate past experiences, the psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahnemann developed the peak-end rule. This rule shows that for the evaluation of an experience, only the most intensive moment (positive or negative) and the end are relevant. The memory of an experience is not formed from the first impression or the total of all moment experienced, but rather from how we perceive the most intensive moment of the experience and the end. As with a series of snapshots, in retrospect, our memory forms an average value from the perception of the high point and the end. Here, it seems to us that we are unconsciously hiding whole parts of an experience in our memory.

Infographic Peak-End-Rule Customer Experience

What does this rule mean for customer experience management?

  1. During their journey, customers always have several contact points with a company, at which they have different experiences. The first impression is important, but more important is the variation of moments imprinted along the entire customer journey.
    Our tip: Use customer journey mapping to sketch a complete picture of the customer journey so nothing is left to chance. Create positive, surprising moments (peak moments) along the customer journey. Touch your customers emotionally so that they remember you. And think here about your own experiences: Can you still remember when as a child, you were given a piece of candy or a slice of sausage and then you only wanted to shop in that one store? That’s how positive moments and shopping are connected to one another.
  2. Pay special attention to negative experiences, for a peak can also come from negative moments. Treat customer complaints as a high priority. Get regular feedback and evaluate customer complaints. You will see where complaints are made frequently and why. Only this way can you see what you can improve.
  3. The peak-end rule says that the end is essential for the perception of customer experience. Therefore, we advise you to make the farewell great. Think about how the end will remain positive in your customer’s memory. Do what Amazon does: shopping in the new Amazon-Go stores has a great end, for it’s as easy as can be. Anyone who has experienced this can no longer stand waiting in a long line at the cash register!

The peak-end rule shows us that we act much more emotionally than we think we do. It also teaches us how important it is to get to know the customer’s entire journey and to design it so that there are surprising high points and a brilliant end. This way, negative experiences will be forgotten quickly and the customer will remain loyal to your company.

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