Expert Advice: How to Drive Business Results With The Peak-End Rule

by Jeannie Walters

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We buy from people we like. We buy from people we like even when they’re selling the same widgets for the same prices (or higher) than people we don’t like.

More than 95% of human thinking is driven by non-conscious influences. This means we don’t even know why we’re behaving the way we are. Our feelings, typically, are driven by interactions with other people.

Ever have a bad day at the office? Clients were unhappy, coworkers were grumpy, and then your computer freaked out. At the end of that I-can’t-get-out-of-here-fast-enough day, what if a client called to express how happy they were? You can go home happy. In six months, when you discuss that day, you’ll likely refer to the lows (feeling bad about disappointing clients) and the highs (feeling proud of making a client happy.)

Peak-End Rule

This is called the peak-end rule, and it’s something Daryl Travis, Founder & CEO of Brandtrust, discussed at length at the Customer Experience Professionals Association Member Insight Exchange back in May. I was aware of the peak-end rule before hearing Daryl speak, but the idea really started bouncing around in my head after hearing about it.

The Peak-End Rule Means Creating Memorable Experience

Peaks in experience create the memories. The highs and the lows are what customers remember. Highs are great emotions. Lows are bad ones, like guilt.

Empathy creates understanding on the customer side, too. If there is a low moment, like the power going out, creating memorable moments helps! (Think Oreo during the Super Bowl!)

Understand What Actually Matters – Then Work It!

Does it really matter? It’s a key question when agonizing over the latest dip in numbers or reviewing a poorly-timed tweet. If you believe it will be a peak – creating emotions that result in highs or lows – then address it. If you feel it’s a misstep without that emotional connection, it may not require the urgency of other emotional triggers. All human behavior is driven by emotion. We want the feeling of confidence and control for getting a good price.

Reactions Aren’t Always Logical

Your reaction to a question of “are you satisfied” may be yes, but you may be feeling guilt for answering otherwise if you have relationships with the people involved. Humans are perpetually confounding. We say logical things (like we want to buy based on price) then act completely out of emotion.

Peak-End Rule

Change Perception

A great example from Daryl Travis was about how information can transform anxiety into a sense of control. Trains are always late was the complaint in the UK. Now, digital signs communicate exactly when the trains will arrive. Satisfaction is going up because customers don’t feel out of control. They instead feel like they are aware of how it will impact their day.

I’ve found this with my experiences, too, especially in light of internal communications. Consider an email with the subject line “MANDATORY TRAINING” versus “We’re Delighting Customers!” That was a change we made when a company wanted to change the culture of their organization. Training attendance went up, and better yet, training satisfaction went way up. (Spoiler alert – it was the same training!)

You Have To Know What Matters

It’s impossible to design a peak-end experience to be memorable unless you a clear vision of the experience your customers are actually going through. If you haven’t mapped out the touchpoints to truly understand it, then you can’t maximize the highs. Your customers will experience peak-ends regardless of your design, but to ensure the best experience, design memorable moments to help your customers have fewer ruined days.

Image Credits: andresfranco.netfpatmurphy via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators™ by 360Connext, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, a Forbes Coaches Council Member, a C-Suite Network Advisor, a LinkedIn Learning and Lynda.com instructor, and a TEDx speaker. Learn more here.

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