We often judge an experience by the most intense points and the ending experience. The peaks and valleys influence whether to repeat or avoid a similar situation in the future. This is called the peak-end rule and was popularized by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman in his paper “When More Pain Is Preferred to Less: Adding a Better End.” His research shows that we often disregard the duration of the experience and are more influenced by the peak and final levels of comfort or discomfort.
This is perhaps most highly experienced with air travel. Most fliers have had an experience of going on a business or personal trip where the entire trip was tainted by a bag not arriving at the end, or a flight being rescheduled multiple times delaying the return home. The negative peak at the end of the trip ends up ruining the entire experience.
In our work with C-level leaders, there is a significant amount of focus on the customer experience and how to shape the most differentiated and meaningful experiences. This often gets deep into mapping of customer journeys and in some cases, can quickly become complicated as leaders try to imagine every possible turn on the path. What if we just focused on the end of the experience and tried to make that end point meaningful and differentiated?
In our work of facilitating Board meetings – the final session is the key peak point. We focus on giving the executives around the table the last word. While it can feel overwrought, it is amazing that the participants have a significantly better experience when we do this approach because they feel they were able to contribute from the beginning through to the close of the meeting.
For many of our B2B clients, the contracting experience is the peak that can leave a bad taste for customers. Too often sales teams spend time defining a great product/service and then the legal contract negotiation grinds everything to a distasteful halt. There has to be a better way to get through contract negotiations so that customers end up with the product they want and are excited to continue to do business.
The peak-end rule, applied well, may simplify your approach to thinking about how to transform the customer experience. Focus on the ending first and see how that change positively impacts the work you are doing with customers.