Behavior Psychology Proves That Event Boundaries Affect Customers’ Memory of Your Experience


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All of us want to create memorable experiences for our customers to foster an environment of customer loyalty and retention. But what do you do if you have unwittingly created impediments that prevent your customers from remembering key events in the experience?

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for human memory isn’t what you think it is. It is proven in a behavioral science study that one of the biggest threats to a customer’s memory of an experience can be something as simple as passing through an open doorway.

Exposing the Limitations of Human Memory

I am referring to a study published in 2011 in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology by Gabriel Radvansky, professor of Psychology at Notre Dame. He and his team found that participants did not remember things as well when they did something as simple as pass through a doorway, which they referred to as an Event Boundary. This was true whether the doorway was an actual doorway or if it was a virtual one.

The experiment tested their theories in both the virtual and physical world. The first participants went through virtual doorways on a computer simulation. In each room there were tables with objects on them, which the participants picked up. Once they were in their virtual hands, they could no longer see the object. They would then put it down in the next room and pick up the new object. After a few rooms, they would be quizzed on whether the object pictured was one they were carrying right then or if it was one they had just put down. The participants did not always remember correctly.

In the physical study, the participants walked though a series of rooms and picked up objects off of actual tables and put them in boxes (so they couldn’t see what they were carrying). They were also quizzed. They didn’t do any better than the participants had in virtual rooms.

Each “doorway” represented a memory episode. Passing through an event boundary signified the formation of a new memory, which made it more difficult to remember what they had just seen or done in the previous room. However when participants were asked about activities in the same room, they exhibited much better recall. Researchers thought this might be because by being in the same room, they were able to keep the context of where the memory was formed and so were better able to remember.

How Do Event Boundaries Affect Your Experience?

Radvansky’s findings have implications on the retail and virtual experience alike. It explains how much a customer is going to remember about your experience if they have to go through a lot of doorways during it, actual or virtual.

I have discussed how the memory of experience is more important than the actual experience in my post, “Why Your Memory Matters More Than Your Experience.” The big idea is that customers aren’t choosing between experiences, they choose between their memories of an experience. We know that remembering an experience is key. Therefore understanding how people remember things becomes key.

Event boundaries vary depending on the channel you are using. For a retail experience, it can be a doorway into another room. For a website it could be a new screen. Another example could be transferring to a new person in the customer care center on the phone. So whichever channel you are in, limiting event boundaries is a great way to make sure that you are helping customers remember things is clearly important to the memory of your customer experience.

In Other Words…KISS

KISS. It’s a Prince song, a bit of chocolate, and words to live by as it pertains to customer experience. For those of you not familiar with this acronym it stands for: Keep It Simple Stupid. Sure it’s cheeky it’s also catchy and easy to remember…because as we know, memory is key.

Memory is a tricky thing. It is critical for your customer experience, but creating one isn’t entirely in your control. In some ways, it isn’t even entirely in the control of the person creating the memory, as there are so many different factors that influence their creation.

Our memory is colored by feelings and subconscious reactions that blend with the facts and change the event in the mind. This is true whether you are remembering your wedding day, the day you crashed your dad’s car into a tree or even the last time you went to the store.

This means that it is important that you help your customers form good memories of your experience. Whether that’s with knowledgeable sales people, free childcare for busy parents or complimentary water bottles for shoppers, you want your customers to associate your experience with feeling cared for and satisfied—or in a word, happy.

But all of these great things will be useless if your customer doesn’t remember your experience at all. Be sure that you are making it easier for your customers to form good memories. Consider how you set up your shop, virtual showroom, or call center procedures to facilitate this best.

What are some of the event boundaries in your experience?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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