Customer relationships and the primacy and recency effect


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Customer relationships and the primacy and recency effectThere is a concept in psychology called the serial position effect (also called the primacy and recency effect) that was first coined by Hermann Ebbinghaus. What the concept implies is that when people are asked to recall a list of items that are presented to them, they tend to be able to best recall those at the end of the list (the recency effect) and those at the beginning of the list (the primacy effect) better than those in the middle of the list.

If we apply this concept to our relationships we can see that this concept applies to our social interactions too. For example, think back to a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship that you had growing up. I would wager that you are most likely to remember the beginning of the relationship (butterflies in your stomach and the excitement of falling in love) and the end of the relationship (the break up, the arguments, the heartache).


Why does this work?

Well, it seems that the reasons that this works is that it is at those times that our emotions are at their height and most intense and that is why we remember the beginining and the end more readily.

Thinking about how this applies to the relationships with our customers can provide an insight to the quality of the relationships that we have with them.

For example, if my relationship with my customer has not started well or there is no excitement then there is a danger that that will be how it will be defined or remembered in the mind of my customer and it is very difficult to change that (first impressions and all that). Further, if it has been a while since you were in contact with your customer then this lack of communication or the quality of communication that you have with them could be the thing that sticks in their mind and makes them think you don’t care or don’t value their business (perceived indifference).

The lesson for me here is to be mindful of how we start relationships with our customers and also how we continue or maintain them. This could be the difference between customer loyalty, retention or not.

Are you thinking about the relationships that you have with your customers? Do you think the primacy or recency effect is having an impact on your customer retention?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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