Stick the Landing – How to Use the Peak End Theory to Amaze Customers


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In gymnastics, it’s referred to as “sticking the landing.” I’ll call it “creating memorable endings.” In the prior two installments of this three part-series on Moment’s-that-Matter (MTMs), I’ve focused on beginnings and transitions. This newsletter spotlights highs and lows across your customer’s journey and how to manage those ups and downs in relation to the end of an interaction. To put a finer point on it, we will dive into the “peak-end rule.”

Peak-end is a heuristic (a guiding principle) for human experience design. It suggests that the farther “pain” is from an interaction’s “ending,” – the more the experience will be perceived and remembered positively. (To watch pre-eminent behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman explain some of his research that supports the peak-end rule, click here).

Peak-End in Real-World Application

Let’s imagine a protracted interaction between a customer and a brand (e.g., a customer spends the day at your amusement park.) Assuming you’ve managed the MTM’s discussed in prior installments (the arrival experience and transitions such as going from ticketing to park entry), your next order of business will be the peak, pain, and end moments. In our amusement park example, let’s assume your customers generally have positive experiences for most of the day with some pain moments (long lines at popular rides) and some peak moments (ones that exceed the generally positive nature of their visit).

From a design perspective, your goal should be to have the highest peak moment be more intense than the lowest pain moment. You should also strive to have the pain moment be as far from the end of your guest’s visit as possible. To achieve this, you might offer guests a pass for expedited boarding on some of the most popular rides toward the end of the day or focus attention on positive exit experiences.

Since you likely don’t own an amusement park, I hope you and your team will design and deliver experiences considering the peak-end rule. Here are six steps to guide you:

1) Imagine you are a person from one of your core customer segments.

2) Step into that person’s role and look for the peak, pain, and end moments.

3) Consider which is more intense, the lowest pain moment or the highest peak moment.

4) Work to ensure that the peak moment is elevated and the pain moment is mitigated.

5) To the greatest degree possible, create distance between pain moments and the end of an interaction.

6) Commit to The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Companies’ third step of service by providing a

Fond farewell. Give a warm goodbye and use the guest’s name. In extending a farewell to our guests, we model the essentials of smiling, eye contact once again, and of course, use of the guest’s name. Polite and pleasant are not enough – we need to make sure that each guest leaves feeling that he or she is the most important guest we have!

(For more on The Ritz-Carlton’s approach to experience excellence, check out my book The New Gold Standard – 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company).

This brings my MTMs series to an end. So, I wish you a fond farewell and invite you back for next week’s newsletter, which will explore ways to maximize 12 types of pleasure across the experiences you provide.

To learn more about our team, please visit To speak to me about driving memorable ending experiences, please go to

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


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