Your Customer Experience is Like a Colonoscopy


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Have you ever had your customer experience compared to a colonoscopy? Let’s hope not. But even if it has (or if it’s been compared to something else unpleasant), I have a solution for you. And if you don’t trust me, how about a Nobel Prize-winning PhD?

You may have heard of Dr. Daniel Kahneman’s “Peak/End” study, but I bet you don’t know the details or how it applies to customer experience. Kahneman ran a study (here it is – good reading if you have insomnia) where some patients received a painful colonoscopy and others received an equally painful colonoscopy that lasted longer. Afterward, patients preferred the longer one (the one with more total pain). What?!

The only difference was that the last 3 minutes of the longer colonoscopy didn’t have any inflation or suction of the colon (yikes!) and was therefore less painful than the other parts of the procedure. Kahneman’s conclusion (through lots of math that I’ll spare you) was that the patient’s memory of the procedure was influenced by the “peak” (the most pleasant/unpleasant part of the experience) and the end. They preferred the more painful experience because it had a less painful ending. And, not only did they prefer the more painful experience, they were 10% more likely to come back for their next colonoscopy.

So what’s this got to do with your customer experience? Your customers are wired the same way as Kahneman’s colonoscopy patients. They remember the peak of their experience with you (and let’s hope it’s a positive one vs. a negative) and the end. In addition, when they have a positive experience as their last touch point with you, they are more likely to return. I mean, if people are 10% more likely to return for another colonoscopy, imagine how much more likely they’d be to repurchase your product or service!

Hopefully, at this point, you’re thinking through what your last touch point is with your customer. Is it the cashier? The confirmation email from your website? The handshake at the end of the meeting? It may be those things, but in the vast majority of cases, it’s the same touch point for everyone … your customer feedback survey.

Is taking your survey a pleasant experience or an unpleasant, necessary evil you send to your customers so you can gather feedback? If it’s an unpleasant one, Kahneman tells us that you just negatively impacted your customers’ impression of you. As a customer experience professional, you’re putting so much time & effort into making sure all your key touch points are positive and now your after-thought survey is ruining your hard work! There’s got be a way to make the survey a better experience and a recent Forrester report gives us some ideas.

In The Future of Customer Experience Measurement, Forrester offers that “leaders should make surveys more engaging, visual, and conversational.” More specifically, designers should create “highly-visual and experiential surveys that let respondents relive experiences to trigger memories and make the interaction more personal and engaging.” For instance, in a travel or hospitality survey, show pictures of the destination. When asking if respondents enjoyed the amenities, show them the pool where their kids played on vacation. It’ll remind them of how much fun the pool was and provide an additional positive experience right then and there.

Likewise, let’s make our surveys more conversational. I understand that there’s a place for the NPS question, but how often do people really ask each other, “How likely are you to recommend me to a friend or colleague?” Instead, what if we said, “We’d love for you to tell your friends about us! How willing are you to do that?” According to Forrester, it’s this sort of casual questioning that earns more thoughtful feedback than our old-school approaches. And, it’s a little more fun so your customers remember the survey as a positive experience.

What’s amazing to me is that this approach works even if the experience you provided was a bad one! Even Zappos and Southwest Airlines’ customers sometimes have a bad experience, so your company will have them too. If we quickly give them a pleasant experience via an engaging survey, however, we can change their impression of our service. Without the assistance of hypnotism or a Jedi mind trick, your customers will remember your service as more positive than it really was. And, they’ll be more likely to provide you feedback on the experience, so you can make it better the next time.

If nothing else, your customers won’t compare your customer experience to a colonoscopy.

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Touch Points:

Brian Doyle
Doyle Team Consulting
Brian has been designing and improving customer experiences for over a decade, Prior to discovering CX, Brian was VP of Marketing at Genworth and a 6 Sigma Master Black Belt at GE Capital. His career began in the US Air Force as a C-17 pilot. Brian has a bachelor's degree in Astrophysics from the US Air Force Academy and a master's degree in Systems Engineering from St. Mary's University.


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