Understanding The Peak–end Rule & How It Affects Customer Experience

Did you know that customers are very likely to form biased memories of their experience with your business? It is what your customers remember about their experience with your business that determines whether or not they’ll come back for more. Stay with me, I’ll explain what this means and how you can take advantage of this evolutionary phenomenon.

The first thing you should understand is that customers do not remember every moment of their experience with your brand. For instance – When you are asked to rate your Uber experience, do you take the time to evaluate every second (or minute) of your trip with the driver?

If you’re like most people choosing an appropriate rating for the Uber will be a relatively simple task, you can quickly rate your ride as poor, average or excellent. Thinking about it, making this kind of judgement would involve serious calculation.

You would have considered comfort, driver attitude, driving skills, route and a whole plethora of factors before you arrive at your judgement. Researchers discovered that the human brain has a simple strategy for streamlining these factors and arriving at a judgement.  

Uber end rating

They found out that when we remember events, the brain filters out a lot of parts from the event which it considers neutral or inconsequential and prioritizes retaining memories that will be useful to future decisions.

What Is The Peak-End Rule?

The Peak-End Rule was put forward by psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. He postulated that we make our evaluation of events based on only two parts of our experience – The peak and the end.

The peak refers to the moment when the experience had its strongest emotion (It can be positive or negative) and the end is simply how the experience ended.

Daniel Kanheman’s research involved patients undergoing a colonoscopy. The experiment showed that whilst the two groups of patients had experienced different levels of pain throughout the process, they recalled experiencing the exact same levels of pain, despite the fact that their actual experience varied. 

Kahneman concluded that the patients, and indeed all people, seem to perceive not the sum of an experience over time, but the average of how it was at its peak (e.g. pleasant or unpleasant) and how it ended. The graphic above illustrates the principle. 

Consider this example.

A customer who has just been robbed calls two of his banks to cancel his cards. When he called the first bank:

  • He waits approximately 8 minutes on the call queue before he’s connected to an agent.
  • He explains his plight to the call centre rep, who shows empathy and quickly cancels his cards.
  • The call centre rep goes further to ask the customer if he was hurt, or needs an ambulance or the police.
  • The rep thanks him for choosing the bank and the call comes to an end

When the same customer calls the second bank, he waits approximately

  • 3 minutes on the call queue before he’s connected to an agent.
  • He explains his plight to the call centre rep, who transfers him to the appropriate call center rep.
  • The second rep listens to his plight and then cancels the card. She thanks him for choosing the bank and the call comes to an end. 

Which of these two interactions do you think the customer would remember positively? 

The call to the first bank will be remembered more positively despite the longer wait time because the service rep made the customer feel like the bank actually cared about what had happened to him. That helped produce a favourable endpoint for that interaction.

What Makes Peak-end Rule Possible

The peak-end rule is possible because our brain lacks the capacity to remember everything. It is more efficient for the brain to keep just the memories that ensure our survival.

By remembering the most painful and pleasurable moments, our brain helps us decide what to avoid or seek out in the future.

Using The Peak-end Rule To Improve Customer Experience

You can dramatically improve customer experience in your organization by taking advantage of the Peak-end rule. Here are 3 steps you can follow to do this: 

#1. Identify Your Peaks

This is the first step you should take, you have to know what the peak moments are, when and why they occur. Carefully go through your customers’ journey and identify the emotional highs and lows customer experience as they interact with your business. 

#2. Create Favorable Peaks

When you know what peaks currently exist in your customers’ journey, then you can work on making them positive peak experiences. One of the best ways to do this is by manufacturing the emotional peak purposefully, to create it by design. 

You don’t necessarily have to do anything expensive or elaborate to delight customers, you can easily create positive peak experiences with simple actions like using their names, remembering important dates or simplifying a process. 

#3. End on The Highest Possible Note

Find out what you can implement to ensure customers end their interaction with your business on a very high note. Make it a grand finale to ensure customers remember and feel positive emotions at the end of their interaction with your business. 

This can be achieved in several ways like a; sincere goodbye, surprise discount at checkout or by even providing a small departure gift as the customers’ exit.

The peak-end rule works for both big and small businesses. If you are looking for cost-efficient ways to improve your overall brand experience, you can start by taking advantage of the peak-end rule to create memorable peak experiences along your customers’ journey and ending it all with a bang!


Free bonus: You can download this guide as PDF. Easily save it on your computer for quick reference or printing it out to share with others in your team -
Understanding The Peak–end Rule & How It Affects Customer Experience.pdf


(1 Comment)

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