There is a common misconception that to create a memorable customer experience, every aspect of the customer journey needs to be flawless. This has led to a strong focus on creating efficiencies to produce a frictionless experience with the customer’s expectations met every step of the way.

Rapid adoption from both advancements in technology and reductions in cost has made it more widely accessible, so how can you stand out from your competitors when it comes to your product or service?

When it comes to judging an experience, we recall it from how we felt at its peak, the most intense point, and at its end. Known as peak end theory, this allows brands to create ‘peaks’ of positivity, sometimes even from a negative experience, which will be the stand-out that they will be remembered for. If as a customer you receive good customer service all the way through an experience it will leave you feeling happy, but not necessarily something you’ll remember. If there is a moment or two during the experience where you feel your expectations were exceeded – and it was unexpected – this will promote a longer lasting memory and will encourage you to show loyalty to that brand.

Introducing moments of delight into your customer experience

So the first step is to start with a level playing field. Create an efficient and seamless customer journey which meets the customers expectations. Then introduce elements of surprise or additional value at certain touchpoints which are unexpected, instigating a positive reaction.

The Magic Castle Hotel in L.A. became a top rated hotel on TripAdvisor despite having dated furnishings and a small swimming pool. But by offering exceptional service, and introducing moments of delight through a ‘popsicle hotline’, unlimited free of charge snacks, a board game and DVD menu, and pop-up magicians to entertain the customers at breakfast, their customers came away with positive happy memories. Why? Because those unexpected moments of delight were what they took away and remembered, making the hotel experience stand out as much as if they had stayed in a luxury hotel.

It is this notion of standing out that many brands misinterpret. By effectively making ‘noise’ as a strategy to build awareness – doing something ridiculous or crazy – might make you more memorable to your audience in the short term, but does it actually add any value…no!

By applying peak-end theory, your memorable experience needs to benefit your customer and be true to your brand values. It’s an opportunity to deliver above and beyond your customer’s expectations but it doesn’t have to be all bells and whistles. It can simply be the way in which you resolve a customer issue and then adding an incentive as a thank you for their patience and loyalty.

How do emotions influence our decisions?

We buy with emotion and we justify later with logic. In fact, 95 percent of buying decisions take place in the subconscious mind, according to Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman. By creating an emotive reaction from your customer, you can unconsciously influence them to buy into your product or service – it’s all about engaging with them and satisfying their desires.

According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, the brain uses two systems to make decisions: system 1 is fast, uncontrolled, effortless, emotional and unconscious; system 2 is slow, deliberate, analytical and conscious. With 95 percent of active decision making sitting in system 1, designing with emotion in mind means that emotions are an important driver of making a memorable customer experience.

By applying both of these theories, incorporating moments of delight, pleasure or surprise into your customer journey, will encourage a more spontaneous, subconscious decision-making process. Being emotion-led, rather than analytical, it will no doubt ensure higher engagement between your customer and your brand.

Using technology to deliver new values to your customer

So how can technology help deliver exceptional service and moments of delight? Well essentially it all comes down to the industry you’re in, as well as the product or service that you’re offering. There are no rules as to what will work, it’s simply a case of testing to see what works specifically for your business. And when and where in the customer journey to apply it.

Behavioural designer, Nir Eyal, believes product design can influence consumer behaviours. When applying this principle to technologies, it’s all about creating ‘the hook’ comprised of four elements: trigger, action, reward and investment. It is this which makes pattern-forming technologies successful. With nearly half of all of our decisions based on habit rather than conscious decisions, this is how and why we can become ‘hooked’ to our favourite platforms and apps. The same is true of other technologies such smart speaker devices which have the ability to trigger an emotion or become part of a habit. Think Alexa or Google Home – both systems can produce moments of surprise and unexpected pleasure through the answers they deliver and even the emotion in the tone of voice.

This year the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated those businesses that have truly gone above and beyond, and those that have prioritised wrongly when it comes to their customer experience model. Those brands that have got it right and played the long game have adapted their business model to meet the new customer needs, whilst not expecting an immediate return. Such as Admiral automatically sending a £25 refund to all their customers as vehicle usage has temporarily dropped, and the wellbeing app Headspace offering it’s premium plan for free given the rise of mental health implications whilst stuck indoors. Or those that have offered exceptional customer service during this challenging time by supporting customers such as those experiencing financial insecurities.

The brands that will be remembered are those who showed agility and re-evaluated their customers’ needs, adapting to an unprecedented global situation, but keeping their customers’ experience as their main focus.

Applying peak end theory to your customer journey

Remember that peak end theory does not need to be costly. Here are our top tips on how to incorporate it into your platform, app or customer service model:

  • Map the end-to-end customer experience to ensure it meets the base customers expectations.
  • Select certain touchpoints within the customer journey to introduce your ‘peaks’ that fit true to your brand values – these are your memorable moments which evoke positive emotion, exceeding the customers expectations.
  • Don’t forget that ‘peaks’ can also be spontaneous. Every customer should be treated as an individual with their service tailored to their own specific circumstances when it comes to adding value.
  • Always be aware of the bigger picture. In an ever-changing world, it may be necessary to re-evaluate the customer journey to ensure the customer’s expectations are still being exceeded at the relevant touchpoints.
  • Be patient! Peak end theory is all about creating an emotional connection with your customer encouraging brand loyalty and longevity.
  • Embrace technology as a way to explore new ways to deliver moments of unexpected customer moments. Remember your customers don’t see technology, they see and feel the experience you offer.
  • Don’t forget to end on a high! As well as ‘peaks’ during the journey, it’s important that the final stage of the customer experience is a positive one!
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