Why the Customer Experience Doesn’t Create Loyalty

by Colin Shaw on December 10, 2015

People don’t choose your product or service because of the experience they had; they choose it because of the experience they remember—and these two are not the same thing! Creating a great memory of your experience in your Customer’s mind is critical to creating Customer Loyalty.

Consider this quote from Professor Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize Winning Economist:

“There is a big difference between an experience and the memory of an experience.”

His TED Talk is one of the most profound I have seen for years. “The riddle of experience vs. memory,” he explains all the details of why this is the case.

Kahneman points out that what we experience can often be quite different than what we remember from the experience. It is one of the cognitive traps we all have.  He explains that all of us have two selves that experience things: the experiencing self and the remembering self.

The experiencing self lives in the present. It’s this self that is living the experience.

The remembering self recalls what happened in the past. It’s the one that “keeps score” and recounts the details of one’s life. It remembers how you felt during the experience the experiencing self had.

The remembering self tells stories. What we remember about an experience is a story. Kahneman refers to it as “what we get to keep” about the experience.

The Remembering Self is Where Loyalty is Formed

The remembering self also plays an important role in recalling your preferences for products or services. When it’s time to choose, the remembering self tells you a story about your last experience with a product or service to help you decide what to do.

But here’s the thing about the story the remembering self tells: it’s not the whole story. Kahneman shares an example in his talk about a man who told Kahneman he listened to a recording of a symphony that had a terrible screeching sound near the end. Before the screech, the man described the music as “glorious.” After the screech, however, he said it “ruined the whole thing.”

Most of what people remember about an experience is their peak emotional moment and how it ended. We call this the Peak End Rule, a psychological shortcut people use to judge an experience. You could have a great experience with a product or service, but if something unpleasant or disappointing happens at the end of that experience, that unpleasantness is the part that you remember. It can be the screech that ruins your Customer Experience.

Creating Better Memories for the Remembering Self

Psychologists from the University of Sussex published in the Journal of Neuroscience that “rehearsing information immediately after being given it may be all you need to make it a permanent memory.” It turns out that the area of the brain that activates for memory recording will also activate whenever it rehearses the memory.

Creating a permanent pleasant or happy memory associated with your product or service is what you need to build Customer Loyalty. Rehearsing these pleasant or happy memories of the experience will help do that. And because most of what Customers are going to keep are the Peak and the End of the Experience, it’s a good idea to rehearse it at the end. This rehearsal should be designed into your Customer experience. We use our Behavioral Journey Mapping tool to find this moment.

What do I mean by “rehearsing”? It could be a lot of things, but just as an example it could be a recap of the experience by a member of your team. This could mean a call center agent performs a wrap-up summary before ending the call. For an online interaction, this could mean a follow-up email. In a chat session, it could be a brief summary response at the end before ending the chat. Whatever form it takes, the recap should include a quick summary emphasizing the high points of the interaction and how the experience met the Customer’s needs or that the problem was solved to the Customer’s Satisfaction.

It’s even better for forming memories if the Customer does the recap. Perhaps requesting an online review, a testimonial, or for the Customer to take a survey could facilitate a Customer-performed rehearsal.

I suppose I should state the obvious here: None of this memory rehearsing will work to create loyalty if you provide a lousy Customer Experience. Before you can rehearse a memory, it is vital that you have a good script from which to read!

Customer Loyalty is not made during the experience; it’s made during the memory of the experience. By rehearsing what you want that memory to be with the Customer, you might be able to create a permanent memory that keeps that Customer coming back to you for more.

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Colin Shaw is the founder and CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s leading Customer experience consultancy & training organizations. Colin is an international author of five bestselling books and an engaging keynote speaker.

Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter & Periscope @ColinShaw_CX

Colin ShawWhy the Customer Experience Doesn’t Create Loyalty