Creating a good last impression

People judge an experience by the most intense point and the end point.

That’s the take-home message from Dave Rothschild’s article on the peak-end rule - a concept popularised by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman.

It’s a rule we implement in our own lives, sometimes daily, but don’t pay much attention to – that instead of evaluating an entire experience in order to make a judgement, our minds tend to remember and focus in on a set of specific and intense snapshots.

Whether it’s a job, a holiday or even a relationship – our snap-assessment is heavily dictated by the most intense experience (be it good or bad) and the last moments (or the way it ended).

In his article Mr Rothschild explains the value of the peak-end rule in shaping positive customer experiences – illustrating that the entire customer experience will often be characterised or perhaps completely reversed by simply elevating a single moment in the transaction or interaction.

He provides examples of companies who have already tailored their customer strategy around concepts based off of the peak-end rule, such as:

·         Focusing on the end of the experience – a great ending elevates the overall impression, be it a holiday, book, movie or shopping trip.

·         Acknowledging ‘duration neglect’ - the length of the experience doesn’t matter. A person’s impression only relies on specific intense snapshots.

·         It’s not the problem, it’s the reaction to the problem – negative customer experiences can be overcome, even changed into positive ones, by reacting quickly to acknowledge the issue and taking prompt steps to address it.

Beyond just customer interactions, the application of the peak-end rule has wider value to all levels of business and human interaction in general.

Whether you’re running a meeting, calling a client, delivering a speech or simply chatting to a colleague – the impression that others take away from that experience will rely largely on the most intense or impactful moment and the way the experience concludes.

On multiple occasions I’ve found myself faced with the task of speaking to an expectant audience - including three times as a Best Man – and I can testify firsthand that only the biggest laughs and sentimental toasts linger in the audience’s memory.

Those are the take-home moments that people can recall later and will base their assessment of my performance on. The rest inevitably becomes ‘filler’ – especially as time passes and details are harder to recollect.

So it makes sense that when considering the impression we’re creating with a specific audience, we should pay particular attention to the biggest highs, or lows, and the last thing we said.

Quite likely, when considering what they think of us, those are the only details that matter.