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Not long ago, an organisation’s relationship with a customer would be merely transactional. The customer would buy a product or service; he or she would then ‘go away’ and contact would be complete until the buyer bought again. Today, organisations aim for continuous engagement with their audiences, building their relationship with the customer outside of ‘buy-sell’ to increase brand loyalty.

In the third blog of this four-part series , we explore the importance of high-impact experiences and how to harness their power to influence customer buying decisions.

How does experience relate to customer relationships?

A customer experience is any interaction point with an organisation’s products, services, people, software or other offerings along the customer journey. A customer’s relationship with an organisation is a result of many of these interactions over time. However, a customer’s impression of an organisation is not just an average of these interactions since they are not all created equal. Some have a lasting impact on the customer, while others do not. One major factor that increases the impact of an experience is the extent to which it’s memorable.

In his breakthrough book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, author Daniel Kahneman explains why these memorable moments matter. He references his theory of the two selves where the first self – the experiencing self – is our day to day, the one that feels the good, the bad and the boring of each second of every interaction. Our remembering self, on the other hand, is the one that tells us what happened after the interaction took place, in other words, what we remember.

Take theme parks for example.

The relative time spent on a ride is likely outweighed by the time spent travelling there, standing in queues next to screaming children and eating overpriced food. But we often look back on these experiences largely with fondness, choosing to remember only those positive ‘peaks’.

This accurately explains the difference between the two selves – what happened and what we choose to remember happening. It also highlights the power of our remembering self and the impact it can have on our perception of an organisation and, importantly, its influence over our future buying behaviour.

Customer experience impact

Using memorable experiences to build lasting relationships

The key to influencing a customer’s buying decision is not to apply every lever to every interaction but to focus on developing fewer peak experiences that will leave a lasting impression on the customer. The end goal is for that customer’s remembering self to be biased towards those carefully designed peak memories. What experience is going to be your peak? And what levers will you pull to make it more memorable?

In our next and final article, we will be bringing together the concepts explored in our meaningful relationship series, addressing how to blend purpose and memorable experiences to build and maintain lasting relationships with your customers so that they are truly meaningful.

Indeed, according to Kahneman, we tend to put more weight on the peak (high or low) and ending of an experience in memory – called the peak-end rule. This indicates that organisations don’t need to make every interaction perfect rather they should focus energy and resource on being architects of peak experiences and exceptional endings for their customers.

So, how can we design more peak experiences that a customer remembers?

The seven levers of memorable experience

In our view, a memorable experience should pull on any or all of the following levers, each one affecting different steps of memory retention – from recording to encoding and finally storing that memory.

1. Attention

We live in an era of mass distraction. We open our phones to check the weather only to start scrolling on social, replying to WhatsApp messages and checking our emails. The question on every marketer’s mind is how to capture the attention of the consumer – and for good reason. Humans are not good at multi-tasking, with studies1 showing that heavy multi-taskers underperform in memory retention tasks.

So, when you design an interaction, think about to how to make a customer not just see but also engage with the interaction and therefore remember it.

2. Emotional

As the well-known saying goes: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Emotions do indeed highlight experiences – both good and bad. Chip and Dan Heath take this a step further in their book “The Power of Moments”2 where they outline four elements that make a defining moment, each akin to an emotion – elevation, pride, insight and connection.

When thinking about your interactions, reflect on what emotion you want your customer to feel and how you are going to stimulate it.

3. Multi-sensory

Many interactions focus on our sense of sight but studies3 suggest there is a case for focusing on other senses which also play an important role in customer choice. Take scent for example, humans can distinguish one trillion different scent combinations, which means we are highly adept at recognising and remembering a smell’s association4, even dating back to childhood.

Hospitality and retail often use smell to enhance their physical interactions; the Hyatt Place hotels introduced a signature scent in 2007 and found, through customer research, that it enhanced the visitor experience and increased brand memorability for guests.5 Today, the scent is found in almost 300 hotels across the US.

Organisations should be thinking about how they can elevate customer experiences to encompass not just sight but also taste, touch, sound and smell.

4. Novelty

According to the Happiness Research Institute, 73% of vivid memories submitted for their study into happy memory were either novel or unique.6 This explains why most vivid memories are formed between the ages of 15 and 30, when we have the most ‘firsts’.

The challenge with customer relationships is the death of novelty over time, as interaction firsts become few and far between. Organisations need to harness this lever by seeking to introduce or keep moments of novelty in their interactions.

What haven’t your customers done, seen, smelt, touched, tasted or heard before?

5. Personalisation

We are more likely to remember something if it has meaning to us. For example, if I asked you how many lines you have on your right palm, would you know without looking? Someone who is interested in palm reading will, however, not only know how many lines you have but they will also know what each one means.

An interaction has more meaning when it’s personal to the individual. This can be achieved by using that person’s name, knowing details like someone’s birthday (often associated with luxury retailers) or using augmented reality to visualise products in the customer’s own home before purchase.

Organisations need to be thinking about how they are making each interaction personal to the customer.

6. Storytelling

Our brains are naturally wired to remember stories, so much so that storytelling is used by the world’s best memory champions to remember volumes of random information, and by great presenters to structure their talks.7

Indeed, research has shown that our brains are 6-7 times more effective at recalling words when they are constructed around a story.8 Stories are also often repeated, which aids their memorability. This highlights the importance of organisations not just incorporating storytelling into a single interaction, but into the relationship narrative as a whole, and keeping the story consistent across all interactions in the customer journey.

How do you weave impactful stories into your customer experiences? And how can you make your story consistent at every touchpoint?

7. Document

The final lever relates to our ability to capture and store a memory, something we see frequently through digital today, where historically it might have been a box of memorabilia.

If we look through our Instagram profile or camera roll, we’ll be transported back to that time and place, even if we can’t remember it unprompted. Similarly, organisations can strengthen their customer relationships by reminding customers of positive interactions through the same technique – capturing an interaction and sharing it or giving people objects by which to remember it.

How can you document positive interactions so that the memory of them never fades for your customers?

Using memorable experiences to build lasting relationships

The key to influencing a customer’s buying decision is not to apply every lever to every interaction but to focus on developing fewer peak experiences that will leave a lasting impression on the customer.

The end goal is for that customer’s remembering self to be biased towards those carefully designed peak memories.

What experience is going to be your peak? And what levers will you pull to make it more memorable?

Alexa Carter

At Gate One, we believe there are some unifying principles that create a truly memorable customer experience. Get in touch to see how we can help you navigate your next customer experience challenge.

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