TSH 28: This one rule is all you need to know about customer experience

customer experience Feb 11, 2024

Reading time 2 mins.

Customer’s experiences with a brand are defined by two moments; The most intense moment, known as the peak, and the final moment - the end.

 Regardless of how the experience is overall, humans typically have trouble recollecting the whole journey, and instead focus on snapshots of the peak and the end. 

 I subscribe to the idea that experiences are a collection of memories, and memories are usually punctuated by these two moments, both good and bad. 


Introducing the Peak End Rule

 Let me give you some real life examples before we go into ecommerce-specific experiences.

 Childbirth. An incredibly painful, anxious and stressful experience for many women, however the memory bias is typically recalling giving birth as a massive positive, due to the amazing experience at the end, when the baby is born. Everything else seems to fade into the background.

 Human relationships: This again can go both ways. Unpleasant interactions with an individual on a daily basis can occur, until in one moment, one person does something for the other, that changes the perception of the individual entirely. 

 On the other hand, many happy years together in a relationship can be instantly soured during a break up at the end, and although 99% of the time spent together was great, the lasting experience is the negative, painful and final one.

 The short version is that our experiences are defined by the peak moments and the end, not the sum of parts of the journey.


Where did the Peak End Rule come from?

 The Peak End Rule was created by psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman and researcher Barbara Frederickson, in 1993 during their research into the belief that humans most specifically recollect the end of an event, rather than all of the events. 

 During their research, they conducted an experiment which asked participants to submerge their hands into water that was 14 degrees celsius for 60 seconds. The second part of the trial asked participants to submerge their hands in water that was 14 degrees celsius, but then to keep their hands submerged for a further 30 seconds while the temperature of the water was lifted to a more comfortable 15 degrees celsius. 

 Participants were then asked which of the versions they preferred, and the result was that participants preferred the longer exposure to the uncomfortable temperature, because of the more pleasant ending, which resulted in the more pleasant recollection. 

 The hypothesis is that humans recollect snapshots to make quick decisions to assess people and situations, and that the brain scans for the most memorable moments to form a decision. 


The Peak

 Humans have a bias towards remembering the peak moment because they’re more emotionally intense moments. 


The End

 Humans have a bias towards remembering end due to recency bias - in other words, it’s the most recent moment, so they remember it.


How this applies to to ecommerce

 Customer experience, or CX plays a big part in ecommerce discussion. Most online retailers collect reviews, either onsite, through platforms like Okendo, or offsite, through Google, TrustPilot, Yelp, or social media. 

 If you’re not sure how your peak and end stack up, reading your reviews is a good place to start. 

 The end is typically punctuated by a good or bad final mile delivery experience. So important is this, that businesses like Amazon have actually built their entire business on very fast delivery options - and that’s what people remember and like about them.

 Some brands will give a little gift with purchase to the customer, or offer a little note or beautiful packaging, as that little unboxing experience can be the one that provides the most emotion - anticipating, relief, joy or disappointment.

 The UX (user experience) forms part of the overall CX, but it’s unlikely that browsing a website is likely to be the most intense emotional moment of the journey, so while it’s important to have a fast website, sufficient payment options, and easy navigation, it’s more important to work out how you can blow your customer’s minds with the delivery experience. 

 I would challenge you to rethink the idea that getting the order out on time, and avoiding disappointment is a great CX. It’s a good service, it’s not a great moment. If you want to excel, you need to stop thinking about not disappointing the customer, and start thinking about how you can create great moments.

 Think about the emotion of anticipation. We know this is likely the most intense moment of the shopping experience, all you have to do is read the negative reviews that customers write to know that most of them will be related to the product not working as it should, or the delivery experience letting them down.

 People get very emotional when deliveries are not on time, especially if they’re for an occasion - and let’s face it, almost everyone is shopping from you for some form of occasion that probably has some form of intense emotion attached to it.

 If the most intense emotion is a late delivery, that’s a double whammy, because it’s the peak and it's the end. 

 On the other hand, if you’re able to deliver faster than you promised, maybe even on a Sunday, or same day, that’s what people will remember you for.

 If the customer unboxes the product, and it’s even better than they thought, or even better value for the money they paid, that's what they’ll remember you for.

 If your product is priced too high, and there’s a feeling of let down when the customer unboxes, that’s what they’ll remember you for.

 If a brand’s customer service representative is rude, or argumentative, that’s what the customer will remember, and talk about. 

 If a brand’s customer service representative goes out of their way to call a customer back, or find out some information, or send a follow up SMS, that’s what the customer will remember.

 These moments are also the key driver in loyalty and retention - more valuable than any loyalty program.


How to master the Peak End Rule in your business

 Follow these steps:

  1.  Avoid painful moments. Don’t argue, don’t be late, make sure your product works and is well presented.
  2.  Aim for one memorable moment in the middle of the experience. This could be an amazing customer service experience, such as what the late great Tony Hsieh would do with his online business Zappos, renowned for its incredible customer service. Could you challenge your staff to create highlights, or provide them a special budget each month to use at their discretion aimed at this project?
  3. Wow them at the end. Deliver fast, faster than they would expect. The key here is to over deliver, never under deliver on your shipping promise. What else could you do to make the unboxing experience more intense and emotive? A hand written note? A gift with purchase? An extra product they didn’t know they were going to get?



In summary, customer experience is one of the key drivers to a customer coming back, and a customer coming back is one of the key drivers to revenue growth. If the key to customer experience is the peak and the end, focus on creating two wow moments, one in the middle, and one in the end. Your customers are likely to pay you back for it.


Until next time,



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