Why customer memory is more important than customer experience

There is a big difference between a customer’s experience and their memory of that experience:  this has a huge impact on how you design and measure your CX activities. Customers don’t choose your product or service because of the experience they had; they choose it because of the experience they remember. Creating great memories is critical to building customer loyalty.

Professor Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize winning psychologist and economist, describes the difference between experience and memory in his TED talk: ‘the riddle of experience versus memory’. Professor Kahneman explains that we all have two selves: our experiencing self that lives in the present and our remembering self, the one that remembers and tells the story of how we felt about an experience.

We tell stories…but not the whole story

This difference is crucial for CX and marketing leaders because it is the ‘remembering self’ that creates customer loyalty. It’s also important to note that this story-telling remembering self generally doesn’t tell itself the whole story. Our memory is not always completely objective, factual or rational.

Here’s a quick example. Imagine you’re in a restaurant enjoying a meal. Your experience has been almost flawless, you’re feeling delighted with the food, service and setting. Then, as you’re leaving you witness an argument between the staff. 

What’s your memory of the evening? The chances are you’ll remember the raised voices and harsh words and maybe even feel that your evening was ruined. Psychologists call this the peak end rule; what people remember about an experience is their peak emotional moment and how it ended. In other words, if something unpleasant or frustrating happens at the end of your meal, flight, hotel stay or call centre interaction that is the part you tend to remember.

Here are two ways CX leaders can create happy memories for their customers

1-Wrap it up

When designing your customer experience activities pay particular attention to how the customer journey ends. Your aim is to create a permanent, positive memory. This will help you to build long term customer loyalty.

This could be as a simple as training call centre agents to end the call with a quick summary of the call and how they’ve resolved the issue and met the customer’s needs. You can create a similar positive reinforcement with a follow-up email. An even better way would be to give the customer an opportunity to create the memory in the form of a review, testimonial or customer survey.

2-Get your timing right

When is the best time to ask for customer feedback; during the experience or after the memory is formed? It’s actually not a simple question to answer. Let’s go back to our restaurant example.

If someone had asked you during your meal if you were enjoying it, you would have answered yes, it’s great! But the next day when a colleague asks if you enjoyed your evening, you might say “No, the staff made the atmosphere really unpleasant and ruined it.” That’s two very different responses; a positive one from your experiencing self and a more negative one from your remembering self.

This can also work the other way round. For example, you may find yourself feeling impatient and getting annoyed with a call centre agent. Later, when you’ve calmed down, you realise it wasn’t really their fault. If you’d been asked to complete a survey right after the call, your rating of the service would be much lower than if you were asked a few hours later or the next day.

However, there is also a strong argument for capturing customer feedback quickly, before it is forgotten or blurs with other interactions. For example, if you want feedback on your home delivery service in the run up to Christmas, you’ll get a better evaluation if your survey text lands straight after the delivery. If you leave it longer the customer could well be distracted by multiple other deliveries on the same day.  

There is no hard and fast rule about the right time to evaluate your customer experience. It depends on individual circumstances. But, choosing the optimum time to ask for feedback is key to effective evaluation of your customer experience programme.

If you need real-time customer feedback you can book a free demo of the Happ Customer Experience Management Platform. Or contact us to talk about the best approach for your CX needs.