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Every company and leader is looking for ways to dazzle clients and keep top talent engaged and excited. They want to ‘add sizzle and gleam to the steak’. Credit card companies, hotels and airlines offer a proliferation of rewards programs geared to increase customer loyalty. Corporate gift giving to clients and employees soars during the holiday seasons. Employee of the month parking spaces, quarterly sales awards, and $ 25 grocery store gift certificates at Thanksgiving – all aimed at making employees feel appreciated and keeping them motivated — are ubiquitous. Nothing wrong with any of that, but it’s been done a million times. After a while, it starts to feel a bit stilted, common and uninspired. There is a halo of tired familiarity around such efforts.
While every company wants to dazzle clients and thrill and engage employees, most HR and marketing departments settle for the same-old, same-old programs, awards, and gifts that start with sizzle but quickly fizzle. The ubiquitousness drains the element of surprise and originality, ultimately failing to excite or delight anyone. But, it does not have to be that way.
According to Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of The Power of Moments, there is a way to transform ordinary occurrences into extraordinary moments. In their research, the Heath brothers — both professors at Stanford’s School of Business – found that experiences are NOT all created equal. Some are more memorable than others. The reason for that has to do with how people process experiences. It turns out that how an event is ranked in a person’s mind has little to do with the overall experience. It is NOT an average of all the high and low points of an event combined.
Case in point. A person, who hired a remodeler to do a kitchen renovation during a 2-week period, might break down that experience on a scale of 1-10 (1 is worst and 10 is best) as follows:
- Negotiate contract with the vendor. Rating: 6
- Work with the vendor to obtain building department permits. Rating: 5
- Suffer through the dust, mess and frustration of not having a functioning kitchen during the construction process, which is to be expected and yet still awful. Rating: 3
- Feel a dopamine rush after seeing the new kitchen for the first time with the recessed lighting, custom cabinets with hydraulic, easy-close cabinet doors, apron-front sink, designer appliances, quartz countertop and glass mosaic backsplash. Rating: 7
- Cook a gourmet meal using the Miele commercial-grade appliances and share it with the family. Rating: 10
- Two weeks later, view a photograph of your new kitchen featured on an HGTV magazine about Kitchen & Bath Makeovers. Rating: 8
Based on those scores, one would think that the overall summary of the experience would be the average of all those ratings: 6.5. That would be considered a pretty good experience. And, a few weeks later, if asked to rate the overall kitchen renovation experience, a good prediction would be that the answer would be 6.5 since it is an average of all the highs and lows of the process. Right? Wrong. That is way off!
According to Heath and Heath, psychologists predict that, looking back on that process, the overall rating would be a 9! All but forgotten are the weeks of mess and inconvenience. That’s because research has found that, in recalling an experience that has a fairly defined beginning and end, people will ignore most of what happened during the overall experience and focus instead on a few particular moments.
Of that sample situation, two moments stand out. First, seeing the renovated kitchen with all of the latest materials and features was a high point. The other was seeing the photograph of the new kitchen featured in a magazine. According to Chip and Dan Heath, “When people assess an experience, they tend to forget or ignore its length – a phenomenon called “duration neglect.” Instead, they seem to rate the experience based on two key moments: 1 – the best or worst moment, known as the “peak”; and 2 – the ending.
It was Nobel Prize–winning Israeli psychologist Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues that found that what people remember about the pleasurable quality of past experiences is almost entirely determined by two things: how the experiences felt when they were at their peak (best or worst), and how they felt when they ended. This has been dubbed the “Peak-End Rule.” When we assess experiences, we don’t remember every moment or average them. We remember “flagship moments: peaks, pits and transitions.”  And, this holds true across many different kinds of experiences. In this scenario, because the worst point was ranked a 3, it did not quality as the low peak. The highest peak, a 10, was the high point. The last experience was an 8. So the average between those is a 9.
Because of the Peak-End Rule, certain experiences have more impact than others and seemingly small moments can have extraordinary impact. While often the most memorable experiences can be accidental, spontaneous or natural, Heath and Heath make the case that such moments can be deliberately orchestrated by companies, organizations and institutions that want to dazzle and delight customers and staff alike. Using the Peak-End Rule, organizations can reevaluate and transform the customer and employee experiences in ways that influence perception, increase loyalty, and drive up profit.
The beauty of this insight is that it does not require an organization to create costly interactions from scratch. It is as simple as taking an objective look at the many experiences that already exist, and tweaking them appropriately.
Companies should walk through the client experience and ask “what’s the peak, and what’s the end?” What can we do to make a peak “peakier”? How can the end of the experience be made a bit more impactful, important or impressive? How can the end be elevated? This does not necessarily require a lot of expense. It can be as simple as having a handful of branded umbrellas on-hand for store clerks to walk departing customers to their cars on rainy days. The Four Seasons George V hotel in Paris provides branded umbrellas to its hotel guests who are going to explore the city when it is raining. At the Bahia Mar Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, customers are given warm cookies as the front desk at check-in, check-out and any time they ask. Imagine, warm chocolate chip cookies every day upon request. That is something children do not soon forget. Spirit Airlines flight attendants make a point to makes jokes, sing songs and do things to help create a peak moment of laughter in every flight. These experiences cost little but can have a big impact.
Such strategies can be done internally and incrementally. If employees in different areas of the company know that this is a goal, staff can be empowered to ‘up the ante’ to elevate a moment in customer interactions and communications when the opportunity presents. It’s about having the right perspective, and taking advantage of a chance to create memorable experiences for customers.
The same can be done by managers to recognize employees. In the case of employees, the key is to create peak experiences that are tailored to the individual and not systemized for the entire organization. For an employee who hits a sales milestone, a manager can reward him with a one year subscription to Sirius XM radio so he can listen to uplifting music when driving to sales calls. Other very personal types of rewards can include “CEO for the day” or “Lunch with the Boss” to an employee who steps up to take on a leadership role or solves a significant problem. Give an employee who puts in some extra long work days to hit a deadline or complete a project a “coupon” for a half-day extra time off to take before or at the end of a vacation. These are small perks that cost little but are unique and serve as a peak experience.
By finding and elevating ordinary moments to make them peak experiences for customers and staff alike, organizations are able to dazzle and delight. Try it.
Quote of the Week
“This “peak-end” rule of Kahneman’s is what we use to summarize the experience, and then we rely on that summary later to remind ourselves of how the experience felt.” Barry Schwartz
 Chip Heath & Dan Heath, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, Chapter 1-Defining Moments, Pgs 1-16, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 10020
 Fredrickson, Barbara L.,Kahneman, Daniel, Duration Neglect in Retrospective Evaluations of Affective Episodes, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 65(1), Jul 1993, 45-55
© 2018, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.