Our research in both the US and the UK has shown that leading firms now understand this, and that delivering memorable customer experiences forms the very core of their customer strategy.
The Ritz Carlton, for example, has 40,000 ‘memory makers’ – every employee is charged with creating something memorable for each individual customer.
However, whilst at some level, many firms intuitively understand the importance of linking memory with experience (think of the number of companies that state “creating memorable experiences” as part of their customer strategy), few really know how to go about successfully implementing such a strategy.
Consequently, the theme of memory and its link to loyalty is the central area for exploration in this year’s UK Customer Experience Excellence analysis.
The recent KPMG Global CEO Outlook highlighted that the primary concern keeping CEOs awake at night is customer loyalty – how can we ensure we keep the customers we have?
Neuroscientist Daniel Kahneman provides some of the answers in his concept of the “two selves” – the “experiencing self” and the “remembering self”. The experiencing self lives in the present, processing current inputs and information from the physical and social environment.
Once these moments have passed, however, most are lost forever. Kahneman estimates the average retention of an experience is about three seconds (Source: Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman).
The experiences we remember are defined by change. Experiences that are new, novel or are personally meaningful provide emotional peaks in a stream of experience. Finally, our
remembering self likes endings, how experiences conclude – the big finish.
The memorable moments are not just about the tangible elements – the ‘nice to haves’; the intangible elements are just as important, as they can work together to create a good experience.
The challenge for loyalty-fixated CEOs is to ensure their business satisfies the needs of the experiencing self, so that consumers are drawn to their brands, while they also provide experiential change that the remembering self can use to create memories that will bring consumers back again and again.
Kahneman makes the following distinction about how experience and memory affect future behaviour: “We actually don’t choose between experiences, we choose between memories of experiences. And when we think about the future, we don’t think of our future normally as experiences. We think about our future as anticipated memories.” (Source: The Riddle of Experience vs. Memory, Daniel Kahneman). It therefore follows that loyalty will come from customers’ anticipating future positive memories of experiencing your brand.
So which companies across the globe should the UK look to for guidance in creating ‘anticipated memories’? In the US, firms such as Ritz Carlton, Disney, Publix, Trader Joes and Wegmans are all exponents of creating experiences that engage the remembering self.
In the UK, first direct, John Lewis, Lush and Emirates lead the way. These firms realise that our remembering self requires a little help, so they consciously seek to reinforce memories that will bring the customer back.
Interestingly, Kahneman cites travel as a change-inducing activity because travel provides an ongoing supply of new and novel experiences. This is interesting because in this year’s report, it is the travel and hotels sector which features some of the year’s most transformed brands, with firms such as Marriott, American Airlines and Eurostar setting the pace. Each, in their own way, creating memorable experiences that drive loyalty and advocacy.
So why is all of this beneficial to the CEO? Most companies are attempting broad-brush, wholesale improvements in customer experience – involving large-scale transformative projects that look to generate root and branch improvements.
The reality is, that from a customer’s perspective, it is more valuable for firms to determine where they must be good enough (meeting the needs of the experiencing self) and where they should excel (activating the remembering self). For many firms, success will be a matter of prioritisation and focus, not necessarily wholesale change.