Seth Godin, Colonoscopies, And Lasting Memories

I know that the name of this post is a bit bizarre, but it’ll make sense in the end; or at least I hope so…

In Seth Godin’s recent blog post called “The last interaction,” he talks about how first impressions aren’t as important as last impressions. Here’s an excerpt:

Marketers (and high school kids) focus a lot on the first date… I recently had some waterproofing done in the basement. The first date was great… After they finished the job, they left my basement a mess… Forever, my only memory of the job is going to be the mess… The last interaction, in my experience, is responsible for virtually all of the word of mouth you’re going to get, positive or negative.

My take: Seth’s post reminded me of a question that Noble Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman posed at a Forrester event a number of years ago: “Is a shorter colonoscopy better than a longer one?” His answer: “Not necessarily.

This was his lead-in to describing findings about the difference between how people experience events and how they later remember those experiences. Kahneman’s research led to something called the “peak-end rule.” This heuristic states that people judge past experiences based almost entirely on how good or bad they were at their peak and how they ended. Virtually all other information appears to be discarded, including pleasantness or unpleasantness and how long the experience lasted.

So a colonoscopy that is extended by several minutes of pleasantness will be remembered more positively than a shorter procedure. Who would have thought?!?!

Coming back around to Seth’s post, he’s right. The last experience is much more important than the first one. But don’t forget that people (think “customers”) will remember (and judge you on) the absolute best and worst part of the experience as well.

The bottom line: Given the pressure on this ending given the peak-end rule, all I can come up with is this: I hope this post is more pleasant than a colonoscopy.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (, and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile:

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