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.

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I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

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