PCxD Principle #3: Design for Memories

I recently introduced a concept for enlisting the support of employees that uncovers and fulfills the needs of customers that we call People-Centric Experience Design (PCxD), defined as:

Fostering an environment that creates positive, memorable human encounters


Principle #3: Design for Memories

When it comes to loyalty, customer experience isn’t the driving factor. That’s right, customer experience is not the key driver. What is important? Memories. People make decisions based on how they remember experiences, not on how they actually experienced them. This distinction is important because people don’t remember experiences the way they actually occur. Rather, people construct memories as stories in their mind based on the fragments of their actual experiences. An improved understanding of how people truly remember things helps you focus on designing the most important movements better. When examining the emotional reactions of people throughout an experience, it becomes apparent that five elements disproportionately drive memories:

  1. Negative Spike. A dramatic increase in negative emotion.
  2. Positive Spike. A dramatic increase in positive emotion.
  3. Negative Peak. The lowest moment of the overall experience.
  4. Positive Peak. The highest moment of the experience.
  5. Ending. How the experience is finishes.


To create more positive memories, pay the most attention to those five elements of your customers’ experience. With that in mind, here are some ideas for designing for memories:

  • Make every ending count. The fastest way to increase positive memories is by improving how you end an experience. This includes the very end of a call with an agent, the thank-you screen after someone applies for a new product, or the interaction as someone leaves a store or branch.
  • Educate employees about moments that matter. Memorial Hospital and Health System of South Bend sends employees through what it calls “Chief Moment Officer Training.” This training teaches staff members about the importance of patience experience, what their role is in providing the experience, what influence they have on the experience, and the science behind creating exceptional experiences.
  • Smoothen transitions. When a customer moves from one form of interaction to another (i.e. web to phone, online to agent, agent to agent, etc.), they tend to get concerned about the next step, and this apprehension causes negative spikes. To ease their anxiety, make sure that customers don’t feel like they are repeating themselves with each transition. Sometimes just acknowledging the transition, such as a simple statement by an agent saying, “I see you’ve been online, how can I help you,” can really help.
  • Recover quickly from mistakes. When customers have a bad experience, they often become more upset over time—especially if they expend a lot of energy trying to fix the situation. If companies do not resolve the issue quickly, such experiences often create a very negative peak. On the other hand, a quick and solid recovery can provide a memorable positive spike. You’re usually better off in the long-run (in terms of customer loyalty) resolving problems as soon as possible, even if that approach costs more in the short-term.
  • Dampen bad experiences. Even if a bad experience can’t be eliminated, you can still proactively lower the negative peak and eliminate any negative spikes. For instance, even if a contact-center is experiencing long call-wait times, customers will remember the experience more positively if a company appropriately sets their expectations or provides a call-back option.
  • Create happy surprises. The largest positive spikes often come from unexpectedly good experiences. A thank-you present for a returning customer, a nice note in a package being shipped, or a warm welcome from the branch manager upon entering a bank a bank can go a long way towards creating positive spikes.

The bottom line: Focus your energy on creating positive memories.

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 (CXPA.org), 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: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

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