The Power of Beginnings and Endings in the Customer Service Experience

First impressions are huge. So are last impressions. But why is it that you never hear about “middle” impressions? Well, there’s actually a scientific explanation for it, and it has a lot to do with how human memory works. Author and Forbes contributor Micah Solomon and I would like to point out that if you can keep in mind what your customers are keeping in mind, your customer experiences will be much more memorable.

Rhonda Basler, Director of Customer Engagement

Do you mind if I slap a blindfold on you, in the name of customer service? (Anything for the customer, right?) Specifically, this is part of a little experiment to show how the customer’s memory works and how to turn the quirks of consumer memory to your advantage. The blindfold is just to stop you from cheating, from being able to write anything down until I tell you I’m ready.

Now that your blindfold’s secured, let me read you a list of cooking items: Tarragon. Lavender. Cardamom. Chicory. Safflower. Cinnamon. Turmeric. Marjoram.

Don’t write them down yet! Let them settle (or not) into your memory.

Okay. You have my permission now to take off the blindfold and write down all the words you remember from the list.

How’d you do? Probably pretty well at the beginning and at the end. The middle of the list? I’ll bet it was a bit of a blur.

I know this, because this is a traditional experimental demo, used hundreds of times each semester in introductory lectures by cognitive psychology professors all around the world. And there’s a very particular pattern that researchers always see:

Image Power of Beginnings

Serial Position Graph © Micah Solomon

This is known in psychology as the serial position effect: People most clearly remember the first thing that happened to them (Tarragon) and the last thing (Marjoram). The stuff that happened in between? It’s a bit of a blur.

Firsts and lasts are the real spice of life!

This insight provides us with a valuable shortcut in providing great (i.e., perceived to be great) customer experience. Here’s how:

The ways you greet and say good-bye to your customers are your “firsts” and “lasts”; the high points on the serial position curve pictured above. Handle them superbly, and your customer will recall (and will describe to others) an overall superb experience. And they’ll be able to immediately call to mind specific examples of how you were superb. Conversely, if you only excel in the middle of your interaction, you won’t get full credit for all that hard effort.

So, remember what your customers are really remembering, and focus your efforts on impactful openings and memorable closings.

For more information on our Customer Care Solution, click here.

2 thoughts on “The Power of Beginnings and Endings in the Customer Service Experience”

  1. Hello Ms. Basler,

    I am Richard Ropp, VP of Customer Services Kansas City Life Ins. Co. May we talk to someone at Hallmark about the Customer Service Business Solution described in this article Smart Customer Service article from March 4, 2016.
    The article caught the eye of our CEO and we’d like to explore the service described.

    Thank you,
    Richard Ropp
    Kansas City Life Ins. Co.

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