Businesses work hard to ensure that their customers walk away happy. But just how much of a good experience do customers even remember? What can be done to make sure they remember more? That’s what Kathryn A. LaTour and Lewis P. Carbone set out to discover in their article “Sticktion: Assessing Memory for Customer Experience,” published in Cornell Hospitality Quarterly.
In the quest for better service design, hospitality and service firms have often been frustrated to find that service experiences that are based on what customers say they want are not always successful. A psychological analysis of this phenomenon suggests the following premises: (1) Customers’ memory of an experience fades quickly; (2) customers’ memory of an experience comprises many sub-experiences; (3) customers’ memories of experiences are multidimensional and unintuitive; and (4) consumers cannot accurately predict what they will learn or remember. The goal of an experience design is to create a series of sub-experiences that will “stick” with the customer. This “sticktion” analysis is applied to the practical challenge of redesigning the customer experience at Pizza Hut UK. This consumer research provides a test of the four premises and an application of the underlying sticktion principles. Surveys of Pizza Hut customers found that the existing experience had its bright spots but was generally forgettable. Not only could customers not predict what they would remember about the experience, but one week after visiting the restaurant, the customers also filled in memory gaps with details that did not appear on their initial description of the visit. Even more troublesome was the fact that the invented details tended to be negative. To fill these gaps, the researchers tested specific aspects of the experience that would “stick” and included those in the new restaurant concepts. Using this approach, the chain was able to roll out new concepts that met with initial favorable results.