The commonly held wisdom is that ‘first impressions count’ – I don’t dispute this but what many companies forget is that is it the last impression that can often affect how we feel about an experience the most.
We remember the extremes - the high or the low point and the end.
When we phone a call centre, we are not likely to tell people about the greeting when the phone was answered but we will elaborate on the pain of the automated system and whether the issue was resolved at the end or not.
A mother going through childbirth rarely remembers the moment they went into labour but they’ll remember the pain of the worst contraction and certainly their emotions when the baby arrives (Ok – maybe that is an extreme example but you get the point).
This was highlighted to me by a recent trip to a restaurant with a friend and his mother.
It was a good restaurant in a hotel in Lancashire, not cheap but not very expensive either – we are not talking Michelin stars.
When we booked we were asked if there were any dietary requirements, which there were.
On arrival we were shown to a nice table by the window and the waiter asked who in the party was Gluten intolerant. He then crouched down by my friend’s mother and took her through the very few items on the menu, which, unfortunately, they would not be able to adapt to make gluten free, but anything else they could ensure would be suitable for her.
I asked for the chicken but without the cream sauce, he immediately offered for the chef to make a red wine jus for me instead.
Our food was quite a while being served but before we started getting twitchy and staring at the door hoping ours was the next out, a very apologetic waiter appeared with tiny bowls of white onion volute, which ‘the chef had prepared to apologise for the wait’ and assure us our main courses would be served next.
The meal continued in this vain with delicious food and excellent service.
Right to the end that is.
Our bill was brought to the table and then we waited, and we waited and eventually my friend had to take his credit card and go and find someone to pay.
On the way home we talked about how guilty we felt that we had become frustrated and annoyed at waiting to pay when the rest of the service had been so good but frustrated is exactly how we felt on leaving a superb restaurant having had a fabulous evening – a negative emotion for which there was absolutely no need, what a shame!
And that mistake, so simple to rectify, is repeated in restaurants throughout the world.
So when designing customer experiences don’t forget the vital part of the journey – the end, for every end is a new beginning!