Building Memorable Experiences: The “Sticktion” Approach
By Michael Sturman, Ph.D. Professor, Human Resource Mgmt, Rutgers School of Management & Labor Relations | August 10, 2014
Coauthored with Glenn Withiam, Executive Editor of the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly
"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant." - Robert McCloskey
It seems common sense, that to improve customer service, you should give customers what they say they want. Yet a common frustration in hospitality and service firms is that this often does not work. One reason for this is that customers actually do not remember their experiences accurately, and it is actually quite difficult for people to predict what they will remember. To facilitate better service design, service producers must create experiences that will "stick" with the customer. We can identify those "sticky" experiences using what is called "Sticktion" analysis. When experiences are properly structured, customers will remember their experience and remember what they really want-thus allowing a company to provide the desired customer experience and meet or exceed customers' expectation.
Using the case of Pizza Hut U.K., we explain a "Sticktion" analysis which found that customers indeed do not remember service experiences well. In addition to forgetting details of their experience, one week after visiting the restaurant, the customers filled in memory gaps with negative details that did not appear on their initial description of the visit. The goal for Pizza Hut became creating memorable experiences that would remain in memory and crowd out the false memories.
The success of service businesses depends in large part on customers' having positive experiences-and remembering those experiences. As we explain in this column, the "remembering" part of this process is remarkably fragile. It turns out that memory of experiences is subject to rapid deterioration and can be flat-out wrong. To make matters worse, people often cannot accurately predict what they will remember about a particular experience, and they fill in with false memories.
Using the example of a study of Pizza Hut U.K., we explain how a restaurant or other service business can counteract this problem by creating memorable experiences that will stick with the customer. This concept of "Sticktion" was used by two researchers to assist the chain in arresting an alarming drop in sales.