The ‘peak end’ rule applies to customer experiences where the process may be drawn out over a few hours, days, weeks or even months, and looking back we tend to only remember two aspects of the experience. The emotional peak, when the experience was at its the most frustrating or enjoyable, and the end, how did it eventually turn out.

Once such instance occurred just last week when my wife and I were lucky enough to attend a concert, which doesn’t happen too often these days. The opportunity to see Paul Kelly and Neil Finn playing together rolling out more than 25 instantly recognisable hits was a pretty amazing experience.

As you will appreciate, the performers delivering a great show is only part of the equation, with poor sound, or a soulless venue, threatening to take away from their best efforts. Our concert was at the Brisbane Convention Centre which is a good size, has great sound, and is centrally located – all in all a good venue for such an event.

At one stage my wife turned to me and said, “this concert is outstanding, I really like this venue”. As the 2nd encore came and went with “To Her Door” and “Don’t Dream It’s Over” we were thoroughly entertained and ready to dash for home. With Brisbane’s big wet persisting we had chosen to drive, and the Go Between Bridge offered us a short 10 minute drive home to the Northside.

A 3rd encore pushed us past 11pm (the time I had suggested to our babysitters we would be home) and we got a little anxious. As the lights came up we walked swiftly to the car. As we started towards the exit we stopped dead just a couple of metres closer. While we sat there and waited, practically every other patron with a car came back, started it up, put their lights on and waited. Exactly 30 minutes later we finally moved, 11:45pm. Five minutes later we were out and we drove into our driveway at 11:58pm. Our babysitters were pre-warned via text message but nevertheless clearly tense, as we were, about major work commitments the next day and a short night of sleep.

So despite a very positive ‘peak’ during the show, the ‘end’ of our experience was soured significantly by a poorly conceived parking process. Such a shame that such a small element of the experience should be the lingering take-away from what was otherwise a fantastic night.

Is your business undermining a great experience by dropping the ball at the last hurdle? Or is it taking away from a positive customer outcome through miscommunication and poor expectations management on the way through? When you consider your customer experience, don’t forget the ‘peak end’ rule.