Understand How the Peak-End Rule Defines the Partner Experience

Peter Lai
4 min readApr 11, 2021


Think about the last time you interacted with a partner. What do you remember about the experience you had with them? Were they able to provide the resources that enabled you and your team to win the opportunity successfully? Did the partner act with a sense of urgency when needed? When you accessed their partner portal, was the experience frustrating or satisfying? The chances are that you don’t recall every single moment of the interaction. What you do remember are the positive or negative moments that stood out.

According to both neuroscientists and those who study human behavior, our brains perceive every moment that we experience as “the present” in snapshots that last only a few seconds at a time. We can only remember these experiences in individual moments rather than a complete catalog of events because our brains do not have the capacity to store the thousands of moments that we encounter in every experience. For example, you may remember certain moments of a commute, but you won’t remember every individual moment you experienced during your drive. So how does your brain reconstruct an experience if it can’t store every moment?

The Peak-End Rule

The Peak-End Rule is based on psychologist Dr. Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues’ research and documented in a 1993 study titled “When More Pain Is Preferred to Less: Adding a Better End.” In the study, the researchers found that the human memory rarely records series of events with accuracy, so experiences are heavily influenced by two key moments: the Peak and the End.

  • The Peak — The moment where we experience the most intense positive or negative emotion.
  • The End — How we felt during the end of an experience.

To reconstruct an experience, our brain uses these sampled moments to predict how we felt during the rest of the forgotten moments. The Peak-End Rule allows us to maximize our brainpower and conserve cognitive energy by avoiding the need to dedicate brain capacity to irrelevant and unnecessary memories. Understanding how biased our memories can be of an experience can help you design better partner experiences that lead to more sales opportunities.

Applying the Peak-End Rule

The Peak-End Rule is commonly used today by companies to design better customer experiences that create loyalty. You can dramatically improve your partner experience by taking advantage of the Peak-End Rule. Here is how you can do this:

1. Identify the peaks

Because of memory bias, we demonstrate better memory for experiences that are more emotionally intense. When designing the partner experience, key interactions that elicit an emotional response are known as Moments of Truth.

Examples of Moments of Truth that impact partner experience:

  • Access to expertise — The different ways your partners may prefer to access your company for support before and after the sale include self-service tools, webinars, recorded sessions, or in-person demos.
  • Communication preference — The preference on the type of touchpoint that is needed where appropriate. Partners may have a communication preference to video call or a phone call, while some may still prefer face-to-face.
  • Addressing problems — Examples of moments when addressing the problem is most important: the onboarding/integration process and resolving customer issues. It’s important to review what problems may occur and find ways to prevent them.
  • Definition of ROI — When partners don’t see the benefits of collaborating with you or know how to convey the partnership’s value to their customers, this is a problem. Is the value you bring as a partner clearly communicated in digital content such as your partner program landing page, case studies, testimonials, or blogs?

2. Create favorable peaks

When you know what peaks currently exist in your partner’s journey, you can focus on making them positive moments. The process to create positive peak moments doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive.

Examples of ways to create positive moments:

  • Proactively ensuring that your partners have what they need to achieve their goals.
  • Recognizing and adapting to your partner’s constraints and processes
  • Answering questions quickly
  • Assisting partners in uncovering new sales opportunities
  • Providing consistent updates to products, sales offerings, or incentives

3. End on a high note

Because of recency bias, recent events are favored over historical ones. Creating lasting moments that leave a positive impression doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Actively focus on creating positive moments that you can end on when helping a partner close a sale, after a product training session, or concluding a quarterly or annual partner review can lead to a positive partner experience.

Partners have choices on who they want to work with. In the partner journey, identifying where the potential positive or negative peaks are and creating positive moments take time and effort, but the results are worth it. By understanding the Peak-End Rule, we can empower ourselves to improve the partner experience and optimize our partners to create greater growth, competitive advantage, and differentiation in their market.

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Peter Lai

I help businesses build and leverage successful partner programs