Memory is a fragile thing, apparently.

Remember that customer who loved you loved you loved you six months ago? Since then, someone else has been whispering in her ear. They’re telling her that your product quality isn’t what it used to be. That there’s been a lot of turnover in your management. That other customers have complained.

Now your buyer has some doubts about you. Even worse, she tells herself that she always had these doubts. “I was afraid something like this would happen all along,” she thinks. And suddenly that customer who was crazy about you and your product is telling you, “The truth is, I never really loved you.”


She’s not lying. That’s really how she remembers it, according to one research study.

The study examined a group of moviegoers who’d given high marks to a movie they’d just watched. Later, these same people were shown a negative review of the same film. Then they were asked to recall their initial opinion.

After reading the negative review, the moviegoers were more likely to say they hadn’t liked the film when they saw it. Think about that for a moment. They weren’t saying they now liked the movie less. They were saying they’d never liked it.

What this finding means for salespeople: Memories do more than fade. They get rearranged to fit the buyer’s current frame of mind. So you have to constantly refresh the buyer’s enthusiasm. [Tweet This Quote]

There is an upside: The study found that this effect goes both ways. When moviegoers who had a negative first impression were later shown a positive review, they were more likely to remember that they liked the movie all along. So if your customer relationship got off to a rocky start, you can change how the buyer remembers it.

The bottom line is that customer loyalty and satisfaction aren’t set in stone. You earn it every day.

Source: Braun, K. A., Zaltman G. (1998) Backward framing: A theory of memory reconstruction. MSI’s Working Paper Series, # 98-109.

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