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The most salient or peak aspect of a service experience often defines customer perceptions of the service. Across two studies, using the same novel form of a scenario-based experiment, we investigate the design of peak events in a service sequence by testing how anticipated and surprised peaks influence customer perceptions. Study 1 captures the immediate reactions of participants and Study 2 surveys participants a week later. In both studies we find a main effect for the temporal peak placement, confirming the positive influence of a strong peak ending. When assessing the peak design strategies of surprise and anticipation, we find in Study 1 that surprise and anticipation moderates the temporal peak placement (e.g., early peak versus late peak) on overall customer perceptions, with the surprise peak at the end of an experience yielding the strongest effect. In Study 2 we see that the remembered experience of a surprise peak positively affects customer perceptions compared to an anticipated peak regardless of the temporal placement of the peak. We also find that the infusion of a surprise peak ending has a lasting effect that amplifies the peak-end effect of remembered experiences. Drawing on these findings, we discuss the role of surprise, anticipation, and sequence effects in experience design strategy.


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© Wiley. Final version published as: Dixson, M. J., Victorina, L., Kwortnik, R. J., & Verma, R. (2017). Surprise, anticipation, and sequence effects in the design of experiential services. Production and Operations Management, 26(5), 945-960. doi:10.1111/poms.12675
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