Hedonic Adaptation: Today’s customers’ Need for Change, Variety and Improvement

There’s a natural tendency for human beings to grow accustomed to any condition–positive or negative–over time.  This is called the psychological principle of “hedonic adaptation.”  

As a positive force, hedonic adaptation is a very good thing if you lose a job (or even a leg); it helps you to accept and ultimately adapt to your new situation.  As a negative force, it’s to blame for such consequences as the fabled seven year itch, and the fact that catchy new songs become irritating not-so-new songs so quickly.

In a customer context, the psychological principle called “hedonic adaptation” manifests itself "What have you done for me lately?" syndrome, the natural desire of your customers for innovation, new colors and screen sizes, better pricing, faster service, and so forth.

When it comes to today’s breed of customers, including the soon-to-be-dominant Millennial generation, they’re far from unique in wanting to know what a business has done for them lately. The main difference is that their timetable, their definition of "lately," is shorter than it’s ever been before.

Can you blame them? This is the world they grew up in: Not the world of an annual Sears catalog and an annual Detroit model update, but the world of specials that change minute by minute on Amazon, ending-right-now online auctions and, of course, endless competitive offerings being just a mouse click or thumb's length away.

This is life as they've always known it. The life, you could say, they've adapted to, hedonically.

Now, this isn't the only theme running through today’s customers, especially the youngest of those customers.  They care about more than speed. They also care about authenticity–about making sure that a company’s actually "the real deal." They appreciated timeless products. They care about the ethics of the companies they do business with, and more.

So there is more than one way to skin the customer cat -- to use a turn of phrase I already regret.

But don't overlook the importance of adapting your business to keep up with hedonic adaptation at the speed of today’s customer.

Fast change and the expectation of fast and frequent improvement is the reality these customers expect. It's frustrating. It's a lot of work. But it is, as they say, what it is.
Micah Solomon
Micah Solomon

Business speaker, consultant and #1 bestselling business author Micah Solomon is known for his ability to transform business results and build true customer engagement and loyalty. Micah has been named by The Financial Post, “New Guru of Customer Service Excellence.” www.micahsolomon.com


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