Life Style Science

June 12, 2015 at 10:52 am

Science Proves What Really Makes People Happy

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Many of us would like to know the secret to lasting happiness. Everyone has ideas of course, and not a few of them involve material items. But science might prove that it doesn’t.

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a professor at Cornell University, believes that material items might provide happiness—but it doesn’t last. The problem is as soon as we have the item, we slowly get used to having it. And…eventually, the thrill is gone.

I know this first hand. I have written before about my love of fishing lures. As a fisherman (whenever I have time, which is woefully never in long supply), the new fishing lure is the representation of the fish I have yet to catch. The anticipation of its arrival is exciting, followed only by the excitement of using it for the first time. Over time, however, the magic lure descends to “general lure” status until eventually, it is just another of way too many lures in my tackle box.  It loses its al-lure (Oh dear. That pun is tough to take, even for me!)

However, Professor Gilovich has some good news. There is lasting happiness to be found from shopping, although it doesn’t involve stuff. No, he suggests that you get more happiness from experiences. What he discovered is that while people’s large material purchases did not continue to satisfy them over time. When people spent money on a vacation or a special art exhibit, however, their satisfaction with that purchase went up over time.  Gilovich said this of the phenomenon:

Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.

So when you are designing your Customer Experience, remembering this concept is key to creating something that will evoke happy and pleased with your Customers. In a recent post, Zhecho Dobrev, discussed how some organizations are using this concept to create new experiences for Customers. From using the surrounding landscape of your hotel to create a one-of-a-kind experience for your guests like the Ritz Carlton in Tuscon, Arizona, to creating a movie experience unique to your venue, in Vienna, Austria, these types of activities are likely to create an experience that pleases Customers. It will also stay with them long enough to tell stories about it to their friends or families. In some cases, they might even return themselves.

An important part of Gilovich’s findings is that the experience becomes a part of us; through the stories we tell and share with the other who shared the experience. They become a bond in our personal relationships, a key to happiness for most people. This same shared experience is not achieved through owning a similar gadget, however. No matter how whiz-bang the gadget is, it is still set apart from us, not part of ourselves the way our experiences are.

To make these great stories and shared experiences, however, one must first have a great experience. How to do that? What better resource than a company that was #1 on Trip Advisor UK, the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Based in Scotland, the Royal Yacht Britannia is designed to give visitors an idea of what it was like aboard Her Majesty the Queen’s floating palace. Chief Executive Bob Downie understood the importance of creating a unique and memorable experience for his Customers. So much so, his efforts and the efforts of his team produced an experience that was #1 on TripAdvisor in the UK.  When it came to producing a great experience, he mentioned three key elements:

  1. A winning mindset. Commit to the mindset of creating an exemplary Customer Experience.
  2. Individual development. Find your team’s strengths and use those to create the experience—and also employee engagement (a key element to a great Customer Experience).
  3. Remembering the little things. Every little moment in the experience should be consistent and Customer-centered. These “little things” are often the difference between and experience that is “meh” and one that is “FANTASTIC!”

Happiness is in many ways an elusive goal, particularly if you try to achieve it with material items. While they are great at first, the happiness they create doesn’t last. Science is proving the better way to have a lasting happiness is through experiences. And who doesn’t want lasting happiness? I can tell you; your Customer’s do.

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