A couple of years ago Volkswagen Sweden performed an experiment to prove a theory. The theory is: if you make something fun, you can get people to change their behavior.
The company took a subway station where most people take the escalator and outfitted the stairs to look and act like giant piano keys. The result? 66% more people than normal chose the stairs rather than the escalator. Even though taking the stairs requires more effort, people went out of their way because of the experience. Fun won.
There’s an important analogy that can be drawn between the “fun” experiment and the experience a business offers. Imagine that the stairs (pre-piano) and the escalator represent two companies competing in the same industry. They both offer the same product or service in a typical way, but one (the escalator) is preferred over the other because it provides a marginally better experience. One of the companies (the stairs) decides it’s going to differentiate itself based upon the experience it offers to the customer. They make the experience so good that the customers don’t mind paying a premium price (climbing instead of riding). The decision between the two companies almost becomes a non-decision for most customers. The competitor (the escalator) loses out.
Ok, so maybe this oversimplifies things a bit, but this isn’t just theory. What if I told you that one study by RightNow indicates that 86% of consumers are willing to pay more over the standard price to ensure a superior customer experience? That’s music to any business’ ears. (Sorry. I had to. You have no idea how I’ve had to restrain myself from using musical puns throughout this post.)
So, which are you going to take – the escalator or the stairs?