Everytime our needs, wants and urges are satisfied, we are stoking the pleasure center of our brain. Conversely, if we feel deprived of what we have come to expect, we feel anxiety and tension. Unsurprisingly, our devices (and their ability to allow us to connect and transact anywhere) have become the means by which instant gratification is delivered. Marketers and experience designers have been able to find ways to deliver instant gratification based on some of the most common and fundamental ‘wants’:
- Desire to be recognized for actions or abilities
- Desire to connect socially
- Desire to be appreciated
- Desire to improve oneself physically or intellectually
- Desire for social status
What we can learn from the gaming industry
The online gaming industry is particularly masterful at fulfilling the desire for instant gratification, so much so that online gaming addiction is now recognized as a mental health condition. Gamification software frequently delivers points, trophies or badges for making it to the next stage of a game. The idea behind such rewards is that you acknowledge the user for doing well thereby motivating them to continue on in the game. Once motivated, they are more easily persuaded to complete another task (whether that’s sharing content on social media or inviting friends).
If we were to follow the psychology of online game design, then we should be rewarding and encouraging our customers as soon as they perform some activity or interact with our brand. The interaction could be transactional or it could be posting a photo on Instagram or leaving online feedback. Setting up a reward loop for such behavior encourages people to stay in the experience by continuously rewarding the brain’s pleasure center. This is a distinctly different scenario than when customers feel forced to spend long periods in the experience because of wait times, long distances, or trouble finding what they need.
While it’s not uncommon for businesses to ‘gamify’ the customer experience – think about the Nike+ Run Club app or Taco Bell’s ‘Live Mas’ – businesses should also think about their standard customer exchanges and interactions and find ways to make the gratification more instant. Improvements might be:
- Setting maximum response times for questions on social media
- Offering continuity of support by minimizing the times customers are transferred to other people
- Receiving email and SMS notification as soon as a request or order has been made and providing delivery/response ETA
- Offering customer support through web chat
- Offering tailored product/service recommendations to returning customers.