Making Routine Customer Experiences Fun

In recent years, many companies have attempted to make it more fun for customers to buy their products or use their services. Walt Disney Co. is the past master of this trend, having developed ways of making every aspect of the theme-park experience fun. Of course, people expect to have fun at a Disney park, whereas other experiences — a trip to the dentist, for example — are anticipated with mild anxiety or even dread. Even a very creative or entertaining dentist would have a hard time persuading his patients to associate fun with dental work.

Most services fall between these two extremes, however. They produce neither pleasure nor pain but rather are the routine stuff of life — filling the gas tank, grabbing a quick lunch. Such activities are so neutral that people often choose the provider with little thought and forget the experience in a matter of hours.

Some sellers of neutral services want to keep things that way. They want to be so convenient and reliable that people continue to use them unthinkingly. For certain mature service businesses, however, the addition of fun could be an important differentiator. Consider the experiences of buying furniture, going to the bank and purchasing groceries. Furniture stores are often full of products but deserted by customers. Banks, open mostly at inconvenient hours, seek to reduce customer interaction with bank employees. Grocery retailers, focused on lowering costs and increasing convenience, do little to reduce the drudgery associated with the weekly food shopping. Most people are happy just to get these activities crossed off the list. But three case studies taken from these industries show how fun can be turned to profitable advantage.

Jordan’s Furniture

Brothers Barry and Eliot Tatelman built Jordan’s, a Boston-area company with four stores, by breaking industry rules and injecting fun into everything associated with the company. Each Jordan’s store has a unique way of making the shopping experience positive. The small original location, established in 1918 by the Tatel-mans’ grandfather in Waltham, offers freshly baked cookies and serves coffee, tea or hot cider. In Nashua, New Hampshire, visitors are treated to live music and free balloons. The Avon site is home to the Motion Odyssey Movie — “MOM” —which boasts moving seats, laser shows, rock music and clouds of smoke.

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