I am (finally) reading the book Mistakes were made (but not by me) by Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson (affiliate link), which explores why people find it hard to accept responsibility for mistakes.
There is an interesting section in the book, where authors report on findings from psychological experiments that show that:
‘(I)f people go through a great deal of pain, discomfort, effort, or embarrassment to get something, they will be happier with that ‘something’ than if it came to them easily. (…) The cognition that I am a sensible, competent person is dissonant with the cognition that I went through a painful procedure to achieve something – say, joining a group that turned out to be boring and worthless. Therefore, I would distort my perceptions of the group in a positive direction, trying to find good things about them and ignoring the downside.’ (page 15)
Examples of this effect that sprang to my mind, as I was reading this section, include queuing for hours to buy a new product, enter a concert, or be admitted to a restaurant or bar. Or, for instance, going through a series of difficult tests to be admitted into a programme, organisation or group.
This effect also explains why we tend to value very highly things that we put a lot of effort in creating – for instance, assembling IKEA furniture, folding origami, or building Lego. We like those items (the IKEA table, the origami sculpture or the Lego construction) more when we built them than if somebody else did it.
The bottom line: customers that suffered to get your product value it more than those that didn’t.
But before you go mad with this idea, and decide to introduce challenging tests for your customers or move to a self-assembly model, take heed of this section in the same book:
‘(t)hese findings do not mean that people enjoy painful experiences, such as filling out income-tax forms, or that people enjoy things that are associated with pain. What they do show is that if a person voluntarily goes through a difficult or painful experience in order to attain some goal or object, that goal or object becomes more attractive.’ (page 17)