Jussi Ahola

Curious humanist

From satisfier to dissatisfier

As the world moves forward, people come to expect certain things. If the trains in your country run late de facto, a train that arrives on time is something that you feel happy about – a satisfier. As the railway company improves their service so that the trains start running on time, a train that arrives on time is no longer a satisfier; in fact, everything that doesn’t meet this new standard of timeliness – a train running late – has become a dissatisfier.

When you improve something, you raise the bar permanently. First, this new level of pleasure works as a satisfier. With time, however, people adapt to the new level of pleasure and start taking it for granted; the old state of affairs has become a dissatisfier.

People are no longer pleasantly surprised when a product or a service is a pleasure to use; they are unpleasantly surprised if that isn’t the case. To make them pleasantly surprised again, you have to exceed the prevailing pleasure level – to install comfortable seats to trains running on time.

A surround sound system in a movie theatre used to be a satisfier; nowadays the lack of it would be considered a dissatisfier. Broadband Internet connections used to be a luxury that only certain institutions were blessed with; today you are ready to ditch your telecom carrier if high-definition video doesn’t stream seamlessly in your phone wherever and whenever. A similar move from a satisfier to a dissatisfier applies to an earlier communication technology product:

One day there will be a telephone in every major city in the USA.
Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone

When telephones were so scarce that not even every major city had one, having access to a telephone must have been a great satisfier. Since they have reached a level of ubiquity, not having access to one has become a dissatisfier.

When you raise the bar, you can never go back without dissatisfying your people.