What is the cheapest way to feel insanely rich? To me, it is having a high-tea in a five-star hotel. For about 50 to 60 euros you can get a taste of the service level that generally only the rich and famous have access to. Another way is to book an Economy Plus seat on an aeroplane. For just a tiny bit extra, you not only have a bit more comfort. You also are freed from the hassle to get on and off the plane. Your food gets served first. And in case of Easyjet, you get to experience the ritual of getting to board early. While the other mortals have to feel inferior behind a rope. Priceless.

How to feel rich the cheap way

But I am also feeling filthy rich for the last few years if the owner of restaurant ‘Oggi’ in the Binnenbantammerstraat Amsterdam – who by the way is Turkish, but does a brilliant Italian impersonation – comes up to me all the way from the kitchen to welcome me back. It’s a little gesture, but it makes a lasting impression on my Belgian relatives. It signals that I am an appreciated customer and not just an anonymous character in the big city. The Uber driver who simply asked me if I would enjoy listening to some music, and gave me a few mints, transformed the value perception of expensive public transport into a private chauffeur experience that was a mighty good deal.

By the way, there’s a great power in mints when you look at it from a human psychology point of view. Check out this post to see how mints can make a big difference in the amount of tips given. It explains the Cialdini persuasion principle of reciprocity.


Signaling: the power of adding psychological value

In behavioural economics, these examples are called signaling. Our system 1 – aka our automatic brain – is continuously picking up signals that seem trivial, but have an enormous impact on how we experience the value of things. The cheery Coolblue delivery boy on his bike looks like a little detail at first sight, but it undoubtedly one of the most active signals that show how committed Coolblue is to do ‘Everything for a smile’.

The other way around: How often did you hear you say to yourself you would never return to a store as one member of staff – maybe even without knowing it him or herself – has treated you with too little respect? A store can try its hardest to make sure everything is in perfect order, but if the behaviour of the people instore signal the opposite. It’s the end of the story.

Signaling power at organisations

I even experience the same when visiting clients. Both at De Volksbank and at ASR Insurances you are welcomed by hosts that genuinely make you feel very welcome. It causes you to feel good about the entire organisation right away. The organisation signals that you, as their visitor, are of importance to them. The hostesses at the main offices of Eneco are also sublime at this. As opposed to Group4, where you come in, you are asked to come up to security agents positioned behind a stronghold. No, the hostesses at Eneco accompany you to an espresso bar and give you a reception that even the CEO would appreciate.

No expensive design or elaborate change management program can match the power of psychological design choices.


Want to know more?

If you want to master the science of influence yourself, you could consider enrolling in our two-day course Behavioural Design at our SUE | Behavioural Design Academy. You can download the Academy brochure.

Or maybe you currently have a challenge in which you want to influence choice or change behaviour. Please, take a look at our Behavioural Design Sprint. It might be the answer you’re looking for.

Or could be you just would like to get to know us a little better. We happily introduce ourselves here.