Magazine

Nudges aren’t the holy grail of behaviour change

The crucial factor to achieving lasting impact on behaviour change is getting people in the right mindset and ensuring they’re engaged at the right time. We’ve been researching customer behaviour with the Delft University of Technology and have found that nudges alone aren’t enough to create lasting behaviour change.

Changing behaviour using micro moments of friction

Organisations are increasingly keen to influence customer behaviour; from banks that urge people to save for future income to healthcare organisations that encourage healthier lifestyles. At the Design Research Society conference, we shared our research into how this can best be achieved. We demonstrated that micro moments of friction cause people to pause and notice what they’re doing automatically – and so enable them to make a more conscious decision. Moments of functional friction, also referred to as rational overrides –  are crucial to changing customer behaviour.

We can influence behaviour more easily if we understand the underlying decision-making processes that determine how people act. Ninety five per cent of the time the subconscious is in charge of people’s actions, so people often make automatic choices that are counter to what they might do when more aware. ‘Rational overrides’ disrupt customers out of these mindless, automatic interactions and enable them to make better decisions.

Uber uses a rational override to reduce human error and increase the customer experience during surge pricing.

Nudging interventions create frictionless experiences

Organisations have increasingly experimented with nudges –  small behavioural interventions that stimulate the subconscious mind. Nudges help to reduce choice overload, remove unnecessary steps from processes and create frictionless experiences. While nudges have been proven to be effective in quickly resolving adoption problems, smooth channel migration and streamlining operations they are, in many situations, not suitable, scalable nor sustainable across all service scenarios.

Using social norms to highlight positive behaviour of peers to reduce fraud, error and debt in by UK taxpayers.

We need to go beyond nudging to effectively change behaviour

Our research has exposed multiple downsides of relying solely on nudges in a service environment:

  1. Nudges only work in a stable context as they’re designed to effect immediate behaviour. Nudging customers in a desired direction is only effective within a specific touchpoint and is unlikely to reach beyond it.
  2. Nudges create experiences that, in the long term, make customers disengaged and complacent. Not all interactions require frictionless experiences. Sometimes it’s required to help users slow down, become aware and actively make a decision.  
  3. Nudges are for one-size fits all situations as they don’t require active input from users. They’re only effective when a single outcome is desired. Most organisations serve customers with lots of different needs, so they need a more nuanced, responsive approach.

It’s all about getting customers in the right mindset

We can overcome these disadvantages by getting people into the right mindset at crucial moments in the customer journey. Sometimes it’s necessary to override the subconscious, and switch customers to a conscious state of having to make a decision. Rational override interventions prompt moments of reflection and stimulate customers to be active, aware and engaged. Although friction is generally perceived as a barrier, some situations require a micro moment of friction, carefully built-in at the right moment.

Getting customers into the right mindset at the right moment is crucial to creating lasting impact on behaviour change.

Interventions to speed the process up or slow the user down

At Livework we take a holistic perspective of customer behaviour. We strive to see the whole person – as a human, not just a customer. By integrating behavioral insights with customer data we get a full and validated understanding of the customer journey. Based on these insights, we can implement the right combination of interventions to either speed up (nudges) or slow down (rational overrides) the user’s momentum. As behaviour is dynamic and develops over time, we go beyond singular, one-off interventions to maximize lasting behaviour change.

We showed that by relatively minor adjustments and positive nudges we could impact the behaviour of our customers, improve the customer experience and our financial results. That’s what you hope for.

Insurance company , Business Customer Experience

Livework has helped various organisations using this approach, from insurance companies to local government agencies – enabling them to benefit from an enhanced ability  to understand, predict and influence customer behaviour.

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