Sunday, 4 April 2010

How to train your dragon (or customers)

dragon.jpgHiccup is a teenager who's a little different - he doesn't really fit in with the rest of his Viking village who are dragon slayers - and have been for centuries. Instead of slaying dragons, he ends up befriending one and in the process changing the perceptions of the whole village.

The dragon he befriends is the most powerful and feared Night Fury dragon, but due to an injury, he cannot fly without assistance from Hiccup. Becoming friends the two of them go on to work together - Hiccup the rider providing direction and the newly named Toothless the dragon providing power and support.

As the official blurb puts it for new film "How to train your dragon":-
Hiccups world is turned upside down when he encounters a dragon that challenges he and his fellow Vikings to see the world from an entirely different point of view.
Whether it changing from slaying dragons or changing your diet - change itself can be hard.

It is normally easier to do what you've always done. Sometimes you may think about change, dwell on it, work out the alternatives - but ultimately do nothing.

This is also the topic of a new booked called Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hardby authors Chip and Dan Heath which discusses why change is difficult for us and techniques that help.

Unlike the film however where Hiccup is the rider of a dragon, the book describes how decision making for us is similar to a rider and an elephant, saying:-
Our emotional side is an Elephant and our rational side it's Rider. Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the Riders control is precarious because the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. He's completely overmatched.
Whilst this is a great book for looking at how to manage personal change - and I highly recommend reading it - it does raise some interesting thoughts about how to make change easier for other people, providing three simple rules:-

  1. Direct the Rider - Resistance to change is more often lack of clarity about what needs to be done

  2. Motivate the Elephant - The Rider can't get his way by force for long - it's critical to engage peoples emotional side

  3. Shape the Path - Normally a people problem is actually a situation problem - you may need to make changes to make change easier (think Nudge)

For example, they describe a case study in the book about a campaign to encourage healthy eating. Rather than use a standard message of "eat a healthier diet" or provide a long list of good and bad foods the campaign had a simple message - drink low fat milk.

Knowing that milk is the largest source of saturated fat in a typical Americans diet, it was felt that if they could change this to low-fat it could make a big difference.

To support this the campaign had two messages.

The first, directed to the Rider was simple and provided crystal clear direction - "Next time you're in the dairy aisle of the grocery store, reach for a jug of 1% milk instead of whole milk"

The second message was to the Elephant - looking to appeal to the emotional side by visualising the problem saying for example that a single glass of milk had the same fat as five strips of bacon.

The campaign worked in changing behaviour - resulting in a shift in market share for low fat milk from 18% before the campaign to 41% after it.

These same techniques apply in a commercial sense when looking to change consumers behaviour. For example, a credit card issuer is always looking to increase card usage - to make their card front of wallet and to increase it's usage across a customers share of wallet.

Whilst you could send a communication pointing out how using the card more will provide greater rewards - this is just too generic. The Rider - the rational side - will be contemplating various options - but not taking any action.
If instead to drive card usage you provide crystal clear direction - use your card in this category - then it suggests you are more likely to get people actually doing it.
A typical example of this would be to suggest using the card within supermarkets as for a card issuer, this represents both a large and regular transaction - something which is more likely to drive increased usage across other categories.

This can be seen in the example below from the new Amex Express Rewards card which highlights increased points earning in supermarkets:-


Amex have then combined this with simple messsages about the reward that can be obtained for the points earned - providing something to appeal to the Elephant - the emotional side.

However, this is nothing new and there are many campaigns of this nature across reward credit cards.

One thing that is missing from these types of campaigns though is the shaping of the path - in essence removing barriers which may still confuse the Rider or make them operate on autopilot.

For example, the problem with getting people to use their credit card in supermarkets may not be as simple as just asking.
  • There may be concerns about what people think - Does using a credit card mean I can't afford to buy food?

  • There may be concerns about managing personal finances - If I use my card for everyday spend, will I remember to pay it off; will I overspend?

In order to ask people to use their credit card in supermarkets, we may need to first address the reasons why they aren't, helping to alleviate concerns and Shaping the Path.

One thing is clear though, simply asking people to spend more on their card is probably never going to work in the same way that simply asking people to eat healthier rarely works.

If you want change - if you want to train your customers - then this new book suggests that you'll need to think about how you speak to the Rider, engage the Elephant and ultimately make it easier to do business with you by Shaping the Path.

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