ComAround

What governs our behaviour and how does this affect our ability to deliver support?

Blog post   •   Jul 15, 2013 08:42 BST

What governs our choices? We make lots of decisions, consciously or subconsciously, as soon as we get out of bed, and the number of decisions accelerates during the day at home, on the way to work and at work. Maybe even earlier if you belong to the majority who start by checking out what's happened in the outside world while you've been asleep. More than 50% of us, for example, check Facebook, email, Twitter, etc. before we even get out of bed in the morning. We've probably stopped wondering why, we just do it because it's become a habit or, maybe in this case, a bad habit.

We don't want to change

Changing your own or other people's behaviour is often easy in theory, but much more difficult in reality. If we take a look at what lies behind this, it becomes easier to understand why it's so difficult, but hopefully it can also help us to succeed in creating real change where we want to.

Those companies with which we at ComAround work try, for example, to get their customers to change their behaviour when they are looking for help and replies to their questions. Most appreciate the value of implementing self service, which will not be dealt with here, and one of the challenges is to achieve a change in behaviour among users of these support services. (Feel free to read my blog on Zero Level support – an introduction, which describes this.)

I listened to a lecture given by brain researcher Katarina Gospic @Brainbowlabs at Data Explosion on 29 May in Stockholm, presenting results of research into the brain that clearly show that  when we make choices that we have already made before, we activate parts of the brain where reward systems are located. This means that as soon as we avoid having to put too much thought into a choice, we feel better. This might not be big news or particularly surprising, what's interesting is that it's been physically proven that there's a concrete reason for this being the case.

When we change our behaviour and make new decisions, other parts of the brain associated with concern and fear are activated, and these demand much more brain power from us. We don't like this, as we're essentially lazy and like low levels of risk. New decisions also mean that we have to analyse and make the right decision, which is more difficult than following your old habits.

The benefit we can draw from being aware of this is that once we've learnt to do something in a new way we're happy to keep with it, for the same reason as described before. We're quite simply not inclined to change.

With this elementary basic knowledge of reward in relation to concern and fear, the conclusion is that in order to achieve change we need to have a conscious, sustainable and effective change strategy. It needs to include sharp marketing activities and clearly show the value of the new method to which we want to change.

Rewards make us change our behaviour

The brain responds to "pain and gain". So for us to resist our reptilian bran and choose the simple way and do what we usually do, we need to have some kind of reward to entice us if we're to be prepared to take a risk and try something new.

For those of us who work to help organisations and companies to introduce web-based self-service as a supplement to staffed support, this means that we need to offer users better help functions than the old method could offer. We must find clear added value - a reward. In this context it's important to remember that something that's a reward for one target group won't always work as a reward for another target group. If we look at web-based self service, a management group or owner, for example, might perceive a clear reward if we emphasise the "lower costs" argument. Those who'll actually be using web-based self service, to find answers to their questions, won't respond at all to the same argument and in this case it might even dampen any desire to use the new method. So we need to apply a perspective and attempt to understand what added value the new method might bring to each target group. If we succeed in identifying this added value and marketing it, there's every chance that we'll be surprised by how easy it was to create a change in behaviour.

Market improvements to generate a desire to change

Below are examples of added value for end users that web-based self service can make use of and trigger our reward system.

  1. Before. When we booked travel "before" we looked at a static travel brochure and then phoned and made a physical visit to a travel agency, waited in a queue and then had a chat with an employee at the travel agency before making a decision and buying a trip.
  2. Now. We Google a trip and visit a travel agency website directly. We avoid queuing and can easily compare prices between different agencies. We can read comments about what other people thought of the destination and hotel we're considering. We then make a decision and buy a trip when we feel ready to do so.

Now that we're used to this new way of buying travel and making travel decisions, we couldn't imagine going back to the old way. It's just the same with support, although we're in a later phase.

If, for example, we want to find out how we order a new computer at our workplace, we presumably phone a staffed support function where we may have to wait in a phone queue. We then talk to a support agent who hopefully knows what we have to do and maybe refers us back to our immediate manager or directly to an ordering system, where we fill in an application. The agent describes verbally how we do this and where to find it.

With web-based self service, I search for "order new computer", bring up a set of instructions/guide that explains the situation in brief and then links directly to the order form, where I perform the task myself. Clear added value is created here, as there is instant access to the solution, presented in the very interface where I look for the answer.

So, to get the user to see the value and choose web-based self service as an alternative to staffed support, we need first of all to market these "rewards" and then make sure that we deliver them in order to get the user to continue to help himself/herself.

If you want to read more about things to bear in mind to succeed in implementing web-based self service and Zero Level support, feel free to read our White Paper Seven steps for success with Zero Level support.

Thanks for reading this article, feel free to leave a comment below.

Per Strand, one of the founders & Vice President, ComAround, www.comaround.se

Related links:

White paper - Seven steps for success with Zero Level support
Introducing Zero Level support
Blog article - Zero Level support – an introduction and guide