Ideas by Bridgeable

Behavioural Economics and Service Design

In order to positively transform experiences for both customers and employees, organizations often need to encourage behaviour change. Here's how service design and behavioural economics can work together to achieve this.


Josh Greenhut, Strategy Lead: The world is changing fast, and, in that context, when organizations come to us, often what they’re looking for is … transformation. They’re trying to transform the experience for their customers, for their employees. But when you talk about transformation, really what you’re talking about is changing behaviour. You can’t transform something without changing what people do. And that’s where behavioural economics can be so powerful.

Max Silverbrook, Senior Design Researcher: Behavioural economics is the study of human judgment and decision making. It’s the study of the many different psychological influences that shape the way that we make decisions, judgments, or preferences—and, ultimately, our behaviours.

Seden Lai, Senior Service Designer: Oftentimes when we’re working directly with customers and users, [we’re] trying to understand: What is their desired outcome from this service? [We’re also trying to understand] why they’re trying to access this service.

Josh: When we’re trying to achieve a certain outcome, then the question is, really: What is the behaviour—of employees, of customers, of users—that will measurably deliver that outcome?

Max: What behavioural economics is is great and discrete moments, and what makes it a lot stronger is using it as a tool, as part of an end-to-end design process where you can optimize single decisions, but you’re still looking across the board at the influence and the outcomes—the implications of those decisions across an entire experience.

Josh: We talk a lot here about omnichannel experiences. What is the experience that you can have where, for instance, your store and your call center and your website are really reinforcing each other? And, recognizing today that customers don’t just choose one channel—they sort of cross back and forth between channels—how do you optimize that? You apply behavioural economics, and suddenly you can start driving behaviour at this kind of micro-moment, touchpoint level.

Seden: A lot of the times these journeys are just a string of all of these smaller interactions, which are made up of all of these smaller variables. I think service design and BE are really good “zoom in–zoom out” lenses.

Josh: If you think about a problem like getting customers to sign up for online billing, you can spend a lot of time getting to understand what customers really want from that experience. And that’s really valuable work. But, at the end of the day, they have to sign up for it, and that often is not a rational decision.

Seden: It could be really hard for someone to understand: How do I translate these insights into something that has actual, tangible impact to someone else? Using BE principles, using service design and prototyping methodologies, you’re able to really quickly put something out in the world and test it and understand whether it works or not. There’s something really interesting there that’s more than just understanding intentions, insights, whatever. It’s actually … doing the thing!

Max: We all want to be good. We all want to make good decisions. And sometimes we don’t for a number of reasons. We all want to be going to the gym every week … and we don’t. What I’m interested in is finding that sweet spot where you can influence decisions in a way that is supportive of the end user’s goals and drives value for the business as well.

Josh: We find this stuff really valuable. So we went ahead and created a that anyone can use. If you want to talk about what this could mean in your organization, reach out to us!

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