A nifty little trick to compel people to action

Posted on November 4, 2011. Filed under: Tips and Ideas |

Again, Katya Andresen gives us a great little pearl of wisdom.  Thanks Katya!

A nifty little trick to compel people to action

If you get people to do something small to confirm their intention to do something, they are far more likely to take action later. A “pre-commit” is a powerful thing!

I recently covered a study that showed just asking people about their intentions to do something increases the probability they will take action later.

Now there’s another study (cited in Influence at Work) showing a variation on that theme – an approach that combines pre-commitment with social proof.

In the National Health Service in the UK, there’s a bad problem with people not showing up for their appointments. To call attention to the problem and try to change people’s behavior, many offices had signs showing the rate at which people miss appointments. This is a terrible idea, by the way, because it creates the social norm that people don’t show up. So people won’t give a thought to failing to keep their commitments.

The folks at Influence at Work sponsored a study that took a different approach. They got rid of those signs and instead of calling attention to who wasn’t taking action, they highlighted the people who showed up. The changed sign read that 95% of patients at (the name of the office) turn up for their appointments or call (insert phone number) if they have to cancel. This strategy (using social proof correctly) combined with another approach produced a 31.4% reduction in no-shows.

So what were the other actions? When people made their appointments, they were asked to either repeat or write down their appointment times. That small act of confirmation made a huge difference because people want to be consistent in their actions:

In one condition patients making their appointment were asked to verbally repeat the date and time for their next appointment before hanging up the phone. This simple and virtually costless change used the Principle of Consistency an led to an immediate reduction in no-shows by 6.7%

In a second condition, which again employed the Principle of Consistency, nurses and receptionists, when making the patient’s next appointment in person, instead of filling out the small white appointment card asked the patient to fill out this card themselves. This small change produced an 18% reduction in no-shows.

Pretty amazing.

So how does this apply to you?

If you’re trying to get people to take action (give, volunteer, be more healthy, attend a concert, etc.), first ask them to pledge to do it—and emphasize how many other people do it. It’s a nifty – and effective – approach.

Source: A nifty little trick to compel people to action – http://bit.ly/oNbnH5

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