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Inspiring Action, One Message at a Time

Evive June 12, 2018

When was the last time you received an email or a text message from your cell phone provider, reminding you to pay your bill? Last week? Last month?

What about your subscriptions? Do they renew automatically? Many online publication, streaming video, and music subscriptions are set to automatically renew when the current subscription period ends, unless you manually change the settings.

These are two popular examples of nudging, which University of Chicago behavioral economics professor Dr. Richard H. Thaler defines as “any feature in the environment that attracts our attention and influences the behavior in the decisions we make.”

Thaler and his colleague, Harvard law professor Cass R. Sunstein, coined the phrase in their 2008 book, Nudge, which explores how people make decisions and how gentle nudges can encourage people to make choices that are to their benefit.

At Evive, we recognized early on how nudging, combined with behavioral science, could help solve the problem of low benefits engagement. Specifically by using various types of behavioral science principles—with a combination of outreach methods—we learned we can better engage people when they are reached in personally relevant ways.

And the ways to achieve this are limitless.

Behavioral science paves the way for change

As its name implies, behavioral science is the branch of science that studies human action within the framework of society. The term gained traction in the 1950s. Although humans are historically considered to be irrational creatures, behavioral scientists like to say we are “predictably irrational. What can be predicted can be managed, at least to some degree.”

Several theories have emerged that posit some of the ways our behavior can be predicted. For example, Dr. Robert Cialdini suggests people are influenced by the following six principles:

  • Authority. People are more likely to follow the lead of credible experts.
  • Reciprocity. People feel obligated to repay what has been given to them.
  • Consensus. People often look to the behavior of their peers for direction on what choices to make.
  • Liking. People are more likely to say “yes” to those they like.
  • Consistency. People feel pressure to be consistent with their previous words and actions.
  • Scarcity. People want more of the things they’ll soon have less of.

For instance, online reviews are a supreme example of consensus, otherwise known as social proof. People flock to sites such as Yelp to read what other people wrote about the new restaurant they’re thinking of trying. The same goes with buying products online. Savvy shoppers read reviews before making a purchase decision. Evive, however, may use this principle to nudge employees about the option to choose cost-saving, generic medications by noting that other people are saving money with generics.

Authority is another powerful driver of behavior. Some brands, for example, may rely on subject-matter experts to educate and compel prospects to choose their products or services—like having a well-known chef share positive reviews of a new cooking gadget. To improve personalized benefits engagement, Evive might use this principle to nudge employees about preventive screenings by noting that doctors recommend getting them annually.

Every nudge matters

Because people respond in different ways to different communication methods, our nudges are personalized to each user—based on their actions or lack thereof.

We knew it was important for our solutions to recognize the behavioral science principles and communication channels that successfully engage a person, and the ones that don’t. Did that particular combination of behavioral science and communication channel motivate the person to learn more? More importantly, did that person follow through on the suggested activity?

For instance, we may use social proof to inform an SMS-text nudge geared toward a parent about signing up for her company’s subsidized daycare. The channel would’ve been chosen based on the user’s selected preferences, and the principle would likely be chosen because she has successfully responded to it in the past. But if she doesn’t engage with that principle this time, we’ll try other options. If text fails multiple times as the channel, we’ll try a paper mailing. The goal? To reach people where they are, and to proactively inspire action.

Our continually learning system adapts to the individual’s ever-evolving needs and circumstances when deploying nudges. After all, people change, so why wouldn’t the ways we reach them do the same?

When based on behavioral science, nudging is a powerful, effective strategy for encouraging employees to take advantage of the many benefits available to them. Using the latest methodologies and a personalized approach, we know we can successfully motivate employees to make life-changing improvements—one simple, nudge-inspired step at a time.

Learn some of the other ways we’ve applied behavioral science to benefits communications.