Nobody gets fired for buying an IBM, so the saying goes. No one gets fired running information campaigns or suggesting more training, either. But maybe they should.
In my workshops I ask participants to design a solution to overcome apathy. In other words, how will you engage your customers? Why should they bother to do what you ask?
This is a big chunk of the behavioural influence puzzle, because to get people to take action you need to make them sufficiently interested.
Invariably at least one group will offer, as their solution, more education.
But knew more and do more are not the same thing.
Just because they know smoking causes cancer doesn’t mean they’ll stop. Just because they know they should exercise, eat well and be mindful doesn’t mean they will. Just because they know they should save for their retirement doesn’t mean they’ll bother.
Knowledge doesn’t always mean action but we’ve assumed it does.
That’s why staff are sent on more training, we produce more and more instructional content and inundate customers with fancy (immediately discarded) collateral. Government agencies are a case in point. When in doubt, just run another awareness campaign! No one can criticise you for ‘educating’ the public, can they?
Here’s the bad news. While producing more information might make you feel like you are doing something, rarely is it the path to overcome apathy. In fact it might make it worse.
I believe if you ever cite “to inform” or “to educate” as an initiative’s objective you are shirking your responsibility. You are being lazy. You are placing the onus on your customer to do the heavy lifting by suggesting that “once they are informed about x they will do y.”
No, no, no.
It’s your job to influence them to take action. The onus is on you. It’s your job to make those in your orbit feel like gravity is compelling them to take the desired action. They can’t help but click your button, sign your contract, adopt your process.
Before I get to the problems of relying on education as a behavioural strategy, there are definitely some cases in which it is important. After all:
But information for its own sake is rarely useful because it’s too passive. Instead, it needs to stimulate an appetite for bothering to change. It needs to incite, not just inform.
Yes, training and more information can be part of your behavioural strategy BUT it will only be effective if it makes taking the action more appealing than not.
To overcome apathy look beyond just more information. Instead focus on ensuring the reward for proceeding is greater than the effort to do so.
Remember, for behaviour to happen, reward must be greater than effort.
Look for every touchpoint you have with someone and address apathy at each step. That means your emails, texts, social media posts, office/shop layout, website, meetings and phone calls. What are you going to say? Where will they be when receiving your message? What time of day and what day of the week are you engaging them?
Rather than add more information, look to optimise every interaction you have already. Give them less but make it better. Customers only ask for “more” if what they get from you isn’t giving them the impetus they need.
When optimising your touchpoints, use these behavioural guidelines: