Norms, Not threats.

by Karthi

When British tax authorities sent letters threatening penalties for non-payment, nearly a third of recipients ignored them.

“I may start legal proceedings against you to collect the amount unpaid” – 68% responded

Payment rates jumped when they highlighted social norms instead. And the more focused the norm, the better the response.

“Over 94% of UK citizens pay their taxes on time.” – 73% responded

“Nine out of ten citizens living in your postcode pay their taxes on time” – 79% responded

“Over 93% of citizens in your town pay their taxes on time.” – 83% responded

Similarly, missed appointments cost doctors’ offices and this is how British clinics tried to avoid them

Obtaining an oral commitment.

“Will you call if you can’t make it?” – 3.5%  improvement in attendance

Adding a written commitment.

Asking the patients to write down the dates and time of appointment – 18% improvement in attendance

Using social norms. In addition to eliciting oral and written commitments, clinics posted signs to model good behavior.

“87% of patients arrived for their appointment last month.” – 31.7%  improvement in attendance.

(Source : HBR)

Taking cues, the quality of software can be increased by telling the programmers that;

“Nine out of ten programmers in the team do not break the build”

“When fixing bugs, nine out ten programmers look for similar bugs that may be present”

The list will be endless.