Offering People Choices When They Have No Choices

Offering people choices when they have no choices

I was talking to the always entertaining and insightful Rory Sutherland today about his forthcoming talk at Business of Software Europe. He’s talking about how we can use technology to hack the human consciousness and he came up with this brilliant insight about offering people choices even when there are no choices.

He was talking about scheduled operations in the NHS, the UK’s National Health Service, free at the point of delivery but not always the slickest when it comes to keeping ‘customers’ happy. (Though having taken one of our team members to A&E last week when she tripped over on the way to work, cut her head open, broke her wrist and elbow, I was reminded that they are an amazing organisation).

When you are scheduled to have, for example, a hip replacement, you will wait some time before getting a call to say something along the lines of,

“Your operation is scheduled for 10.30 am on 21st May.”

You have no choice, you  have to be there or get rescheduled to a later date.

Here’s another approach…

“Hello, we’re phoning about your forthcoming hip replacement. Would you prefer a morning or an afternoon appointment?”

There are two possible responses. ‘Morning’, or ‘Afternoon’.

If morning…

“Great! We can get you in on the morning of 21st May at 10.30 am. Does that work?”

If afternoon…

“Well, the next afternoon appointment available is 15th June at 3.00 pm, BUT, if you were prepared to come in the morning, we could do that much sooner, on 21st May at 10.30 am. Which would you prefer?”

In most cases, people will opt for the earlier appointment and leave with the illusion of choice. Even if they opt for the later appointment, the hospital is able to schedule more operations AND leave the consumer with the feeling that they are in control.

Rory is talking at BoS Europe this year about how you can apply this type of hack to the software you build to leave users feeling good. It is not just about technology. We can’t wait.

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