​Marketers have long tapped into the advantages of consumer behavior surveys; those that ask questions about the consumer’s experience or behavior when interacting with the business. Consumers usually respond to these surveys because they had a poor customer experience and want to provide feedback, or they were offered an incentive such as a prize draw entry or discount.

Many businesses use these surveys to understand customer desires and behaviors in order to make better business decisions, whether that’s improving their offering or working out where to spend their marketing budget. Marketers know that understanding consumer behavior is the key to improving the customer experience, and surveys help alleviate guesswork.

But there’s a problem: the information gathered in these surveys is often inaccurate. What customers tell you they do is not always what they actually do. This is known as the Say vs Do Gap.

The dilemma of the say vs do gap

Relying on consumers to report their past or intended future behavior is very important, but it isn’t always accurate. Consumers aren’t necessarily the best reference for recalling or providing accurate detailed information.

For instance, when was the last time you went to McDonald's? The question should be simple enough to answer, but in hindsight is not always easy to recall accurately. Research performed by location technology company GroundTruth found that 32% of people who said they went to McDonald's in the past month did not actually go.

This is not to say that people aren’t being honest, but rather as humans we forget the details of certain tasks performed in everyday life, such as supermarket shopping. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that 95% of our daily decisions are handled by our automatic mind.

How mandatory communications can influence automatic actions

The good news is, when it comes to essential communications, these automatic actions can be influenced. Here’s how:


By presenting the information in a certain way, you can nudge consumers’ decision making in a direction that is beneficial to both the business and the consumer.

Having an opt-out option rather than an opt-in option for e-billing is proven to result in a greater enrolment rate. Why? Because consumers are more likely to avoid opting in than opting out.

Both the business and the consumer benefit: the business gains from reduced production and mailing costs of up to 70% , while the consumer can feel better about the environmental impact and also gain more control over their billing.

However, regulations across industries and regions differ, some of which mandate a consumer must opt-in to certain communications rather than opt-out.


Priming the information to make it more understandable can nudge consumers toward reflective beneficial choices.

Take a water utility company, for example. Their goal might be to promote a wise use of water as a responsibility toward the community and environment. To do this, they include a usage graph in customers’ bills which shows “How your usage compares to others”.

By seeing how their water usage compares to an equivalent size household, the customer gains perspective and is more likely to change their behavior to help moderate water consumption. Maybe they start taking shorter showers or check for leaking taps. As a result, they reduce their water bill and create lasting environmentally sustainable habits.

In the long term, the business avoids the need to build another catchment, a multi-million-dollar saving for the community.

The power of effective communication design

Humans are creatures of habit and once we stop consciously monitoring our actions, we quickly return to old habits. But simply by changing the way information and customer choices are presented, good communications provide an opportunity to reinforce habits and guide consumers to take the preferred action.

Effective communication design has the full communications experience in mind. Approach it as a means to reinforce these behaviors, rather than simply act as a single transaction communication.

For example, influencing customers to open an online account can assist them to engage more widely with the organization and to track their usage and spend between billing events, which builds a sense of satisfaction and pride in the customer relationship.

Over to you

If you would like to enhance your essential customer communications, Computershare’s commsx consultants can assist and provide you with advice on the best way to ensure your customer communications encourage the best outcome for your customers and your business.

Computershare Communication Services has been delivering essential communications for 30 years and have a deep level of knowledge to help improve essential communications based on customer behavior research.

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