Understanding Lazy Behavior


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This summer I spent a lot of time driving my daughter back and forth from the community pool, which is right by the tennis courts. Every day I watched people pulling up across from the tennis courts into the dirt along the street despite the fact that empty parking spaces were only one block away (they are free and a flat walk!).

I was dumbfounded by the behavior and thought that folks are just lazy, but this didn’t make sense — they were going to be playing tennis after all.

Surprisingly, open and free parking is only one block away

I started considering the motivators behind this behavior and began thinking about how to apply that insight to customer experience design. I also had a great conversation with my friend Chris Peters who helped further clarify the behavior (thanks Chris!). I settled on three points:

  • Following the Crowd
  • In groups, most people follow what the crowd is doing. In this case, others were parking there so the assumption might be that the official spaces were already full (which is sometimes the case but typically not).

    When designing systems or facilities think carefully about how lines may form / or crowds gather and how that may work to your advantage or against it. For example, it’s very common to see Comments tallied on a web article. The more Comments on an item the more people are likely to read and post to the item. This is advantageous for a blog that wishes to demonstrate most popular articles, but could be detrimental to an industry news publication where it might bury what may be an important, but not popular, news item.

  • Too Many Choices
  • When confronted with too many choices people become confused and frustrated—and they resort to doing what is easiest or nothing at all. For those parking at the tennis courts, there are several parking lots very close by but this dirt area is on the main street before you enter the recreation complex. It’s the first place they see and they take it. They are not thinking about how they are damaging the grass or creating a traffic hazard. That is too much decision-making to process. They need a space, they see a space, and they take it.

    By comparison I recently experienced this type of frustration searching online for a shower enclosure. Many websites had search capabilities with what seemed like unlimited drop down menus—manufacturer, color, shape, style and yes, finally size—which was the ONLY search attribute I was interested in (I have an extremely small space). Unfortunately, the site did not provide a simple search box. I was given too many choices and not provided with an easy way to avoid all the other options. When given too many choices people often fail to make a decision altogether. In my case, I just went to another website.

  • No Method to Discourage the Behavior

If you want to encourage a particular behavior, there should be methods that discourage the other possible behaviors. In this situation, people parking along the street should be ticketed, but the municipality has not been doing so because when the official parking spaces are full they do allow people to park along the street (this typically occurs when there are tennis tournaments).

When thinking about your customer’s experience, there are certain behaviors you would want to encourage. For example, you might want a customer to troubleshoot their problems using an online tool before picking up the phone and speaking directly with a customer service representative. I have seen some companies force this behavior with strong language or failure to provide a 1-800 which feels very negative and confrontational. Instead, provide an incentive to those that first use the online tool be giving a coupon or entry into a sweepstakes. Provide the 800 number to those who want it, but dangle the incentive for those that can be encouraged behave differently.

In the case of the tennis courts, I would recommend the following to change the current behavior of parking along the street:

  1. The municipality has to first discourage the behavior. Moveable flower planters that block parking in the area and then can be moved for tournaments is a fairly simple method to do this.
  2. Signage that directs people to the open parking spaces beyond the tennis courts is simple and even less expensive. Planting the thought “Additional Parking Available within 1 Block” would provide direction to those finding it hard to make a decision where to park.
  3. And lastly, actions 1 & 2 would transfer the “crowd effect” from the undesired area to the desirable parking areas—now your using the crowd to your advantage.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Raelin Musuraca
Customer Experience Strategist, Musuraca LLC
Raelin Musuraca is versatile and energetic customer experience strategist with twenty years practicing marketing, digital strategy, and user experience. She has led multidisciplinary teams in the development of award-winning marketing and customer engagement programs.


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