Nudging: The Story of How Men Stopped Peeing on Themselves

Did you know that a person’s satisfaction can be observed from the way they are standing? Behavioural scientist Pelle Guldborg Hansen tells us that you can. If a person is standing on their dominant foot and resting the other one, they are happy. If they are annoyed they tend to sway.

Hansen’s research helps companies to improve their services. His company iNudgeYou has done a lot of work with airports. The scientists have sat for hours and hours at different touchpoints collecting data of how people behave and how they might be nudged into behaving differently.

Nudging is defined as any aspect of choice that should not influence behaviour in principle, but does in practice. He gives an example from the toilets of the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. Men tend to splash urine around when using the urinals. It might not be a big problem for individual men, but it is a big problem for the airport, because it must clean all the toilets with all the urine on the walls and floors.


© Gustav Broennimann / Creative Commons

The solution was very simple. A fly was stencilled inside the urinal and the men using it started to focus on the fly and therefore on what they were doing. Spillage decreased by 80 per cent.

“When something changes, you start to notice it”, Hansen says.

By using behavioural science people can be nudged into doing almost anything, Hansen claims. The order in which you ask questions is important and so is the formulation of the question. For example, if a conference attendee is asked if they want to eat from the meat buffet or have a vegetarian meal separately made, most people answer that they want to eat the meat. If the question is inverted, most people do not want to be of nuisance and ask for the specifically made meat dish. They end up eating vegetarian.

I think that behavioural science has a lot to give to service design. A lot of service design is observing people and interviewing them and behavioural science gets us to the next level of why people do what they do and how can they be influenced.

Hansen spoke on 26th of September at ISS Business Forum that concentrated on Service Design Thinking. The Business Forum was livestreamed from Copenhagen. Other speakers included design thinker Marc Stickdorn and ISS experts Signe Adamsen and Anders Gjørup Hansen.

Services can be intentional and architected

According to Signe Adamsen, previously when companies were looking for a facility management company, they wanted good quality facility management. They wanted the facilities to be clean, the grass to be cut outside and the coffee machines to work. Nowadays this is taken as a given. Facility management companies should be able to give their customers experiences, good vibes and happy workplaces. This is where ISS also uses Service Design.

Most often ISS uses Customer Journeys and Service Touchpoints to demonstrate how and where ISS can make the customers’ life easier. Adamsen gives an example from the ISS headquarters in Copenhagen, which is of course also managed by ISS itself.

“One day I was running out of work and the lady who works at our reception called after me saying that I had forgotten something. She reminded me that I had ordered take away food from our restaurant and forgotten to pick it up.”

Adamsen says that this is an example of intentional and architected services. Susanne, the lady who works at the reception, goes to the cafeteria every day after lunch to get a list of people who have ordered take away and memorises it during the day. When the people are leaving, she reminds them about their meal pack.

Signe Adamsen works as Head of Workplace Management at ISS, which is a multinational service company that provides for example property management, catering, cleaning and security services. ISS acquired strategic workplace management and design firm Signal in February this year.

Having myself worked for ISS as a cleaner almost ten years ago I am excited to hear that the company is interested in improving the customer experience instead of only winning tenders with the cheapest possible offer. Service Design helps ISS to differentiate itself and its offerings from its competitors. Pre-empting the needs of the customers leads to more business.

You can read more about ISS and its approach to Service Design in its 2020 Vision White Book on the Future of Service Management.

The author Noora Penttinen is a journalist and a recent Service Design student who believes in creative chaos and thinks that best ideas appear at four in the morning.

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