Have you been nudged? Behavioural change in the transport and mobility sector

By Tim Sander

The odds are yes, you have been nudged. You may have slowed down whilst driving because a speedometer showed you a sad face, or followed green footprints to a recycling bin, or even been auto-enrolled into a pension scheme by your employer. The truth is that nudges – or subtle changes that steer people’s behaviour in a particular way without force or coercion – can be found everywhere. So how can they help the transport and mobility sector?

One of the major benefits of nudges is that they are an incredibly effective way to bridge the gap between intention and action. Few people intend to behave in undesirable or unproductive way, but we are emotional and instinctive and our behaviour is often irrational. Nudges help people to behave in ways that are not only beneficial to society or a particular company, but are often also beneficial to themselves.

One example of this kind of improvement in behaviour is passenger cleanliness on public transport. Ouigo (a French train service) were having real difficulties with passengers leaving waste on their trains, lowering overall customer satisfaction and increasing Ouigo’s cleaning costs. The BVA Nudge Unit utilised a number of nudges to resolve the issue, the flagship of which was ‘Poubellator’ – a cartoon monster created from stickers that redesigned the train’s bins. By placing additional stickers on the backs of train chairs encouraging passengers to ‘feed’ waste to Poubellator, the BVA Nudge Unit drew awareness to the location of the bins whilst simultaneously making the act of throwing away waste more entertaining. The nudge was a great success, reducing critical incidents (involving extreme waste such as dirty nappies) from 14% to 0%.

There are many examples of how the right nudges can drive positive change in relation to public transport. How do we get rail passengers to take their rubbish home with them or put it in the bin? How do we change the behaviours needed to achieve ambitious targets for carbon neutrality? What actions can we take to help travellers play a role in addressing overcrowding issues? What else, other than through direct financial incentives, could tempt city-centre car-drivers out of their cars and onto the bus? At a more commercial level, how can we persuade customers that they can get the best priced ticket by booking directly rather than through intermediaries?

BVA BDRC now works with the BVA Nudge Unit – one of the pioneers of nudge consulting – to create affordable, sustainable and transformative changes in both customer and employee behaviour. Want to know more? Drop me a line, or better still, find out the details of our UK launch event on the 6th February.

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