Last week was a decent week for the streamers I put out into the world. The only real bust I gave out was Trey Burton, but I’m not going to count that since the Bears offense was content to game…
An article has been making the rounds. Ethan Bernstein and a Harvard study have revealed that open-concept offices are encouraging people to text and email more. Shocking! Well not really… but perhaps a bit reinforcing.
The same balancing makes injuries in Football and Rugby quite comparable. This is despite one sport adding plenty of safety equipment and rules, the other has focused on creating more interesting pre-game dances. Either way, the injury record has been fairly comparable. Athletes, like drivers, compensate for risk.
So how does risk compensation map to these new findings about open-concept offices and increased private communications? Perhaps it is not about risk? Perhaps it is about comfort? People balance their comfort levels.
It isn’t a short list. In marketing they are often referred to as friction, frustration, and pain. They also include confusion, risk, security, and privacy. Take the example of online shopping. As the process got easier, more convenient, and comfortable — consumers not only bought more, they got more innovative, experimental, and willing to try new ideas.
It is important to note — not everyone is comfortable at the same level. Early Adopters could perhaps better be labeled, Discomfort Tolerant. Not all discomforts are the same either. Some accept more risk, others more pain, and some more confusion. But on average, all of them are balancing.
It is a vicious loop. Every change to your product, your platform, and your experience is capable of changing your customer’s comfort levels. They will begin compensating on their own. If a company isn’t careful, it can begin a very bad feedback cycle.
For years, I worked for a financial giant that would “test” platform changes. Each time, the experience would be changed for only a small percentage of customers and the reaction measured. Sales always fell. It was, of course, comfort compensation.
Customers associated new experiences with potential phishing and fraud. This would cause the more risk adverse to stop using the platform for fear something was wrong. They were compensating.
Inevitably, executives began pushing to roll back the changes. Others fought to soldier on. Both sides were compensating, too. Interestingly enough, as the impasse lingered — the sales improved. Did the risk of phishing seem less when the new experience remained for days? Or was the discomfort of foregoing a purchase too much? Likely both.
As more and more customers were added to the new experience, sales would increase over those left behind. Executives were quick to declare success. Only this new round of lift never seemed to sustain. But then, what else would you expect from compensating customers? Even if the new experience was markedly better, it encourages some to experiment with less ideal experiences elsewhere (either other channels or other competitors).
There is no simple answer. Behavior is complicated. But it is also often balanced. Marketers and analysts alike would do well to remember the impacts of comfort compensation. And perhaps some employers would do well to return our cube walls… a little privacy can be quite comforting.
Thanks for reading!
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