Kicking the ‘scroll and agree’ habit

According to Charles Duhigg, author of ‘The Power of Habit’, he believes that:

“40% of the actions we make each day are not decisions but habits”.

That’s a fair amount of actions we’re ‘doing’ essentially without even thinking about it. He talks about the brain’s ‘three step loop’ when it comes to a habit being created — first the cue or trigger, a routine and then a reward that tells your brain if this certain loop is worth remembering.

Over time, this loop becomes more intertwined and second nature and the brain doesn’t really have to think about doing these tasks — whether it’s brushing our teeth, scrolling through Facebook at the same time every lunchtime or smoking. Habits are just ways our brain looks to save effort and brainpower so it has the space to learn new things.

But what does having habits mean — are they good or bad for us?

It’s a mix. In some ways they’re good because it means we can multitask and ultimately save time and learn new things. And bad? Well, as the saying goes “old habits die hard” and depending on what these habits are it means people find it difficult to change their accustomed behaviour, which might often be bad or detrimental to you.

So, when it comes to something like reading a 50 page contract for a bank loan you want to take out or a new mobile phone contract, (that you tell yourself is just a similar version to your old mobile phone contract because hey, they’re all the same, right?) one common habit we all have is just skipping to the end, hitting agree and not thinking too much about it after. Sound familiar?

In a world where life is busy with work and family, this habit we have when it comes to contracts essentially means there’s more time to do other things. We can instead hang out with our kids, see friends, cook the dinner and carry out the household chores — all the important stuff. But, isn’t knowing what the consequences are if you can’t make a repayment on your loan also important? Or knowing who owns the rights to the photos you post on social media? It really is beneficial to read and understand your contracts however much you want to just skip to the end. Ignorance is bliss until it comes back to you and all because not reading every page is just “something you’re used to doing”.

The same applies to businesses and their customer contracts. If their customers understood their contracts better this would in turn result in less calls, complaints, confusion and frustration later down the line about things they’ve missed or not seen properly. There would be less complaints about a clause not being explained and less confusion about what a wordy five line sentence was about. Fortunately, there is a lot of innovation around helping people get through their contracts and sign them which is great. But while speed, convenience and access around contracts is super-important, customer understanding is equally important, if not more, and it’s paramount that the issue starts to be addressed and combatted.

Entrepreneur, designer and ex-Apple employee, Tony Fadell in his TED Talk ‘The first secret of design is…noticing’ explains that when tackling a problem, you have to see it through the eyes of a fresh, new customer or a ‘beginner’ and when doing so you “stay focused on those tiny little details to make them faster, easier and seamless for the new customer”. It’s all about going back to the problem and seeing more than the obvious, seeing the little details and thinking broader. So, when it comes to finding a better way to understand contracts, we have to dig a little deeper and not accept these old habits of skipping, scanning and glossing over contracts by creating something helpful and empowering to make this important customer experience ‘seamless’.

Recent research from Which? has shown that the most common reason people give for not reading terms is that they are too long (65%), while four in ten (38%) say it’s too hard to find the important pieces of information and 33% just think they’re too confusing. So what are the potential options and ways for making contracts easier to understand? Sure, companies could just rewrite their contracts and make them more straightforward. But, this is time consuming and more importantly, would this new version still be protected by their lawyers in the same way? It’s risky. Or, do companies and lawyers simply need some help from a business who understands the importance of customer experience, who have dug a little deeper and who can offer a solution to this problem? We think they do and it’s Nift.

At Nift, we believe in making terms easier to read, navigate and ultimately understand. With the help of features such as annotations, word definitions, clause summaries and explanations, the contract reading experience can be a whole lot easier and engaging. 92% of our customers have already found the service useful and said that it “made them pay more attention to the contract they ordinarily would”. Others have said that while it took them longer to read initially, they gained better understanding of their contracts.

So in summary, while you may be used to skipping those 40 pages of your mortgage loan or think it’s ok to just sign on the dotted line before you’ve even read and understood the terms of the contract for your new job, next time think about ‘kicking that habit’. Treat your mind to a new way of thinking and how when changing this habit, you could benefit in lots of other ways, like understanding what you’re agreeing to.