Why don't banks pay me for going paperless?

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12 February 2013
Daniel Latimore
I recently stayed at a Sheraton in London. On arrival I was intrigued by a card that offered me 500 points for not having my room cleaned. This was a different approach than the old, and not particularly effective, exhortation to hang my towel if I wanted to save water – in that scenario, there was nothing in it for me but the potential for some vague good feeling. But this – this was real, this gave me something that I valued. So I opted to go without my room being made up for two nights, was 1000 points the richer, and the hotel saved on labor, detergent, water, and the like. It was a true win-win situation. When I remarked on it when checking out, the clerk said that the initiative was only a couple of weeks old, but had received very favorable responses. Count me as a fan! What’s the analog for banks and other senders of paper statements? The plea to go paperless. We’re told it’s green, and might reduce the risk of identity theft. But I know that the bank will save a lot of money by not sticking that statement in the mail (in round numbers, 50 cents per customer per month). So why not just offer to split that (relatively small) amount with me, or offer some other incentive? When added to those other worthy reasons, it might be enough to tip certain customers over the edge of going paperless. The goodwill it generates will certainly help from a marketing perspective. And finally, it’s a great example of a win-win for the bank and its customers. I love to ponder why we do what we do. The rapidly evolving world of behavioral economics is particularly relevant to financial services, and I’ll be exploring on an ongoing basis some of the lessons that banks can draw from this emerging field. If you’ve got your own interesting examples of changing behavior, let us know.

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