Publications and Reports

Some wins for Windermere

When is a letter not a letter? When it’s a bill.

Windermere is an independent community service organisation in Victoria, providing a range of support services for families in need. While they have traditionally received funding from state and federal services, they now operate in areas reliant on charging affordable fees for services such as family day care. This is where BehaviourWorks Australia (BWA) in the form of its director, Associate Professor Liam Smith, stepped in to solve the age-old problem of getting people to pay their bills on time.

Administering fees, no matter how affordable, is a burden to community services organisations who are already stretched in providing much-needed services to the community. Fee collection soon proved to be an issue for Windermere, not only due to the sheer quantity of transactions, but managing consumer behaviours around paying on time. Aged debtors – basically, those who took ages to pay – were causing Windermere to spend a lot of time following up on administration, rather than getting on with their core role of helping high-need families and children. Something had to be done. 

BWA has worked for some time in the area of improving responses to standard letters by applying some behavioural science to make the message clear and empathetic. Research has shown response rates improve when key messages are placed up front (like ‘Payment Reminder’ in red), when the language is simple and empathetic (“we recognise that sometimes things are overlooked”), and when social norms are used (“most people pay on time”).

Liam’s suggestions also included putting ‘overdue’ up front and in bold, using colour to highlight key ideas, including the child’s name and a final friendly call to action; “Thank you for your understanding and prompt action.”

It worked – aged debtor levels dropped by 50% in six weeks and cash flow improved.

It’s another example of where BWA has helped improve the way people respond to standard letters using some basic behavioural insights. And a win for Windermere.
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BWA helps Windermere win