It’s time to get better at disclosure: An evidence-based toolkit

Have you ever read an entire terms and conditions document? Have you ever been tasked with ‘designing’ one?

For most, the answer to both questions is no. In fact, if your only job was to read the privacy policies of every website you visited in a year, you’d be fully employed for 76 working days.

Although it’s commonly cited that no one cares about this dilemma, the evidence suggests otherwise. People are resigned. They feel disempowered. They’ve become apathetic. As a result, they tick and forget. At Greater Than X we refer to this phenomenon as the Agreement Bypass Bias (ABB for short!).

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Terms and Conditions, Product Disclosure Statements and Privacy Notices can be valuable, meaningful and engaging. This presentation will demonstrate how.

Nathan Kinch, Co-founder and CEO of Greater Than X, will share practical case studies from their Better Disclosure work, get you up close and personal with the Better Disclosure Toolkit and ensure that, by the end of the talk, you have access to new tools and approaches you can put into practice the following day. Nathan will be joined on stage by Rob Hale, Chief Digital Officer at Regional Australia Bank. Rob will share his candid perspective on the challenges and opportunities of putting this work into practice within a purpose and community driven, yet heavily regulated organisation.

No one likes the wool pulled over their eyes. This is how we, as product designers and developers, can ensure our customers never feel this way again.

It’s time to get better at disclosure: An evidence-based toolkit

Nathan Kinch & Rob Hale
Founder and CEO, Chief Digital Officer – Greater than Experience, Regional Australia Bank

Keywords: Consumer Data Right, better disclosure, trustworthiness, financial services, Regional Australia Bank, customer-focused metrics.

TL;DR: Nathan and Rob co-present on their collaborative experience in developing a Consumer Data Right policy for the community owned Regional Australia Bank. Using the Better Disclosures Toolkit created by Nathan’s company Greater than Experience to frame the project, Rob’s team were then able to develop and refine a ‘Better Disclosures Canvas’ customized to RAB’s specific needs and grounded in customer-focused outcomes. Nathan and Rob’s joint presentation covers the genesis and background of the project, implementation process, and key learnings that are applicable not just within the financial services industry, but across all industries that seek to win user trust, collect customer data, and want to be clear and transparent about what they are asking customers to sign when they agree to Terms and Conditions.

NK: Hi and welcome. Note that Rob and Nathan are at different locations which will shortly become obvious. Rob recorded his presentation a week and a half ago while Nathan has been in bed sick. So upfront a shout out and thankyou to the whole WD team for pulling this together and as you watch, this is also the first time Rob and Nathan are seeing this!

Nathan is CEO of Greater than X and one of the co-founders of Greater than learning. He’s spent his career helping leaders and practitioners design their organizations for the qualities of trustworthiness. He is onto his third startup and spends a lot of time investing in startups, currently at at a rate of approx 20 per annum. He lives on the Gold Coast with his life partner/bestie, his baby daughter, manic three yr old dog and a growing garden, all of which is great fun!

RH: Rob is the chief digital officer at Regional Australia Bank, a customer owned bank with its head office in a country town on top of the Great Dividing Range – where its been known to snow in winter but today is boiling. Rob is struggling a little in the heat so apologies in advance.

NK: Why should we care about designing terms and conditions that people like or love? If you’re only job was to read the privacy policies that you interact with on a yearly basis, you would be fully employed for 76 days The statement: I have read and agree to the Terms is the biggest lie on the web.

Regulators in Australia (ex: ASCI) have called out financial service disclosures referring to them as ‘financial sludge’ and suggesting that these types of disclosure enable poor conduct. Given this, it’s easy to see how consumers believe that easier to understand user terms and conditions are the number one things that companies can do to restore trust. Q to Rob: When we were first discussing this topic, do you recall your reaction? What motivated you to want to design disclosure experiences that were different to what we are used to?

RH: I remember that coffee well, first time trying oat milk! I recall saying My head is full of squashed flies! because the topic at the time was alien to me. The language and terminology was challenging and confronting. I’m a tech guy accustomed to systems and platforms, not agreements. It was only when CDR came out (the ecosystem of open banking) that I started to get involved in agreements.

Rob started looking at how they communicated with customers in terms of policies and agreements. They are a customer owned bank so they should already be good at this. Upon investigation, some of the agreements were awful, largely because nobody tends to read them. Rob felt the need to address this, and had a subject matter expert buying him coffees at his disposal!

NK: I often joke about wishing everyone was as motivated as Rob. The reality is, they’re not! Many are skeptical, which is a good place to start from. But some write it off completely before giving it a chance. So for those of you, let’s take a high level overview of the evidence.

Many folks Nathan interacts with say: No-one cares. Look, they’ve agreed to our terms. When you look at the surface level (behavioural data), this is true. Your behavioural event logs ‘quantify’ that people have accepted the terms (leaving aside for the moment that they are incomprehensible, hidden away, andnot designed for those people but to protect your organization

As you dive deeper, what becomes clear is that this doesn’t reflect how people feel at all. Research on privacy, data protection, legal disclosures consistently surfaces a basic mental model: People feel powerless, and don’t feel they have any control or influence over the outcomes. The terms that they are engaged in are zero sum (“Accept or bugger off” may be more appropriate framing).

As a result, people have become apathetic, instead of actively engaging with understanding and ‘economically rationalizing’ the decision. This is basically what the law proposes: that people should do. People bypass the agreements in their entirety. The behavioural manifestation of this apathy and lack of control is that they don’t read or interact with agreements. This is a simple reality of the modern worlds. Who has the time to read 30k words of terms and conditions?

We refer to this phenomenon as the agreement bypass bias or ABB This is where folks tick the box and move on without actively engaging with the content of the terms and yes, this happens in financial services too. Q for Rob: Why is it important for people to understand the agreement they’re getting into and what are some ideas you have for how to make this better?

RH: Right now, banks (and many other businesses) have a lot of data about people. CDR allows those people to put this data to use in ways that directly benefit them. We need to make sure they understand how it works. While Rob loves open banking, the danger is that if we’re not careful, we may not improve that situation. Rob hears a lot about removing friction from processes and one tap service delivery but by obsessing about removing all the friction, we run the risk of further obscuring the disclosure process, to the point where people may have even less idea about what’s going on.

There are important things going on here. Ex:when you get a loan, people tend to focus on the interest rate. But what about the LVR? The DSR? The principle, interest, fees term? What happens if you default? What about security? It’s clear that many people don’t understand any of that when they commit to these things, but they should! This is where responsible lending and better disclosure comes in.

Way back when Rob lived in the U.K as a kid, he recalls an R.S.P.C.A commercial which said: A dog is for life, not just for Christmas. This isn’t ‘a point in time’ thing. Let’s apply that concept to lending (or indeed, any contractual arrangement). The responsibility doesn’t begin or end at any moment someone ticks a box or agrees to some terms.

Right now, in the customer-owned banking world, our values mean we must place strong emphasis on ensuring customers have the best products and services that we can give themthat’s our job. There’s the problem: How can Regional Australia Bank be true to ourselves and design experiences that accommodate all those values in a disclosure experience?

NK: Bloody good question mate! How can we overcome the status quo and design terms that people love? At Greater than X, their answer is the Better Disclosure Toolkit; a systematic approach to designing contracts and legal disclosures that are understandable and enjoyable to interact with.

The toolkit consists of:

  • Metrics
  • Research Methods
  • Specific ways of working and collaboration practices
  • An Evidence Kit and a central artifact called The Better Disclosure Canvas

The Better Disclosure Canvas: This is a visual tool that guides cross functional teams through the BD design process step by step. When we first developed it off the back of the Haynes Royal Banking Commission, there was a specific better disclosure recommendation, it was primarily used in co-located workshops. It was printed out on A0 paper – folks would get around it, work through scribbles, sticky notes etc. Q for Rob: Nath recalls the first time they used this printed out version of the canvas out of the RAB offices in Armidale, and since then moving to the virtual digital version. Could you speak from your perspective about the journey with this particular tool?

RH: Those workshops were our first exposure to this technique and was revelatory. It was really helpful to have the canvas as a focal point to prompt us, to make us do the work but keep us inside the rails. Terminology was something Rob’s team needed to get to grips with immediately. Delay the core action.??? Diversify the form factor ??? Layering.??? Didn’t know what any of that meant, and looking back, Rob underestimated the barrier that unfamiliar terminology could impose, especially with folks who’ve been doing more conventional agreements all their life. So the canvas is important because it introduces a common language and galvanizes everyone around it. Ex: One element on the canvas is: Give people a receipt. At the time Rob was unclear on this, but when it came to designing the CDR solution, the customer experience guidelines and rules were very prescriptive about this and said we needed a receipt. By having worked through the canvas, Rob now knew what this called for and why.

NK: Nath remembers meeting Rob’s team and thinking: Have you ever seen a bunch of people so happy to be designing a contract?!

RH: I want to talk about the ways we actually worked on this and how it was approached internally at RAB – largely through member-focused metrics. Again CDR is a good example for discussion. When Rob’s team first began scoping their CDR project, there was a line item in the budget for Development of CDR Policy which had a fairly large budget. The governance people queried this and said: We do policy, this is disclosure so this is our business. We’ll create some text and make sure it ‘protects’ the organization. However, Greater than X were telling them: You need to understand all the rules and compliance objectives, but we also need to pull together a team of designers, creatives, UX people, copywriters, and then when we’ve drafted this thing, we don’t publish it. We need to test comprehension, timed comprehension, propensity to share… In Rob’s team’s world, calling that a policy was a real understatement and actually a hindrance because they associated it with something completely different.

NK: The specific practices and ways of working; the tools and approaches, are all integral to better disclosure. Better disclosure doesn’t work without these moving parts. One of the biggest barriers our toolkit aims to assist in overcoming is incentives misalignment.

Ex: Designers: Ask yourself how many times your metrics and incentives have been directly aligned to one of the lawyers you’ve been working with. Ans=never. The metrics and incentives are misaligned. Most organizations experience a great deal of friction because different functions within that same organization are optimizing for different outcomes.

Greater than X solved this problem (at least in part) in a better disclosure context not just by making the whole process more collaborative and trans-disciplinary, but by focusing the entire process on customer outcome focused metrics.

The focus was on the customer first, not the business. This can be likened to the Agile Manifesto’s ‘working software over documentation’ principle. Not a zero sum game. Customer outcomes over business outcomes. Ex: graphic of preliminary study data from a complex consumer contracting scenario shows significant uplift in key areas of outcome. Q for Rob: Could you speak more about CDR policy process, outputs, and market observations, and lessons learned?

RH: Remember, this is all new. RAB was the first accredited data recipient in Australia. There was nobody to copy! In some ways this probably helped them to be creative and decisive. The canvas did that. It kept the process on track. The team distilled hundreds of pages of regulatory rules and privacy legislation into a single page of content, presented meaningfully. The end result is far from perfect, but a huge step in the right direction. It’s also given the team confidence to do more on their own.

When they finished, they did something which was a little contentious and quite challenging as an organization: They shared the work. Published the wireframes, the end to end designs, legislation mapping work, the whole lot. They wanted to help others, evolve the process and accelerate the evolution – people will improve on what they’ve done, and then they’ll in turn benefit from that. They’ve since continued to share, and even open-sourced some software: their CDR recipient gateway (affectionately known as “Dr. G.” which help people plug their software applications into open banking, and functions as another participation accelerator.

They also let people rate their CDR Policy online. They’ve been publishing and tracking this since July. Haven’t had massive user response, but they’ve had several hundred people go through an eight step online process and the average score is 4.9 out of 5, which is a pretty incredible result for a policy.

It’s an interesting process to ask people to rate your policies and giving design assets and software away when you’re a bank. Nathan and Rob talk a lot about ethics frameworks, values and the like, and this is fascinating and important, but at the end of the day, all they are doing or trying to do here is the right thing, the thing intrinsically most people know all the time.

How to make ‘doing the right thing’ in your organizational context easier: No time to dive into varying theories of change here, but in terms of getting started, the evidence overwhelmingly supports that fact that motivation is unreliable and should not be the focus when attempting to do something new or different. You have to make the target behaviour or desired change easier to do.

Use the FOGG behaviour model: Behaviour = Motivation + Ability + Prompt (or B=MAP) in order to cross the action line and do the target behaviour, it’s best to decrease the difficulty of doing it. Ex: Simple thing you can do: Implement that upfront time to read indicator which Rob mentioned. The Behavioural Insights team in the U.K conducted a great study last year demonstrating that upfront time to read indicators increased the likelihood that people actively engaged with a disclosure experience by 105%

You can make quantifying progress within a matter of approx an hour. Check your behavioural event logs before and after implementing this simple tactic. Q for Rob: Care to impart some knowledge on how to get started?

RH: We didn’t set out to do all of these things, but behaving in a trustworthy manner is infectious, particularly to nerds and creatives. Initially, you may need to be a bit covert in order to demonstrate the value, but then, find a customer facing document, either internal or external, grab Nate’s Better Disclosure Canvas, check out Agreement pattern libraries online (Rob recommends this cracking one from the IAACM), and start applying some of the techniques. Even implementing the upfront time indicator constitutes progress. Iterate, seek feedback, share, don’t be discouraged! There will be naysayers but plow on! Seeking out an equivalent organization is also helpful (even if a competitor). Introduce yourself, explain what you’re doing or an aspect of it, and ask for feedback and the opportunity of collaboration. Rob has found this approach to yield some wonderful relationships in his business community and thoroughly recommends!

NK: Final thoughts: If you, like me, and like Rob, are sick of crappy terms and want to strive for an experience that your customers love, please check out our free, practical, microlearning course on this very topic. Greater than learning online.

Special thanks from Nath and Rob to John, Rosemary, and the entire organizing team for pulling together a wonderful series of events. Thanks for the opportunity. If you’d like to connect please scan the QR codes from our slide at [timestamp] 23:31 to send us a linkedin invite.