Many people board trains without buying tickets, and some even refuse to do so when approached by the conductor. As a result, they receive fines at home, but the payment rate for these fines tends to be low. In an effort to improve both the payment rate and terms, NMBS, the Belgian railway, partnered with Sapience to design and evaluate a nudge intervention.
At Sapience, we employ various research methods to study actual behavior, going beyond self-reported behavior. For NMBS, we developed multiple nudging interventions, including redesigning several fine letters based on behavioral insights. For instance, we explored whether emphasizing the penalty would boost payment rates. We created more than 10 different letters, each representing a different nudge condition, which were sent out and tracked for their impact on payment rates and terms. This approach provided us with an objective and comprehensive understanding of the effectiveness of each letter.
Through this study, we showed that specific combinations of nudges are very effective in improving payments:
✅ 82% increase in payment rate → more people pay
✅ 86% decrease in payment term → people pay faster
✅ Huge recurring savings for the client, both directly (more fines paid) and indirectly (less costs following up outstanding payments)
Together with NMBS, we are now exploring more and more applications for nudging, going beyond payments into other aspects of human behavior.