One area which Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) could be used is in retail. During my gap year I worked in a jewellers, and i’m only realising now that they sneakily used ABA to get us to sell more!
Imagine that you are the manager of a small jewellers, you have weekly targets to hit, and on Friday you’re not even close. What do you do?
You’ve noticed that your employees aren’t particularly enthusiastic in their sales techniques, they laze around and wait for customers to come to them. Firstly, you’ve identified the target behaviour which you need to increase: the sales effort of your team. Your theory is that if your employees work harder, you will make more money and hopefully reach your sales target for the week. But how can you get them to work harder without physically giving them a kick up the bum? Easy, you create a competition. In this competition, the person who sells the most on Saturday and Sunday will get a £10 pound gift voucher to spend at the jewellers.
This is the crux of the technique; you’ve changed the outcome of their behaviour. Originally, working hard provided no positive outcome for them personally, hence they could laze around and produce the same outcome. Now on the other hand, the outcome of working hard is winning money to spend on something you like, and the outcome of lazing around is not winning anything. Miao and Evans (2013) found that a high level of control over performance outcomes dramatically increases selling effort, as opposed to a low level of control over performance outcomes.
This works in two ways; a) gentle competition between work colleagues can generally makes work more fun, and b) winning the prize is a positive experience. Both of these aspects act as positive reinforcement for working harder, hence the behaviour is more likely to occur, hence you are more likely to reach your weekly targets.
Miao, C. F., & Evans, K. R. (2013). The interactive effects of sales control systems on salesperson performance: a job demands-resources perspective. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 41, 77-90.
Sarah Briscoe - Blog 4