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The psychology of rejection

You're planning your wedding and it's time to send out the invites. You decide you'll email everyone asking them to save the date, and send the invites in the post later. Within seconds of sending your emails you receive a polite and carefully worded reply from one of your invitees explaining they can't attend. It's like they didn't even think about it, they just flat out rejected you there and then.

How would that make you feel?

We've been thinking about this. Thinking about the psychology of rejection and how this relates to services we're redesigning. Digital is efficient, it's fast and cheap, but it can also be cold and uncompromising. Sometimes the steely hard edges of "computer says no" need padding.

With this in mind we're redesigning one of our services so that applications that don't meet the lowest threshold of the acceptance criteria are automatically rejected. Not only does this reduce staff workload, it means that we can make a decision for some applications straight away.

That's pretty standard stuff when it comes to digital transformation, but here's what's different, we're not letting rejected applicants know immediately, we've built a small element of delay into the process. It's still a lot, lot quicker than the current "up to 10 days", but it's not an instant dismissal of their request.

At present it's a theory, we need to test the new service with real people that use it, but it's not a new idea and John Waterworth pointed out it's been around since the 60s


I think it shows that when it comes to service redesign, we're not just producing quicker, cheaper services, we're also approaching digital transformation with empathy for users.


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