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Do you read the T & C's?

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

Insurance renewals, loan applications and even entering a promotional competition, there is always a box to tick to confirm that you’ve read the terms and conditions. How many times have you ticked that box without even clicking on the T&Cs document? It’s highly likely that your customers are doing the same.

Why Don’t People Read the T&Cs?

The reason we tick without reading the information is that these documents are not accessible. For a start they are usually lengthy; and secondly, as a legal document, the language is unfamiliar. Even when we do take time to look, it doesn’t mean we understand.

If it is difficult for people with good literary skills and English as a first language to comprehend, imagine the experience for other customers. The fact that these documents are quite literally ‘the small print’ also presents a challenge for customers with visual impairments.

The issue is that these documents contain important information that customers should be aware of. They are effectively ticking a box without being informed about what they are signing up to. In some cases, failing to meet the terms could push customers into positions of vulnerability.

Accessible Insurance Renewal Document

Last month, my business insurance was due for renewal. I received an email, with attachments and a price. This is an important document, so I wanted to look through the policy details before renewing. I was delighted.

One of the attachments was a very straightforward summary of the policy. In two columns it showed what was covered in my current policy and then the new policy. This made it easy for me to compare and check the details. There was one element I wasn’t certain about, so I could read that part of the more detailed T&Cs.

If more T&Cs began with a clear summary of all the key points, more people would read it. It would improve accessibility to documents and help customers find the best fit services for their requirements. With a better idea of what they were signing up to the risk of insufficient cover or unaffordable interest rates is reduced.

In turn, this minimises complaints and means staff have fewer difficult conversations with distressed customers. Also, as a customer, I now feel inclined to recommend Hiscox Business Insurance and others will feel the same. It’s a simple, yet effective way to boost the brand reputation.

Monzo Bank’s Tone of Voice

One financial organisation that is making accessibility a priority is Monzo Bank. They have committed to using language that their customers use and focusing on what matters to their customers. With a focus on being open and inclusive, technical information is presented clearly and transparently.

Monzo Bank favours plain English over formal language. It makes them no less credible or serious about sound financial management. It simply aids communications. Customers are more likely to ask questions if they aren’t worried about using an incorrect term and feel confident that they will understand the answer.

Monzo’s Tone of Voice is part of the brand guidelines. It is shared and applied by all members of staff. The company have also made this available to the public, so they know what to expect when they get in touch.

The Curse of Knowledge

Monzo Bank mentions Steven Pinker, a psychologist. His theory; the Curse of Knowledge, states:

“The more you know, the less clearly you write.”

What this means is that as our expertise and technical knowledge increase, we find it harder to put ourselves in the shoes of a less-informed reader. We assume that everyone understands the terms, references and jargon that are used in our industry or field. There is also an element of ego; we want to showcase our intelligence.

This approach creates barriers. It makes information complex and inaccessible. It doesn’t help your customers to achieve the best outcomes and it makes your business distant and unapproachable.

5 Tips for Accessible Communications

What can be done to encourage more people to read your T&Cs and know what they are signing up for?

  • Use plain English in conversations and communications

  • Provide clear examples to explain complex terms

  • Ask someone from outside your industry to review and provide feedback on documents

  • In conversation, check understanding before proceeding

  • Keeping it simple does not mean being patronising; the customer will have expertise in another field

It’s time to empower customers so they can make informed decisions.

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