Think RFM for Behavior Change
As somebody whose work straddles between strategy consulting and coaching, I am always intrigued how concepts from one domain find applicability and add tremendous value in the other area.
One of the oldest and a very valued concept in customer analytics is RFM. The acronym RFM stands for three actionable parameters to analyze and segment customers:
- R for Recency of customer’s purchase.
- F for Frequency, i.e., how often did the customer buy?
- M for Monetary Value, i.e., how much did the customer spend?
The interplay of these three parameters across customer cohorts can help you understand the robustness of the customer base of any business and design customer engagement interventions.
An equivalent of RFM can be applied to any behavior change initiative, to develop new habits, or to add new skills to one’s repertoire. For brevity, let’s refer to all of these as behavior change. Behavior change is at the heart of the desired outcomes coaches work towards. Also, we all are aware that bringing about behavior change, especially adult behavior change, is a challenging task. For behavior change to take place, we need to teach ourselves to react differently to the same stimuli. We need to relay our neural path and reinforce the same consistently to the point that the desired behavior becomes our natural response instead of the old one.
As said, “What is not measured, doesn’t get done,” hence, it is essential to put the measurement metric in place. To hold the subject accountable, it is vital that the action plan is granular enough and the measurement metric is smart enough to measure RFM.
As you work on behavior change, ask yourself whether RFM is being tracked and measured.
When was the most recent time you practiced the new behavior or habit? More importantly, which was the most recent time where you had the opportunity to use the new behavior, but you reverted to your old self?
The more recently the new behavior has been exhibited (obviously accommodating for the context), the more the chances are that the new behavior is being internalized. Another element of Recency is the lag between planning a behavior change and executing this change. The shorter this period, the more likely the change will indeed take place. More intervening time lets our motivation slip and gives us more time to rationalize why it can’t be done!
Did you set for yourself the frequency (how many times), at which you will exhibit the new desired behavior? How would you measure yourself on the frequency in specific terms?
If we reflect, we will realize that when we ask the subject these questions, the very likely response is “often,” but often is not good enough as it has a very subjective interpretation.
This one I would tweak to “maximum engagement,” as this is an attempt to measure how much effort the subject put in. Here it is more about quality than quantity, which can help the subject move faster on the change continuum from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence.
What was the duration of the time spent on the new behavior? How engaged were you? How motivated were you? What were your feelings? This is especially important if the new behavior is about acquiring a new skill which needs hard and devoted practice. What was the environment? Did you isolate yourself enough not to be disturbed?
Putting the above in practice, let us say that the subject has decided to work on being “more fit” and decided to hit the gym every day for 45 minutes. In the subsequent coaching session, a month later, the subject mentions that they visited the gym 23 days of the possible 30 days. This 75% hit rate may sound like quite a reasonable frequency for someone who is beginning with a new habit. However, if a follow-up question around recency reveals that the last time they hit the gym was a week ago, it could be an indication that the motivation is waning. The coach may need to dig deeper to re-build motivation.
From a maximum engagement perspective, it is important to understand if every visit was indeed 45 minutes and how those 45 minutes were spent. Was the client fully engaged, or did they just spend the time socializing with friends at the gym? How would they rate themselves on the quality of effort (and not results, at this early stage)?
Let me know what you, as a coach in your specific niche, feel about the above. How do you think RFM can be deployed in your self-change interventions or in your coaching engagements?