Contracts can be a strong pre-commitment device, creating pressure to behave in a certain way in the future. Reciprocal contracts further highlight the exchange value between the customer and the provider, adding additional social pressure. Thus, we predicted that a reciprocal contract would lead to increases in participant transactions.
Members of the Latino Community Credit Union were randomly assigned to either sign an informal reciprocal contract outlining membership responsibilities and given a magnet to take home (treatment condition), or not (control condition). After two months, we measured the number of participant transactions in each condition by looking at the participants’ bank records.
Why it matters
Reciprocal contracts create both social pressure and commitment to an action. While this study demonstrated that it is effective in the context of a credit union, it can also be applied to many other business-customer relationships. In any situation where membership and repeated transactions are the goal (rather than one-time customers), a reciprocal contract may increase engagement without incurring financial costs or undermining institutional sustainability.
Note: This project was possible through the Common Cents Lab initiative, supported by MetLife Foundation
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