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Apology Accepted! Try It On Your Customers!!!

Sorry seems to be the hardest word for Sir Elton John. But the fact is it can straighten out matters and the best part is that it doesn’t cost a dime. According to a study conducted by the Nottingham School of Economics’ Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics, UK, companies that apologize to their dissatisfied customers are better off than those that offer financial compensation. These apologies even work when the customer does not get it directly from the actual culprit.

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The Study
Researchers carried out the study with the help of another firm. This firm made about 10,000 sales in a month on eBay. The reaction of the customer, from neutral to negative, was observed and studied. Some of the customers of the firm were extended an apology for withdrawing the negative comment or feedback. Whereas, the others were offered monetary compensation of about €2.5 or €5. The apology blamed the firm for its inability to deliver in time. A simple note stating “We are very sorry and want to apologize for this” was sent to the customers. Since the participants were unaware of the study, their behavior was natural and unbiased. Customers who got financial compensation were told that the company would offer €5 if they could withdraw the evaluation.

The Findings
The following findings were observed in the study:

  • Around 45% participants withdrew the evaluation after being offered an apology
  • Only 23% participants agreed to do the same even when they were compensated.
  • The research also concluded that if the price of the purchased article was high then very few customers were ready to forgive for money.
  • However, the price of the product had no effect on the customers who were willing to settle the matter when offered “I am sorry.”

The Conclusion
Dr Johannes Abeler, a researcher at NSE and a co-author of the study, feels:
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  • Apologies are very powerful and they come cheap. This is true even if the customers know that the firms employ a professional to apologize on their behalf. Thus, the apology is not genuine.
  • We usually think that saying sorry is costless and the customer might ignore it as cheap talk. But the research breaks this opinion. It goes on to say that apology has a strong influence on the customer, more than the money. In this case, money, definitely, doesn’t talk!
  • This might be because when a person hears the word “sorry”, it triggers a natural instinct to forgive, which is difficult to overcome. Not only in this context, a sincere apology can have an impact on other situations as well. President Clinton and Tiger Woods are two examples that people might forgive you if you extend a sincere apology for your behavior.

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