Apologizing to Your Customers – Does it Work?

September 5, 2011

Future Marketing Strategies

In any business, everyone has some point come across annoyed customers and made them angry. In traditional days, it wouldn’t have mattered and people would just shrug off their shoulders and say, “it was the customer’s fault, we don’t need rude customers anyways”.

But hang on a second, before you decide to move on to the pleasant customers quickly, try to say just two words, “I’m sorry”. In a business world, we need to be polite and humble, and at time it might seem easier to just ignore the unpleasant customers and take no action, it is not a good practice though. According to research, apologies take you a long way and help you build strong relations with customers.

There is a book called as “The Upside of Irrationality”. In the book, Dan Ariely (the author) has described an experiment in which he gauged the change in behavior of people who were treated ¬†rudely. The experiment involved “hiring” coffee shop customers to perform a simple task for $5 and then overpaying them. Some participants were subjected to rude behavior by the conductor, ¬†who appeared to take an unimportant cell phone call in the middle of explaining the task. The participants who experienced rude behavior were more likely to pocket the overpayment.

To explain the importance of apologies, he tweaked the experiment and added a simple apology. The conductor said post rude behavior, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have taken that call”. The participants who got an apology after the rude behavior, were more likely to return the overpayment.

Ofcourse, saying sorry cannot revamp and make things correct, but it can minimize the effects of the rudeness. If we consider the above scenario in case of a retail store, then we can get a similar behavior with customers. For e.g. if an employee behaves rudely with customers and does not apologize, the customer is more likely not to return to the same store, but if the employee apologizes later, the customer might just forget the incident and become a repeat customer.

Today’s marketing is not about selling products, it is about building relations and apologies are definitely a big part of it.

Next time, you are annoyed at a customer, don’t let it come on to your ego, just swallow it and apologize.

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