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When and Why Saying “Thank You” Is Better Than Saying “Sorry” in Redressing Service Failures: The Role of Self-Esteem

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Marketers should consider appreciating (e.g., saying "thank you for the wait") rather than apologizing to (saying "sorry for the wait") their customers in redressing most service failures, because doing so increases the customers' self-esteem which in turn leads to favorable consumer responses such as higher customer satisfaction, positive word of mouth, and repatronage intentions.

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When and Why Saying “Thank You” Is Better Than Saying “Sorry” in Redressing Service Failures: The Role of Self-Esteem

  1. 1. Service failures engender formidable consequences to businesses, such as considerable financial loss and negative word of mouth (WOM). U.S. companies lost $1.6 trillion in 2016 from customer switching caused by poor service, and 44% of unsatisfied customers vented their frustrations on social channels. In redressing most service failures, service providers should consider appreciating (saying “thank you for the wait”), rather than apologizing to (saying “sorry for the wait), their customers. You, Yang, Wang, and Deng (2020) The Importance of Service Recovery
  2. 2. From:  Symbolic recovery (providing non-financial, social and psychological compensations) has been found to be sufficient to redress service failures when financial loss is not involved.  However, service providers need to decide what to communicate to consumers in their initial recovery efforts after a service failure. Service Recovery Efforts You, Yang, Wang, and Deng (2020)
  3. 3. • Apology • Self-focused • Emphasizes one’s own shortcomings • Acknowledges service providers’ mistakes and responsibility • Appreciation • Other-focused • Places consumers in the benefactor position • Highlights consumers’ merits and contributions • Increase consumer self-esteem Apology or Appreciation? You, Yang, Wang, and Deng (2020)
  4. 4. • Participants were compensated for study participation with a gift. • Participants were later informed that the gift was of lower quality than they expected. • Appreciation: “Thank you for your understanding. We appreciated it!” • Apology: “Sorry about this situation. We apologize!” • Control: Participants received no recovery message. Inferior Gift Field Study 2.00 2.50 3.00 3.50 4.00 4.50 5.00 5.50 6.00 6.50 7.00 PostrecoverySatisfaction Control Condition Apology Condition Appreciation Condition You, Yang, Wang, and Deng (2020)
  5. 5. • The plumber showed up an hour after the scheduled time. • Appreciation: “Thank you for your patience. I appreciate it!” • Apology: “Sorry for keeping you waiting. I apologize!” • Control: Participants received no recovery message. Plumber Study 2.00 2.50 3.00 3.50 4.00 4.50 5.00 5.50 Postrecovery Satisfaction Self-Esteem Control Condition Apology Condition Appreciation Condition You, Yang, Wang, and Deng (2020)
  6. 6. • What should service providers say in redressing service failures? • Appreciation is often a better communication strategy than apology in redressing most service failures Takeaways You, Yang, Wang, and Deng (2020)

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