Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Saying Sorry Really Does Cost Nothing

Date:
September 23, 2009
Source:
University of Nottingham
Summary:
Economists have finally proved what most of us have suspected for a long time -- when it comes to apologising, talk is cheap. According to new research, firms that simply say sorry to disgruntled customers fare better than those that offer financial compensation. The ploy works even though the recipient of the apology seldom gets it from the person who made it necessary in the first place.

Firms that simply say sorry to disgruntled customers fare better than those that offer financial compensation, new research shows.
Credit: iStockphoto/Greg Cooper

Economists have finally proved what most of us have suspected for a long time – when it comes to apologising, talk is cheap.

According to new research, firms that simply say sorry to disgruntled customers fare better than those that offer financial compensation.

The ploy works even though the recipient of the apology seldom gets it from the person who made it necessary in the first place.

The study was carried out by the Nottingham School of Economics’ Centre for Decision Research and Experimental Economics.

Academics set out to show whether customers who have been let down continue to do business after being offered an apology.

They found people are more than twice as likely to forgive a company that says sorry than one that instead offers them cash.

NSE research fellow and study co-author Dr Johannes Abeler said the results proved apologies were both powerful and cheap. He said: “We know firms often employ professional apologists whose job is to say sorry to customers who have a grievance.

“You might think that if the apology is costless then customers would ignore it as nothing but cheap talk - which is what it is. But this research shows apologies really do influence customers’ behaviour – surprisingly, much more so than a cash sweetener.

“People don’t seem to realise they’re dealing with an expert apologist rather than an individual who feels genuine shame.

“It might be that saying sorry triggers in the customer an instinct to forgive – an instinct that’s hard to overcome rationally.”

Researchers worked with a firm responsible for around 10,000 sales a month on eBay, controlling its reaction to neutral or negative feedback.

Some customers were offered an apology in return for withdrawing their comments, while others were offered €2.5 or €5.

The simple apology blamed the manufacturer for a delay in delivery, adding: “We are very sorry and want to apologise for this.”

Customers offered money were told: “As a goodwill gesture, we can offer you €5 if you would consider withdrawing your evaluation.”

Because customers had no idea they were taking part in the experiment, their behaviour was completely natural and unaffected.

Some 45% of participants withdrew their evaluation in light of the apology, while only 23% agreed in return for compensation.

The study also discovered that a higher purchase price further reduced the number of customers willing to forgive for cash.

Yet the size of the initial outlay had no effect on the willingness of participants to settle for simply reading the magic words: “I’m sorry.”

Dr Abeler, an expert in behavioural economics, said: “It’s interesting to note our setting should have made it hard for an apology to work.

“The apology was delivered by a large, anonymous firm and wasn’t face-to-face, and the firm had a clear incentive to apologise.

“All of this meant the apology should have been regarded by the customers as calculated, insincere and just cheap talk. Yet it still yielded much better outcomes than offering cash compensation – and our results might even underestimate its effects.”

The Nottingham School of Economics, based at the University of Nottingham, is regarded as one of the UK’s leading research departments. Its economists have advised organisations including the Treasury, the World Bank, the IMF and the Department for Work and Pensions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Nottingham. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Nottingham. "Saying Sorry Really Does Cost Nothing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090923105815.htm>.
University of Nottingham. (2009, September 23). Saying Sorry Really Does Cost Nothing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090923105815.htm
University of Nottingham. "Saying Sorry Really Does Cost Nothing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090923105815.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Study Says Most Crime Not Linked To Mental Illness

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A new study finds most crimes committed by people with mental illness are not caused by symptoms of their illness or disorder. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

How Smaller Plates And Cutlery Could Make You Feel Fuller

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) NBC's "Today" conducted an experiment to see if changing the size of plates and utensils affects the amount individuals eat. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Do We Get Nicer With Age?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) A recent report claims personality can change over time as we age, and usually that means becoming nicer and more emotionally stable. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

How to Master Motherhood With the Best Work/Life Balance

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) In the U.S., there are more than 11 million couples trying to conceive at any given time. From helping celebrity moms like Bethanny Frankel to ordinary soon-to-be-moms, TV personality and parenting expert, Rosie Pope, gives you the inside scoop on mastering motherhood. London-born entrepreneur Pope is the creative force behind Rosie Pope Maternity and MomPrep. She explains why being an entrepreneur offers the best life balance for her and tips for all types of moms. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins