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 August 27, 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 August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Have You Ever Been 'Sleep Drunk?' 1 in 7 Has

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A study published in the journal "Neurology" interviewed more than 19,000 people and found 15 percent suffer from being "sleep drunk." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Painkiller Overdose Deaths?

Does Medical Marijuana Reduce Painkiller Overdose Deaths?

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) A new study found fewer deaths from prescription drug overdoses in states that have legalized medical marijuana. But experts disagree on the results. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Heart Group: E-Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit

Heart Group: E-Cigarettes May Help Smokers Quit

AP (Aug. 25, 2014) The American Heart Association's first policy statement on electronic cigarettes backs them as a last resort to help smokers quit and calls for more regulation to keep them away from youth. (Aug. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Push For Later Start Times As School Year Kicks Off

Doctors Push For Later Start Times As School Year Kicks Off

Newsy (Aug. 25, 2014) The American Academy of Pediatrics is the latest group pushing for middle schools and high schools to start later, for the sake of their kids. Video provided by Newsy
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