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Corporate Apologies

October 22, 2009

Dissatisfied customers may respond better to an apology than a cash rebate.


The business of apologies. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

They say actions speak louder than words, but when it comes to soothing dissatisfied customers, maybe not. This according to a recent study led by Johannes Abeler of the Nottingham School of Economics in England. He teamed up with a German company that sells ten thousand items a month on ebay. When a customer posted negative or neutral feedback, they were randomly given either an emailed apology or a small cash rebate.

JOHANNES ABELER (Nottingham School of Economics):
And we find that if we send an apology, then roughly half of these customers withdraw their feedback later on, while if we send money, only about a quarter of these customers withdraw their feedback.

He says doubling the cash made very little difference. Abeler suspects apologies must fulfill some deep psychological need – even if they’re just emails from faceless corporations. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.