If you have missed delivering groceries or milk once again in these social distancing and lockdown times, learn to regain consumers' trust again, by just saying a polite thank you at the end of your conversation.

Appreciation like saying thank you is often a more effective strategy than an apology -- saying sorry -- at restoring consumer satisfaction in the case of service failures, suggests new research.

When service providers redress such failures with an appreciation, consumers report higher overall satisfaction and are more likely to recommend the service provider to other consumers and less likely to complain, said researchers from New Mexico State University, University of South Carolina, Zhejiang University (China) and The Ohio State University.

Common to report dissatisfaction

Business leaders worldwide report that consumers' expectations of service quality are higher than ever. It is, therefore, not surprising that consumers report interactions with service providers as often rife with service failures.

Thank You
Thank You Wikimedia Commons

In general, service failure consequences to businesses include considerable financial loss and negative word of mouth. The new study published in the Journal of Marketing, focused on two symbolic recovery communications commonly utilised by service providers--appreciation versus apology.

The researchers reason that a shift of focus in the interaction between the service provider and consumer -- from emphasizing the service provider's fault and accountability (apology) to spotlighting the consumer's merits and contributions (appreciation) -- can increase consumer self-esteem and, in turn, enhance post-recovery satisfaction.

What to say important for service providers

For example, the superiority of appreciation over apology is more likely to be observed among consumers who are narcissistic and when recovery communications are communicated after (vs. before) the service failure.

"The appreciation strategy is as effective as recovery messages that combine appreciation and apology, too," said the study. These findings have substantial implications for service providers about how to effectively recover from service failures.

As an initial step, service providers need to decide what to say to consumers to redress the failure and restore satisfaction. What service providers ultimately say--"thank you" or "sorry"-- should be tailored to certain situational factors (timing of the recovery, severity of the failure, and presence of utilitarian recovery) and individual traits (consumers' narcissism), said the study.