Could the simple approach of altering an apology and saying thank you be a much better form of communication?

Expressing gratitude is something they teach us from a young age. It shows appreciation, kindness, and respect. You probably never think of saying thank you when it comes to apologizing – but it may be a more effective approach.

If you work and deal with the public, this can be a much more effective strategy than constantly apologizing. This isn’t just for someone who works in retail, but switching from saying ‘I’m sorry’ to ‘Thank you‘ may help in your daily relationships.

This article looks at a recent study that took a deeper look into this approach.

The Science Behind Why Saying Thank You Is Better

This study was a multi-university approach and dealt with the issue of customer service satisfaction. The University of South Carolina, New Mexico State University, Zhejiang University in China, and The Ohio State University worked together to investigate this.

They looked at the issue of consumers’ expectations of quality service being higher than ever. Business leaders around the world have recognized this increase in service quality demand. At the same time, it’s clear that there are many issues surrounding customer interactions with service providers.

The attempt of this study was to find the best way to restore customer satisfaction as it’s needed in retail and business. The whole issues go far beyond a consumer feeling disregarded as poor customer service is costing companies billions of dollars. In 2016, the U.S. lost a staggering $1.6 trillion dollars because of customers switching to competing companies. This was all because of poor service. This has a spillover effect because of word-of-mouth and the damage that comes from this.

These days, word-of-mouth happens online – and it happens fast. Poor service has led to 44% of unsatisfied customers venting about it on social media. A bad review or report that goes viral can sink a company. This is nowhere more clear than in the hospitality industry, with a large proportion of consumers unsatisfied with how things go when dining out.

So what we have we seen to remedy this situation, and how can you apply it to your own life?

Why You Need to Stop Apologizing

The study looked at how service providers could restore customer satisfaction after a service failure. They focused on two different forms of recovery communication; saying ‘thank you’ (showing appreciation) and saying ‘sorry’ (the apology). The example the study gives has to do with a plumber who was late for an appointment: the plumber could either say “I am sorry you had to wait,” or “Thank you for your patience.”

The study found that showing appreciation to the consumer was a more effective approach. Saying ‘thank you’ was better at restoring consumer satisfaction than saying “I’m sorry.”

This has practical effects in real-world situations. When service providers show appreciation, the consumer becomes satisfied that the situation has been recovered in the best way possible. This leads the customer to stick with that business, recommend it to others, and less likely to complain in the future.

When you constantly say you’re sorry to someone, they get the sense that you aren’t doing everything in your power to improve the situation. Only saying sorry to a person (whether it’s a customer, friend, associate, etc) gives them the impression that you’ve washed your hands of things and what’s done is done.

According to the study, saying ‘I’m sorry’ emphasizes the service provider’s fault, while saying ‘thank you’ makes the customer feel more important.

Why Is Saying Thank You So Much More Powerful?

The sense of importance a customer feels is because saying thank you highlights their merits and contributions. When you say ‘thank you for your patience’ you are showing the positive contribution they have made. This may seem small, but it’s a way to improve a person’s self-esteem. With business, it enhances post-recovery satisfaction. With a friend or family member, it enhances the bond between the two of you.

When you say ‘Thank you’ instead of ‘I’m sorry’ – in any aspect of your life – it helps you deal with even the most difficult people. A narcissistic person only thinks of themselves, and if you can highlight their contribution and merits, they embrace this and can adapt quicker. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ takes the emphasis away from them and puts it on you.

Sometimes an apology is needed, but you just need to read the situation and see what it calls for. In the service industry example; saying ‘thank you’ (the appreciative approach) will be the best approach for those highly narcissistic people. The appreciation approach might not work as well for customers and people who are quiet, shy and show low narcissism.

What to Take Away from This Study

The key takeaway is that saying ‘thank you’ isn’t a way to get out of apologizing, but has some real resolution power to it. If you work in a retail setting, this can be a great time to use this method with the rise of angry and unreasonable customers. Besides saying ‘thank you for your patience,’ you can also use variations of:

  • Thank you for your understanding
  • Thank you for coming to me with this
  • I appreciate you bringing this to my attention, thank you

On a personal level, saying ‘thank you’ does a better job of resolving a conflict with another person. The appreciation approach gets you onto their level and they feel valued. It’s all about shifting the focus from things being your fault and spotlight the merit in others.

People rarely feel appreciated, and if you can do this in a negative situation, you create a better bond, connection, and resolution with that person. Ultimately, they go away feeling better about themselves.

Saying ‘thank you’ isn’t a cop-out, it’s a simple way to improve the lives of those around you.

References:

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com
  2. https://psychcentral.com

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