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Marketers should consider appreciating (e.g., saying “thank you for the wait”) rather than apologizing to (e.g., saying “sorry for the wait”) their customers in redressing most service failures, as doing so increases the customers’ self-esteem, which in turn leads to favorable consumer responses such as higher customer satisfaction, positive word of mouth, and repatronage intentions.
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Consumer Behavior; Marketing Communications; Marketing Strategy; Services Marketing
You, Yanfen, Xiaojing Yang, Lili Wang, and Xiaoyan Deng (2020), “When and Why Saying ‘Thank You’ Is Better Than Saying ‘Sorry’ in Redressing Service Failures: The Role of Self-Esteem,” Journal of Marketing, 84 (2), 133–50.
In their initial recovery efforts after a service failure, service providers need to decide what to communicate to consumers to restore their satisfaction. Prior work has primarily examined apology (saying “sorry”) as a symbolic recovery strategy; the current research suggests appreciation (saying “thank you”) as an alternative, often more effective strategy. Drawing from research on linguistic framing and self-view, the authors reason that the shift of focus in the service provider–consumer interaction, from emphasizing service providers’ fault and accountability (apology) to spotlighting consumers’ merits and contributions (appreciation), can increase consumers’ self-esteem and, in turn, postrecovery satisfaction. Across multiple service failure contexts, Studies 1a–1e establish the superiority of appreciation in redressing service failures. By measuring and manipulating self-esteem and examining the moderating role of narcissism and recovery timing, Studies 2–5 provide converging evidence for consumers’ state self-esteem as the underlying mechanism. Studies 6 and 7 go beyond examining appreciation in isolation and show that it is as effective as recovery messages that combine appreciation and apology (Study 6) and that its superiority over apology holds when service providers combine symbolic and utilitarian recovery (Study 7).
Special thanks to Kelley Gullo and Holly Howe, Ph.D. candidates at Duke University, for their support in working with authors on submissions to this program.
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