More on Apologies. a Topic Related to Medical Malpractice and Other Tort Claim Situations

This entry from Conglomerate caused me to see this article in Business Week on the power of apologies. This research is consistent with information suggesting that medical malpractice claims are best resolved by admitting errors, making a payment and moving forward, as described in a short NYT article covered by my prior post here. For a scholarly and persuasive article on the University of Michigan’s favorable experience with apologies for medical malpractice, go here.

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Why It Pays to Apologize What’s the best way for a company to disarm a disgruntled customer? A simple apology beats a cash rebate, according to a new study. Researchers at Britain’s Nottingham School of Economics worked with a large German wholesaler that sells goods on eBay (EBAY), tracking the lukewarm or negative comments posted on the site by the company’s customers over six months. They then responded to the 632 complaints–about defective salt shakers, say, or the late delivery of a leather belt. Half of the e-mailed responses offered a brief apology. Half offered instead a “goodwill gesture” of a small cash rebate (from $3 to $8). All the e-mails asked the customers to remove the comments they had posted online. For those offered the rebate, it was a condition of receiving the cash. The result? About 45% of customers who received an apology withdrew their so-so or negative ratings, compared with 21% of those offered money to do so. Johannes Abeler, a Nottingham research fellow and co-author of the study, says it’s worth noting that the e-mailed apologies were effective even though they were brief and impersonal–and asked for something in return. His explanation? Despite the suspicions people might harbor, “apologies trigger this biological instinct to forgive that is hard to overcome.” —Douglas MacMillan

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About Kirk

Since becoming a lawyer in 1983, Kirk’s over 30 years of practice have focused on advising a wide range of corporations, associations, and individuals (as both plaintiffs and defendants) on both tort and commercial law issues centered around “mass torts.”

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