Why You Hear More About Bad Customer Service Than Good

Lauren Krause
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Have you ever wondered why you hear so many more tales of bad customer service than stories of companies going the extra mile for their customers? The effect might not actually be due to customer service getting worse, but a psychological quirk that causes people to remember bad experiences much more than good ones.

An article published in the New York Times explains why bad experiences tend to stick in people's minds more than good ones. According to Clifford Nass, who is a professor of communication at Stanford University, everyone remembers negative experiences more strongly and in more detail than they remember positive ones. This even applies to people who have a generally positive outlook on the world.

According to Professor Nass, negative experiences and positive experiences are each handled in a different part of the brain. As a result, a bad experience typically triggers more thoughts and rumination than a good experience, which simply gives rise to a temporary feeling of happiness or well-being. This tendency to dwell on negative experiences is common to all kinds of people, and even some animals, according Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University. Baumeister has co-authored a review of psychological research into this phenomenon, which has shown that people generally form negative impressions much more quickly and easily than positive ones.

Customers who have a negative interaction with a business are much more likely to dwell on their experience than customers who were treated well. These disgruntled customers could be so affected that they are prepared to take the time to criticize the company in a negative review or tell their friends about the bad customer service they experienced.

The key takeaway for businesses is that delivering bad customer service, even to just a few customers, can have an unexpectedly severe effect on a business's reputation. If unhappy customers are much more likely to take the time to write reviews than happy ones, then examples of bad customer service become known to the world much more quickly.

Social media makes it even easier for unhappy customers to vent their frustrations in a highly visible way. Complaints about bad customer service are now posted online for all to see, putting pressure on the business to respond quickly and offer effective solutions to the issues that are raised. Businesses need to invest time and effort into handling complaints on their social media profiles in order to protect their reputations.

The tendency to dwell on negative experiences is common to almost everyone, but it doesn't have to drag businesses down. By focusing on improving customer service and handling complaints effectively, businesses can prevent bad customer service from trashing their reputations.


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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