Monday, September 13, 2010

Apology as a tool of revenge

The humanising of communication; the shift from one-to-many broadcast to many-to-many conversation, raises the opportunity for comms and customer service teams to perform damage limitation faster and with greater effect than ever before.
Research published in Dan Ariely's latest book The Upside of Irrationality reveals there is one very powerful tool in your armoury which is currently deployed far too rarely and warily: the apology.
Dan revealed a basic and very simple formula: one annoyance + one apology = no annoyance.
A basic and intransigent unwillingness to accept blame (for all kinds of legal 'brand' and ego-related reasons gets in the way of this. Yet, if deployed unfettered by these self-regulations, an apology can make the problem those rules are meant to defend against go away. (image courtesy tim ellis)
Social media has revealed the truth of this on many occasions. An apology served early and earnestly is a powerful thing in damage control.

But the multiple success of this strategy seems to have confused some.
They get that there is power in an apology but not that the power resides not in the utterance of the apology but in the allocation of blame.
They say things like 'we are sorry you are sorry' rather than 'we are sorry for doing the thing that has upset you'.
It may be (and I'd love to see Dan examine this) that an apology only serves the purpose of tool of revenge if someone is seen to be taking the bullet - accepting they were wrong.

In the moment of one side admitting guilt we get a kick of vindication which allows us to move on with a feeling - no matter how minor - of justice served/revenge taken.

And as Dan also points out - our desire for revenge is an essential (even useful) part of what we are.
If we don't feel justice is served we'll find other ways to take our revenge (which regularly means doing down the product/service provider to anyone who will listen).

My apologies if I made that a little long-winded... ;-)

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?