July 21, 2023

Why we remember bad customer service easier than good

Our brains have a funny quirk; they prioritise the negative over the positive. This is, known as the negativity bias and is an evolutionary trick

Imagine this: you run a local coffee shop. Every morning, Mary, a regular, walks in, orders a caramel latte, and leaves with a smile. One day, her latte is slightly bitter – just one bad day in a sea of good ones. Despite your track record, that one misstep becomes a vivid memory for Mary. Why? Enter the negativity bias.

What is the Negativity Bias?

Our brains have a funny quirk; they prioritise the negative over the positive. This is, known as the negativity bias and is an evolutionary trick, shaped over thousands of years. You see, in prehistoric times, remembering the bad – like where that sabertooth hung out – was far more crucial for survival than recalling the good – like where those berries grew.
While our threats have evolved from sabertooths to bitter lattes, our brains have yet to entirely catch up. We still pay more attention to the bad than the good. Hence, a negative customer service experience sticks around in our memory banks longer, influencing our future decisions and even those around us.

The 5:1 Impact Ratio: One Bitter Latte Too Many
Social psychology research tells us that it takes approximately five positive events to offset a single negative event. Let’s apply this 5:1 impact ratio to our coffee shop scenario. One bitter latte, and Mary might need five more perfect lattes to wash away the bitter memory. Now, that’s a lot of pressure on your barista!

Why Consistency in Customer Service is Crucial
The implications of this are clear for any business owner. Each negative customer experience can potentially undo the effects of five positive interactions. It’s a sobering reminder that consistently delivering stellar customer service is paramount.
Let’s be clear; perfection isn’t humanly possible, and we all have our off days. But, we can strive for consistency. Consistent, high-quality service makes those rare blunders easier to forgive and forget. Try and get 10 great experiences in the bank!

Tackling the Negativity Bias: A Few Nuggets of Wisdom
So, how can we beat this inherent negativity bias? Here’s some food for thought:
Understand your customers: Know what they want, what they value, and what their expectations are. This will help you tailor your services to meet their needs.
Communication is key: Always keep your communication lines open. If an error occurs, acknowledge it, apologise, and fix it promptly.
Collect feedback: Regularly gather customer feedback and act on it. This shows your customers that you value their opinions and are continuously working to improve.
Train your team: Invest in customer service training for your team. Equip them with the skills to handle customer complaints and issues effectively.

In conclusion, while we may not be able to change our inherent negativity bias, we can adapt our customer service strategies to manage it. A consistent, high-quality customer service experience is the key to combatting this bias. So, next time Mary walks into your coffee shop, ensure she leaves with a great-tasting latte and a smile, painting a positive picture that lingers in her memory long after the coffee is gone.
Remember, our goal isn’t just to do good occasionally; it’s to do good consistently. Because in the world of business, consistently good service is the magic trick that keeps customers like Mary coming back for more.

Fancy giving your team some training on customer service? Book me to give a talk to get them all on board and motivated. Learn more here