Every business has to deal with rude customers. And good business people keep their cool even in the face of dreadful rudeness and downright abusive behaviour. Stooping to the level of the rude customer doesn’t win you any business. Besides, do you really want rude customers in your store or at your meetings?
Generally we find it easier to deal with the extremely rude individual because we can attribute their poor behaviour to them. However, subtle rudeness is more difficult for us to cope with because it implies some kind of error on our part.
Online, it appears that there is a growth in extreme rudeness. People find it easier – thanks to relative anonymity – to be very rude. You can see it every day in negative reviews, for instance, or comments on blogs. In one study the amount of online rudeness doubled from one year to the next. It appears that the lack of feedback from individuals facing us reduces our impulse control mechanisms, making negative emotions come to the surface.
For businesses this can translate into negative comments and reviews. However, new research suggests that the tone of voice of those reviews can have a substantial impact. It turns out that even if those reviews are negative, if they include words of politeness they can actually end up being positive.
For example, imagine your product gets the negative review saying “This is just complete rubbish – too expensive and it doesn’t work”. That is clearly off-putting to future potential buyers. But what if that review says “I don’t want to be mean, but I think this is too expensive and doesn’t work. Frankly it is rubbish.” That says the same thing, but using much more polite language.
The researchers at the University of Chicago found that when reviews included terms of politeness, future customers were prepared to pay more for items, not less. In other words, politeness in your customers helps you increase your revenues.
So how can you encourage polite reviews? The answer is simple: be polite yourself. Politeness breeds politeness. That means when people comment on or review things you need to be polite – thank them and use words associated with being polite. This will lead others to be polite too; we find it very difficult to be rude when those around us are being polite, thanks to social pressure. It also starts to build a relationship – diminishing the perceived anonymity online, thereby lessening the impact of reduced impulse control.
The more you are polite on your website, the more people will be polite back and the higher the prices you can charge. Politeness and profits go hand in hand it seems.