The Destruction of Goodwill

Negativity bias has a long history of research within social psychology. Negativity bias refers to the tendency of many people to assign greater importance to negative information than positive information. Considerable research has revealed that negative adjectives and descriptions contribute more to people’s overall impressions of others than positive adjectives and descriptions. It is important to realize that, in order for bias to be present in the perceiver, the negative information must be believed to lead to better judgments. In other words, if the negative information is, in fact, more informative than positive information, it is not a bias. With this definition in mind, I will apply social psychological theory to David’s and my recent experiences with our “favorite” topic of late, our roofing contractor. On the day I am writing this post, we are on Day 6 of our sojourn in the world of having our house re-roofed. We have “been there and done that” in the past, with another house, but we are currently living in the midst of great turmoil. We have written prior posts about the happy roofers who are doing the hard work on our behalf, as well as the requirement of the roofing company to collect all of our payment prior to doing any significant work. This post is about numerous failures to communicate and the instantaneous effect they have on destroying the goodwill that had been present before the communication breakdowns began to occur. I am not going to refer to the roofing company by name as it is not my intent to besmirch its reputation. But, I will point out the irony in its tag line, appearing in bold, red type at the bottom of all the company’s emails, that says, “To prevent any miscommunication or lack of communication, we’re asking you to please, at all times, to email and/or call us to assist with any issues or concerns.” Ha! Despite numerous emails between the dispatcher and me pertaining to 24 hours notice being required prior to any roof work being done and despite in person, verbal promises that work will begin on such and such a date, we have been surprised on 3 days to hear foot steps on the roof, loud banging over our heads, and the noxious smell of tar emanating from our air conditioner. David and I exclaim, “We didn’t know the roofers would arrive today at 7:30 p.m.”; or “The supervisor told me they would resume work the day after tomorrow, so why are they here bright and early today?” or “What happened to the 24 hours notice the dispatcher promised?”. Magnus, too, has had some failures to communicate, one of which resulted in losing a long time, valuable client. Word of advice: Negative information can, and will, cancel the goodwill one, or one’s company, has built with a client or customer.

Goodwill can be fleeting.  I am thinking about some other recent interactions and encounters where it has disappeared quickly.  A fast food restaurant which forgets to include the dipping sauces, or hands out sub standard (for them) food comes to mind.  Another restaurant which has great Vietnamese food but frequently gets the take out order wrong.  And, our home warranty company that refuses to send a different technician than the one who didn’t do his job.  These incidents are just from the last few days! The impression a business makes has to be good from start to finish.  In some instances, the business may have good will “chits” based on prior experiences – we sure try to earn those.  But, when, 2 days ago for example, we tried a new restaurant, they got Melissa’s entrée wrong, and mine was marginal in quality.  The nice website, restaurant decor, and friendly staff aren’t enough to leave enough goodwill to us, as first time customers, to give them another chance.  Fickle?  Maybe.  But, with so many options out there, why bother when such things occur? I know it is impossible to be perfect, but when things of this sort go wrong, things that with just a little care and effort would not happen, one has to wonder what would happen if they had a more difficult job to do.  

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