Sarah Ford | January 23, 2015

Does corporate social responsibility reduce negative reviews for bad service?

When a company’s service falls short of expectations, consumers can react harshly, spreading negative comments or changing companies. But a new study in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing shows that consumers practice surprising forgiveness when the underserving company also happens to be donating to a favorite charity.

“When firms support good causes, they accrue moral capital and a reservoir of goodwill,” write authors Jeff Joireman (Washington State University), Dustin Smith (Webster University), Richie Liu (Washington State University) and Jonathan Arthurs (Oregon State University). “This leads consumers to resist negative information regarding a firm.”

Study participants were made to wait an unusually long time for a coffee order, after which they were delivered the wrong coffee. Many of the customers were angry, expressed regret over choosing this coffee shop, made negative comments to others about this business, and did not feel they would return in the future. Some participants, however, had been told that this coffee shop engaged in vigorous support of environmental projects. Customers who believed strongly in environmental causes were less angry, expressed guilt at the thought of harming the coffee shop, and felt they might return in the future despite the poor service.

The level of forgiveness was even more dramatic among…

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