MSU Study: Thanking Customers Can Help a Business’ Bottom Line


Businesses that thank customers for participating in surveys and providing feedback are likely to be rewarded with a boost to the company’s bottom line for such niceties, says a new study from Michigan State University.

According to the report, which focused on an upscale sit-down restaurant and was recently published through the Marketing Science Institute, satisfied customers who received an acknowledgement of their comments from the company president increased patronage to the business by more than 50 percent.

The “thank you” was just as effective, and less expensive, as acknowledgements that included rewards in the form of gift cards and guaranteed reservations, says Clay Voorhees, MSU associate professor of marketing and lead author of the study.

“Sweetening the pot with rewards really didn’t matter,” Voorhees says. “These findings suggest that simple, sincere gestures are enough to drive feelings of gratitude among consumers.”

Voorhees and his fellow researchers tracked patrons’ attitudes and behaviors for a year after they gave the eatery high marks. Within a week of completing the online satisfaction survey, the company president sent customers a thank-you email. During the next 12 months, the number of repeat visits increased 50 percent for men and 57 percent for women.

“In the restaurant industry, where 5 percent is a big deal, 50 percent blew our minds,” Voorhees says.

In addition, the average size of the customers’ party increased by 79 percent for women and 42 percent for men.

That said, the study also found that sending an immediate automated response after customers completed the survey did not provide any value to the firm.

“Delaying the acknowledgement is critical to ensure it comes across as being more personal and sincere,” Voorhees says.