While conventional wisdom might say being rude to customers is bad for business, new research suggests otherwise.
Being discourteous to customers can actually pay off for luxury brands. When a consumer is treated badly by a rude salesclerk, in a high-end boutique for example, the consumer's desire for brand affiliation and willingness to purchase and display the item the shopper was interested in buying actually increases, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
"Our research highlights the fact that we are profoundly attuned to social threats and are driven to buy, wear, and use products from the very people who are disrespectful to us," the study's authors wrote.
In a series of four studies conducted in retail environments, the authors examined the circumstances in which consumers increase their regard and willingness to pay after brand rejection. They found that customers are more responsive to rejection from salespeople who represent luxury brands than from salespeople who represent brands that are both more affordable and accessible to most consumers.
The researchers also found that study participants were more willing to make a purchase when they related the brand to their ideal self-concept.
In one experiment, participants experienced an actual rejection from a luxury-brand salesperson. The study's authors observed that the act of affirming a person's self-concept prior to rejection helped lessen the impact of being rejected. The researchers said this shows that it's people's uncertainty in how they view themselves relative to a brand that leaves them vulnerable to the threat of rejection.
The researchers believe luxury brands can use this information to improve the customer experience.
"Our findings also shed some light on a potential explanation for why an increasing percentage of aspirational products are purchased online rather than in intimidating retail stores designed to display these products," the study's authors wrote. "While many consumers may purchase online for convenience, shopping online also may enable them to avoid threatening encounters with intimidating salespeople."
Morgan Ward, an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University and Darren Dahl, a professor from the University of British Columbia, authored the research.
Originally published on Business News Daily