WOW Word-Of-the-Week #372: Reciprocation

September 25, 2011 by  

Reciprocation – the act of doing something in return.

When someone does a favor or goes out of their way for you do you feel the need to reciprocate? Do you go out of you way to take care of your customers, guests, clients or members? Have you ever been given a free sample and found it difficult to walk away without buying the product?

This is the follow up to last week’s WOW from the book “INFLUENCE: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdina, Ph.D. These next six WOW’s will hopefully help you influence your customers, guests, clients or members to increase sales and repeat business, as well as, how to not be swayed by someone trying to sell you something you may not want.

“The power of reciprocity can be found in merchandising. As a marketing technique, the free sample has a long and effective history. The beauty of the free sample, however, is that it is also a gift. This can cause one to feel the natural indebting force inherent in a gift while innocently appearing to have only the intention to inform.  Many people will buy the product even if they didn’t like it that well.”

“The ability of uninvited gifts to produce feelings of obligation is recognized by a variety of organizations.  How many times have you received small gifts in the mail – personalized address labels, greeting cards, key rings – from charities asking for donations? They make it clear they are a gift and any money you wish to send should not be regarded as a payment but rather as a return offering. There is a strong cultural pressure to reciprocate a gift, even an unwanted one; but there is no such pressure to purchase an unwanted commercial product.”

“Research shows that there is a genuine distaste for persons who violate the reciprocity rule by accepting without attempting to return the good acts of others. The other end of the spectrum is when you feel almost forced to reciprocate. The reality of internal discomfort and the possibility of external shame can produce a heavy psychological cost. Women frequently comment on the  uncomfortable sense of obligation they can feel to return the favors of a man who has given them an expensive gift or paid for a costly evening out. Even something as small as the price of a drink can produce a feeling of debt.”

This week’s focus is on reciprocation. Both how you are affected and swayed by others, as well as, how you sway your customers, guests, clients or members. Would you agree that receiving a gift makes you feel indebted? Do you give out “free samples?” Do you ever give items to make up for a problem? Does receiving something free from a business make you feel compelled to reciprocate and come back and spend more money?

Reader Responses

“Here are a couple of my thoughts to add to Reciprocity: Personal/Social gift giving – the greatest gratitude is to use the gift in front of the giver. Whether it be clothing, house wares, object of art. Your acceptance of the gift and happiness that it brings returns the gift of power, that the giver is able to invoke a positive experience for someone else, gives them a positive experience.  Gift giving is selfish in that way, as it should be. When it is hard to be nice to yourself directly, do it by way of a friend! And if you are the friend- be real enough to make the thank you a nice experience for them. (Use the item-at least once!) Commercial gift giving – very good information about the motive behind commercial gift giving. In business, it is easy to combine the two, social and commercial gift giving- when giving someone a gift- let them know if it doesn’t work for them, ask them to give it to a friend that they think it would work for. You get a more targeted audience, and someone feels good for promoting your business! (by giving a friend a gift!) As always, customer service has to be a priority.  And in the case of referrals, a double priority because you are effectively serving 2 customers, even though there is only 1 in front of you. Thanks.” – Kim

“One good turn deserves another. I admit there may be a little guilt in accepting something for free and not taking the next step and buying something at the retailer. But as I have grown older my attitude has changed to the point where I believe that no one is forcing this company or that company to give something away. I think most of us are willing to take what is given to us, especially if it is free. We have been conditioned so long to believe that there is no free lunch, that whenever someone wants to give us something we gladly take it. When in the past I have received stickers, stamps and cards from charitable organizations, many times I will simply throw them away because they used a forced guilt incentive to give. I don’t appreciate that. If you want a donation, don’t use guilt. That is not the way to appeal to my better angels. Now, I admit that I am a soft touch for charities because I believe in karma. If someone uses a genuine approach and the organization seems legitimate, then I will give what I can. But don’t use guilt or the hard sell on me, because I will politely walk away. As for business enterprises, I don’t feel the obligation to come back and buy just because I received a free item. Thanks for the word, Susan. Have a great week. Fall is here! And we have had some beautiful weather lately. Take care.” – “Warrior” Joe