What Is More Important to Your Customers: Morals or Competence?

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In the age of digital, the masses are taking their opinions and experiences to the internet. The good, the bad, and the ugly experiences are shared on review websites and as Facebook posts so that others can learn from their experience. So, what do people care about more from your brand: morals or competence? Or is it a combination of both?

Studies have been done that argue for both sides. A study conducted by members of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business published on AMA shows that competence is more important than morals. The study explains: “First, we find that online reviews of service providers overwhelmingly focus on competence and less so on either morality or warmth, suggesting that competence concerns dominate morality when choosing service providers. Our lab studies reinforce this finding; a competent, less moral service provider was preferred to a moral, less competent provider.” The study goes on to show that 88% of the positive online reviews examined mentioned competency (reliable, knowledgeable, etc.), whereas 56% of the positive online reviews mentioned moral attributes.

Members of Chicago Booth Review state that morals are more important than competency. Postdoctoral researcher Justin F. Landy states that “morality predicts the nature of another person’s goals, whereas competence and sociability both predict the likelihood that a person will accomplish their goals.” The thought behind their statement and research is that companies should put more of an emphasis on morality as opposed to competency.

Perhaps it’s a balancing act between the two traits. Being a competent team member shouldn’t automatically mean your moral compass is broken. If your company is receiving reviews that say your team is great (competent but no morals, or all morals but not competent) then it may be time to address internal issues and move forward. Clearing this up will help bring customers back again in the future but also bring in new customers.

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