Do you really catch more flies with honey? The surprising analysis.

There is an old saying; “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” According to it’s meaning is that “You can win people to your side more easily by gentle persuasion and flattery than by hostile confrontation.” In other words, if the sentiment of your message is positive you tend to have more positive results than if your message is negative. That is the idea, anyway.

As I was looking at our aggregate data for the month of May, I wondered if this old saying applied to our service tickets. Since what we do at ServicePulse is monitor for customer sentiment, I asked the question “does positive sentiment impact the quality of service a client receives?” In analyzing over 50,000 tickets for the month of May, I was surprised by the results. Read more after the jump if you’re curious.

The data

Sentiment% of ticketsResolution TimeResponse Time
Negative12.71%469 mins.35 mins.
Neutral79.17%574 mins.42 mins.
Positive8.12%668 mins.63 mins.
May 2020 Aggregate Analysis. Times are averages.


Observation 1: Negative customer tickets are responded to in 44% less time than positive tickets on average.

Observation 2: Negative customer tickets are resolved in 30% less time than positive tickets on average.

It was surprising to me to see such a large disparity in how we respond and resolve tickets based on the sentiment of the tickets. But after thinking about it, I suppose it’s human nature. We respond more quickly to the issues where customers are upset because we want to make them happy. We wouldn’t want our customer satisfaction scores to suffer, right?

But I wonder if we’re creating an environment where we’re encouraging our customers to be upset to get a better response. I’m not sure if this is a conscious decision but it seems like we’re using negative reinforcement subconsciously by responding/resolving tickets faster for negative interactions.

Based on the data, can we really say that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar? Or are we really working more under the other old saying, “squeaky wheel gets the grease”?

What we do at ServicePulse

We help you understand how your customers feel based on the contents of the tickets they submit. No surveys, no dashboards, no configuration. Just a simple daily report on closed tickets and how your customers feel.

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