SDL Research

I often have to remind myself that I am in a privileged position in my chosen profession. I am privileged because a multitude of organisations welcome me in to their inner sanctum to help them in their quest to become more customer centric. This enables me to continue my path on a never ending journey of insight and learning. As people we never stop learning and being able to see, feel and touch Customer Experience in its many stages of evolution is an amazing honour.

I am also remarkably fortunate to be given the opportunity to see new, fascinating insight into the world of Customer Experience ‘hot off the press’. Research and insight is such a critical component of any approach to improving the Customer Experience – the more industry wide and global research that is made available to Customer Experience professionals, the better able we are to influence the required change in the organisations we work with and for.

I am therefore delighted to have been given the opportunity to share the findings of a new global study conducted by SDL. The research examines how, why and when customer experience (CX) failures happen, the implications for brands and how they can win back a customer should a failure occur. Based on a survey of 2,784 consumers across nine countries and three generations about their most major CX failure in the last 10 years, the findings show that it doesn’t take much for a failure to take place. In fact, 24 percent of “horrible” failures required less than an hour’s time and less than the cost of lunch to navigate – and in the U.S., this jumps to 32 percent.

So please brace yourselves for some very powerful facts and figures:

1. The power of memories – the research demonstrates that the EMOTIONAL component that is a part of all experiences is incredibly powerful. Whilst consumers can easily recall a failed experience, they find it less easy to remember a positive one. Conclusion – get it wrong and it will stick in a customers mind for a long time…


2. It’s tough in the world of technology – there is no getting away from the digital revolution. The ever increasing demands and expectations of consumers combined with the amazing innovative advancement of tech manufacturing giants has turned the business world on it’s head. What SDL’s research proves is that although thechnology may have improved, the worst Customer Experiences seem to be delivered by organisations who are responsible for providing us access to it. This does make sense – for example, the more reliant we become on our wifi connection, the more irritated we become when our wifi provider fails to give it to us!! Conclusion – organisations in the technology space must focus on improving the end to end customer experience…


3. Understanding the end to end customer journey is critical – Customer Experience professionals all around the world obsess with helping businesses understand the importance of the ‘end to end’ customer journey. SDL’s research clarifies why this is so vital. Whilst the post purchase stage of the journey is the biggest difference between a CX failure or a success, the biggest ‘difference maker’ for creating fantastic Customer Experiences is in the shopping/purchase phase. Conclusion – you MUST have an understanding of the experience across the full end to end customer journey…


4. Success and failure – its all about people! There is no doubting that business processes are a key cause of failure in the experiences we have as customers. However, the overwhelming insight from SDL’s research is the effect your people can and will have on the success and/or failure of Customer Experience. Conclusion – although advancing technology is critical, DO NOT forget to keep investing in your people’s ability to deliver great Customer Experiences…


5. Winning back a customer IS NOT EASY! SDL’s research is brutal when it comes to consumers explaining the reality of a failed Customer Experience. Only 1 in 5 will consider doing business with you again and 4 in 5 will NEVER come back! If they do return, they will not forget what you did to them – 59% will have less loyalty towards you. Conclusion – do not underestimate the reality and potential cost to your business of failed customer experiences…


6. What customers SAY will win them back and what ACTUALLY wins them back is not necessarily the same. 30% of customers actually want their negative experience to help the brand improve the experience for others- only 8% said this actually happened. Many organisations are very quick to offer compensation – SDL’s research shows that whilst 19% of returning customers stated they wanted compensation for future purchases, only 9% said that this worked. At the end of the day, customers want an apology, an admission of failure and at least some money back on the purchase where failure occurred. Conclusion – when it goes wrong, be open, honest and compensate where appropriate IMMEDIATELY…


7. Is there really a benefit to being Customer Centric? SDL’s research identified that of the people you fail, you can expect to lose 65% of the revenue they contributed the year after you fail. WOW!! Conclusion – can you afford NOT to become more Customer Centric?


8. What do consumers actually DO when they have a negative Customer Experience? 64% of consumers stop recommending the brand, leave or go negative. 12% become actively negative, encouraging others to stop using the brand. Baby boomers are more likely to disparage by word of mouth. Consumers in the UK are the most likely to discredit you online! Conclusion – negative Customer Experiences create detractors who WILL harm your brand…


9. There are huge benefits to getting the Customer Experience RIGHT! 98% of consumers are likely to do something POSITIVE after having a positive Customer Experience – that is almost all of them!!! Conclusion – getting it right can turn customers into fans of your brand…


10. The top 3 takeaways for driving CX success from SDL’s research:

  • Minimise the biggest areas of failure (long wait/response times; poorly trained front line staff; lack of empowered staff; inaccurate/conflicting information available to customers)
  • Partner with your customers on resolution – when a failure does happen, your customers are not ready to throw in the towel. Partner with them and push to a resolution
  • Leverage technology to optimise for CX success – while humans get more of the blame for failures, technology gets more of the credit for successes. Ensure that your technology and people strategies are working well together to deliver the best experiences


A huge thank you to SDL for allowing me to share the results of their research. For more information on the research study, please visit their website and their blog.

About SDL
SDL (LSE: SDL) is the leader in global customer experience. With a completely integrated cloud solution for content management, analytics, language and documentation, SDL solves the complexity of managing your brand’s digital footprint as it grows across multiple languages, cultures, websites, devices and channels. Seventy-nine of the top 100 global companies trust SDL to help them create authentic, in-context customer experiences that drive demand and loyalty. SDL brings your brand to the world, and the world to your brand. Learn more at Follow SDL on Facebook and Twitter.