• Stephanie Thum, CCXP

Customer Apologies, Language, and Sludge: 3 New Scholarly Articles for Your CX Reading List



Podcasts, blogs, reports, and books are great for staying sharp on the fundamentals and trends in customer experience management (CX).


On the same token, peer-reviewed, scholarly research on CX topics can really pack a punch when you’re solidifying the business case for more CX funding.


Literature on CX topics continues to grow. Journal articles rarely use the words “customer experience” in their titles; however, it is apparent when you read just a little that their findings apply to the field.


Here are a few scholarly articles that turned my head recently. See if you think they might be worth putting into your reading cue.


How Concrete Language Shapes Customer Satisfaction


Source: Journal of Consumer Research, February 2021


Language goes a long way in shaping customers’ experiences with your company. For example, think about the last time you went shoe shopping in a department store. You may have asked a store employee if they carried a shoe you liked in purple, in a size 9. According to this study, there’s a difference in how customers perceive their experience if the clerk says, “I’ll go look,” versus, “Let me go check the stock room for this shoe in a purple, size 9.” Through field data, controlled experiments, and text analysis, this study found that customers prefer concrete language. Specificity leads to a more positive view of the clerk, and eventually, to increased downstream purchases and overall satisfaction. (Free.)

Timing of Apology After Service Failure: The Moderating Role of Future Interaction Expectation on Customer Satisfaction


Source: Marketing Letters, 2020.


An experiment showed that customer apologies don’t necessarily have to be immediate to be effective. Context matters. Effectiveness depends on the customer’s expectations. In some instances, customer satisfaction is higher when employees listen and then apologize. In other instances, customer satisfaction is heightened when employees apologize preemptively. (Free).


The Unequal Distribution of Administrative Burden: A Framework and Illustrative Case Study for Understanding the Variation in People’s Experience of Burden


Source: Social Policy & Administration, July 2020


This article is an excellent primer for understanding the equity factor in customer experience brought on by the concept of sludge—the harmful rules and administrative red tape that can obliterate customers’ experiences. This study used quantitative and qualitative analysis to uncover some of the ways poverty, vulnerability, and other factors influence Argentinians’ experiences against the backdrop of sludgy administrative processes that are sometimes architected by people who know full well the barriers they’re putting in place that make customers stay away. (Free.)


Let's compare notes! Feel free to comment with some of the most helpful scholarly resources you have created, contributed to, or found helpful in your work. Meanwhile, check out Google Scholar to find more from the scholarly world that touches the field and practice of customer experience.

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