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We’re always looking for things to add in order to improve our customer experience. But sometimes, it's not as much about what we add as it is about what we eliminate.
And one of the most important things to eliminate is customer friction.
What is customer friction?
Essentially, any part of your experience that causes customers to slow down as they move through your marketing or sales funnel, or completely exit the funnel would count as customer friction.
It could include complicated processes that increase customer effort or even something that reduces their trust in your organization.
And the biggest problem about customer friction?
It increases cart abandonment, dramatically!
So, how do you identify and deal with it?
How to identify customer friction?
The best way to identify customer friction is to listen to your customers themselves. You may think you’re doing a pretty great job, but if your customers say there’s friction, guess what, there’s friction!
You need to understand the experience from the customers’ point of view. Hop into their shoes, understand what your processes feel like to them and find out where you’re lacking. Make a note of all the parts that annoy you and focus on smoothening them out.
You can identify parts of your websites with high amounts of customer friction by simply leveraging Google Analytics the right way.
All you need to do is look at the pages with a high exit rate.
This will show you what the deal-breakers are. It will let you know which pages have a high enough amount of friction to make visitors leave them completely.
How to reduce customer friction?
It’s not impossible, but it's a continuous process. It’s not a one-and-done thing. You always need to keep your eyes open, hunt for friction points, and work towards getting rid of them.
It all boils down to reducing the amount of effort that customers need to make in order to do business with you - all the way from making it easier for them to find the right product to simplifying your checkout process.
You need to focus on finding as many ways as possible to make it easier for them to work with you.
Here are a few:
Get rid of it. Sure, it sounds commonplace to you and your colleagues, but if it's something your customers aren’t familiar with, you’d want to avoid it. If they’ve reached out to you for support, they already have one issue that they’re trying to deal with. You don’t want to make them spend more energy trying to figure out what you’re trying to tell them.
Speak to them in terms that they’d understand. Don’t overcomplicate things, that’d make for really poor customer service. You’d want to try explaining things to them in layman's terms as far as possible.
Don’t make processes too rigid. If your employees have to get clearance for every little thing, you’re losing time...and customers.
Netflix has a great philosophy when it comes to empowering employees: Do what’s in the best interest of the company.
Here's my spin on this rule: Do what’s in the best interest of the company and the customers.
It's a simple rule. What it says to your employees is, ‘Hey, we trust you. We believe in you. You’ve got this.’
Here’s a fantastic example of this philosophy in action:
When CX expert Dan Gingiss was working in marketing for The Danbury Mint, he got a call from a lady who was rather frustrated that it was the 23rd of December and the Christmas gift she bought her grandson had not yet been delivered.
Even though he wasn’t even in the customer service department at the time, he took the effort to rush to the warehouse, pack the product and send it via Overnight Express.
He took ownership and made sure that he created a great experience for the customer.
Sure, Dan could have simply transferred her to the customer service department, made her repeat herself and stretch the process out. But he didn’t. And the company was better off because of his actions.
Now, imagine if you empowered more of your employees to take action instead of seeking clearance for everything.
It’s very annoying when a customer finds the product they’re looking for, but has a few questions about whether it's the right one for them.
If this information is not overtly available, you’ll find them abandoning their purchase more often than not.
In fact, 53% of today’s consumers do tend to give up on online purchases if they don’t get immediate answers to those questions (according to Forrester).
You’ve got two options, either display the information directly on the website or deploy a web chat system that can provide answers without a delay (Forrester agrees that web chat creates a low friction experience).
Making decisions drains our energy. In fact, geniuses like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and even Albert Einstein have been noted for wearing one kind of outfit practically all the time.
There’s a reason behind Jobs wearing the same black turtlenecks, Zuckerberg wearing those gray t-shirts, and Einstein always being in his gray suits.
They all knew that they had a finite amount of mental capacity to make decisions every day. So, they eliminated some of the less important decisions.
Similarly, you can make life much easier for your customers. Rather than making them choose from a variety of your products, you could consider offering a subscription service. You could curate your offerings for them. You could even employ artificial intelligence to crunch data and deliver recommendations.
If your website is completely different from all the other websites in your category, that might not necessarily be a good thing.
This can be explained via the Mere Exposure Effect. When people are exposed to a certain kind of stimulus multiple times, their preference for it tends to increase.
So, if your website is very different from other websites that your customers engage with, they might not necessarily like it.
Cognitive fluency also plays a role here. You’ve probably noticed that your brain goes on autopilot in a few situations. After doing something a sufficient amount of times, we get mental shortcuts hardwired into us.
If you’re used to driving a stick shift, you can drive without thinking too much about gears, you instinctively know where the gears are.
But, if someone flips the order in a car and puts the fourth gear where the first one was supposed to be, you’d be in a mess. If you’re like most people, you’d probably avoid driving that car.
It's the same concept when it comes to your website. Because of cognitive fluency, people are attuned to using websites in a particular way. They intuitively know which buttons they should expect on specific parts of the page.
And if your website is too different, it’s bound to feel like a car with its gears in a randomized arrangement.
Does that mean that you should have a cookie-cutter website with no originality? No.
But it does mean that you should follow some rules of prototypicality and put things where your customers intuitively expect them to be.
Summing it up
You need to proactively look for ways to reduce customer friction. Get feedback, look into the data and identify the customer friction points in your customer journey that annoy you when you go through it.
Realize that creating a frictionless customer experience is a process that never ends. And that means that there’s always scope for you to grow. There’s always scope for you to make your customers’ lives much easier than your competitors do.