“You’re not in the business of selling things, you’re in the business of helping people buy things. The best way to help people buy the things you sell is by reducing customer friction points along the way.” – Kathi Kruse
When people interact at close quarters, and on a consistent basis, friction is very likely. However, friction is the worst foe of customer experiences and can lead to some serious problems between the company and its customers. It makes sense therefore, for a company to put in measures for reducing customer friction in all interactions, such that the experiences customers have with a company are always pleasant and memorable. Hostility and conflicts can be extremely frustrating for customers, and demoralizing for the service employees, and if left unchecked can actually put an end to business growth from lack of customers. Studies show that at least 51% of customers ignore vendors after having poor interactions and receiving shoddy service from them. It would be essential and prudent therefore to device plans to help in reducing customer friction in all interactions, thereby reducing the number of hindrances in ‘customer journeys’.
We have mentioned previously that for a company to build better customer experiences, it would be prudent to rely on direct feedback from customers. They are the best persons to show a company its strengths and shortcomings, and even suggest ways to enhance and improve. However, if the feedback process is rife with problems and potential for conflict, the very purpose of gaining customer insights would be defeated, and customers would refuse to expend effort and time in providing constructive feedback. It would therefore be sensible for a company to take action for reducing customer friction in the feedback process, in order to get the maximum benefit from customer insights.
The feedback process is one among the many areas that companies need to focus on and aim at reducing customer friction. In order to smooth the path of feedback, a company must make efforts to gather feedback using the same media / channels that customers would seem more comfortable using. A company must make adequate preparation before launching any new method of gaining feedback – starting with the basic steps of the process to identifying possible places of customer friction, and put in steps to resolve them. It would make sense to solicit the help of a few trusted customers in the ‘test stages’ of the process, such that they could provide their honest opinion. Based on these inputs, the process could then be further strengthened and any possible obstacles, removed.
We have said in the past that most often customers have emotional reasons for their buying behaviour. Hence, in order to reduce customer friction, it would be essential for a company to understand those emotions by monitoring and measuring customer behaviour. A deeper understanding would lead a company to enhance the quality of customer experiences, which in turn would reduce customer friction with the company. Research shows, repeatedly so, that at least 78% customers leave transactions midway or do not make an intended purchase if they receive poor experiences and service from a company. This is an extremely huge percentage of business, which no company can afford to lose. Poor customer service is enough cause for customer friction, and such friction in turn elevates levels of distrust and dissatisfaction for a company. For customers even simple things such as long and complicated forms, tough to navigate sites, hard to locate action buttons, and other such things, amount to poor customer service. The fact is that there are several such subtle reasons for customer friction along the path of the customer’s journey with the company, and only companies that make the time to understand their customers would be successful in providing the kind of service that customers expect and deserve. Among the top ways to reduce customer friction is for a company to consistently study customer behaviour, view all interactions from their perspective, and constantly endeavour to delight its customers.
Another aspect that often becomes a reason for customer friction is the improper handling of customer data. Data about customers is crucial to help a company understand its customers a lot better, but this data must be collected, stored, and utilized with care. Many companies have faced ugly litigious situations owing to data leaks or misuse of customer information. Using secure CRM systems will enable a company to use customer data to increase business, provide better service, top class products, and consistently good experiences, without compromising on the safety and privacy of their customers. A company must stay cautious and not become data driven, since this leads to lowered empathy and personalization – two traits that every customer seeks in companies today. The inability to empathize with customers means that a company would be unable to relate to customers, which in turn would lead customers away from the company. One of the best ways then to reduce customer friction would be for a company to enhance its ability to relate to customers and understand their needs, and reasons that would keep them as customers.
If a company were unable to minimize customer friction, it would begin to lose customers, which would mean a loss of sales and profits, and over time closure. Reducing customer friction is all about providing support, care, and expertise throughout the ‘customer’s journey’ with the company, making the relationship effortless and smooth sailing for the customers. If customers ‘struggle’ during any interactions with a company, they would rarely blame their own lack of knowledge or other reasons for the conflict. Instead, they would see the ‘tough interaction’ as a cause for friction, and would turn to a company that made it easier for them. Customer friction keeps customers from further engaging with a brand, possibly spreading negative word of mouth, and reflects poorly on a company and its ability to serve customers. If there were customer friction, it would mean that a company could be ‘guilty’ of poor customer service and apathy towards its customers, and most definitely towards its employees too.
Customer friction would affect a company’s entire business, since it is due to customers that a company runs, and losing customers would mean that a company ceases to be successful, which in turn could lead employees, investors, and other ‘partners’ to leave it. It is therefore imperative for a company to identify the various points that could lead to customer friction, or would have been the cause of such friction in the past. The fact is customers hate conflicts and obstacles while conducting business, however, the truth is that when people interact, some amount of friction would be a given. It is the onus of companies to however, keep such reasons and ‘occasions’ to the bare minimum, and proactively find ways to keep customers happy. Any points or reasons that would drive customers away must be tackled and done away with immediately.
We all are human and desire ease, trust, likeability, and convenience. This must therefore be the focus of companies for all their customers – finding new ways to offer customers these attributes. Proactively give customers reasons to stay, buy, and propagate your company and its offerings. Customer friction prevents customers from making emotional connections and forming robust bonds with a company. In the absence of such connections, it is a lot easier for competitors to ‘steal’ customers away. How good is your company at keeping customer friction at bay?