From small-town auto shops to digital startups to global conglomerates, lowering friction makes it easier for customers to spend their money. In the end, this means speedier sales, fewer complaints and more repeat business.
Today’s empowered consumer despises friction
What do we mean by “friction?”
Before we explore “zero friction,” we need to explore the concept of friction. After all, how can you know if your business is frictionless if you don’t have a clear understanding of friction itself?
By “friction,” we mean mean anything that slows the customer journey at any phase. Anything that causes your customer to hesitate is friction. Anything that creates a wait in the transaction is friction. Anything that takes your customer’s time is friction.
And as you’ll discover, friction can come in many forms.
In person, customer friction can include waiting in line at the checkout counter or waiting for someone to help at the service desk. It can even be dealing with a crowded parking lot or a store that is packed with other customers – things that on the surface can seem like a good problem for brick-and-mortar retailers. From limited business hours to waits at the doctor’s office, there are thousands of potential sources for in-person customer friction.
One of the top examples of customer friction is when a caller is put on hold. This is especially harmful to your sales process if you are dealing with someone who is not yet a customer. Being placed on hold, transferred from department to department or forced to repeat complaints or questions are all examples of customer friction at its worst.
While the internet is generally seen as a way to reduce customer friction, when organized improperly it can be a major source of frustration. Confusing, uninformative websites are a perfect example, but overly-long landing pages, disconnected marketing messages and slow loading times can all cause friction that drives customers away.
How does friction destroy business?
When customers experience friction, they go somewhere else. If they are constantly put on hold, if they can’t get basic information from your site, if they have to deal with uninformed sales representatives, they will find another place to spend their money.
But as business owners, we need to know just how badly customer friction can impact sales and revenue. After all, if high friction only results in a few lost sales a year, is eliminating it really worth the time and energy?
As you’ll see, high friction can result in more than just a small loss.
According to a survey from Dimensional Research, which was funded by Zendesk, customer experience was the No. 1 factor to determine trust in a vendor. Among businesses who serve consumers, 52 percent of customers stopped buying after a bad service interaction and 42 percent purchased more after a positive experience. If your customers are other businesses, the numbers are even more impactful. Sixty-six percent of businesses stop buying after a poor interaction, while 62 percent purchased more if interactions were positive.
What, in the mind of a customer, constitutes a bad experience? According to the data, 72 percent blame a bad customer experience on having to explain the problem multiple times. This should provide clear direction for one specific area of improvement.
How can businesses create zero friction?
We know, both through common sense and hard data, that a positive customer experience, one with zero friction, is crucial to the success of your company. But how can you go about actually creating a zero-friction environment?
The first step is to identify areas of friction that currently exist in your business. Take a look at your sales process from the very beginning (which is likely marketing and advertising) to the very end (which, if all goes well, should be customer repurchasing).
Identify any areas of friction that might come from your marketing efforts. This could very well be a disconnect between the supplied information and the actual services or products you offer. Make sure customers are supplied with the knowledge they need to make the right decision for their needs, and be sure your website and landing pages reflect your business properly.
Now take a look at the sales funnel of your company. How does a customer go from informed to interested to purchasing? Are there multiple forms they need to complete? Do they have to contact numerous representatives for basic information on your products? The more steps you can eliminate for the customer, the more you reduce friction.
Payment processing can be a point of friction for numerous shoppers, including both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) customers. Be sure that your payment options are not a point of friction, and if needed, implement convenient, efficient ways for a customer’s dollar to become your dollar. Options, depending on your needs, can include Apple Pay, PayPal or even cryptocurrency.
A dedicated staff may be the No. 1 resource for reaching zero friction. Explain to your staff the concept of zero friction and its importance to the business. You can even share some of the figures we discussed above. Demonstrate that by reaching zero friction, they are helping to create a stronger business. A staff dedicated to zero friction is not only important for landing a sale, it’s possibly the most important aspect for maintaining a strong foundation of loyal customers.
Frictionless is not the future, it’s the present
Don’t be fooled, the concept of zero-friction service is not an upcoming trend. It’s a real movement that is living in the present. People are demanding zero friction from the businesses they use, and the companies that are excelling today are the ones that have eliminated barriers and made life easier for their customers.
Glancing one more time at the Dimensional Research article, you’ll see that 54 percent of Generation X (born roughly 1960 to 1982) will avoid high-friction vendors for as much as two years. These are not the up-and-coming millennials, but people who are in the earning – and spending – prime of their lives.
Clearly, the time to eliminate friction is now.