Customer expectation has never been this higher.
They might tolerate minor inconveniences when making an offline purchase — like waiting in line or dealing with an insufferable salesperson. But when they’re shopping online, they expect a completely frictionless experience.
And if you’re not providing it, you’re simply giving them an excuse to look for it elsewhere.
So, what does a frictionless customer experience look like?
As part of their inaugural CX IQ index, Actioniq surveyed hundreds of online consumers about what they expect from brands in terms of customer experience.
The results were illuminating, to say the least.
According to the study, about 54% of consumers were more concerned about their data security, while 48% thought it was about companies respecting their privacy.
42% thought good customer experience meant being knowledgeable about the products, and 40% said it was about making customer service simple and easy to use and access.
The following table sort of summarizes everything they found:
Seamless Customer Experience is All About Speed and Agility
Fast and flexible powers seamless customer experiences (CXs). From loading web pages quickly to providing quick answers to customer queries or enabling easy self-service, online consumers expect companies to deliver their services and support at the speed of thought.
From ActionIQ’s study, 36% of consumers pointed out that “Is available when I need them” is the most important aspect of a company’s customer service.
Another 35% said they prioritized “has a fast resolution of my problems or concerns,” while 33% said they wanted a company to “consistently meet their expectations.”
As you can see, speed and agility are non-negotiable in providing a frictionless customer experience.
You’re already falling behind by not providing a fast and flexible customer experience.
Why a Frictionless or Seamless Customer Experience?
Frictionless means smooth and effortless. A frictionless customer experience is free of any hindrances or obstacles — it’s easy and seamless from start to finish.
From what we know, friction stands in the way of a great customer experience. It prevents the customer from reaching their goal, whether it’s making a purchase, booking a hotel, or getting customer support.
Friction can come in many forms — from long wait times to unhelpful customer service to a difficult checkout process.
It can be anything that makes the customer’s journey more difficult than it needs to be.
Nothing is more frustrating to a customer than encountering friction, which is why companies must do everything possible to remove it.
You’ve probably experienced a moment when you felt like a company prioritized its own interests over yours.
Maybe you were on hold for customer service for what felt like forever, or you had to wade through a sea of options just to find the right product.
These are all examples of friction, and they’re enough to make a customer never want to do business with a company again.
Come to think about it, friction and sales are negatively correlated — the more friction there is, the less a customer is likely to make a purchase.
Similarly, when you eliminate friction, you not only stand to improve the customer experience but also increase the chances of making a sale.
The difference between a good customer experience and a bad one often comes down to how much friction the customer encounters.
Here’s a story you can relate to:
You visit a departmental store to buy a new phone. After browsing through the options, you finally settle on the perfect one. You go to the counter to make the purchase. You have money in hand, and all that is left for you to do is complete the transaction.
But then, instead of ringing up the purchase, the salesperson takes you through a long-winded process of signing up for their store credit card.
They’re not being pushy, but they’re not giving you the option to say no, either.
After what feels like forever, you finally manage to extricate yourself from the situation and complete your purchase — but not before you’ve wasted a good half hour of your time.
That is an example of friction in the customer experience. The salesperson didn’t make it easy for you to make a purchase. They wasted your time and, in the process, made you feel frustrated and annoyed.
- You: This salesperson isn’t listening to me. They don’t understand my needs.
- Friction: The Salesperson is trying to upsell me on a store credit card.
- The salesperson: I’m spinning wheels with this customer. I need to close this sale.
In this example, it’s easy to see how the salesperson’s goals are not aligned with the customer’s. The salesperson is more interested in upselling the customer on a store credit card than they are in providing a frictionless customer experience.
There Are 7 Different Primary Categories of Friction
As we’ve seen, friction can come in many forms. To help you identify and eliminate friction in your customer’s journey, we’ve categorized it into seven primary categories:
#1. Duration: This type of friction is about time — specifically, how long it takes the customer to complete a task.
Why is the customer on hold for so long? Why does it take so long to book a hotel room? Why does the checkout process take so long?
To a customer, all this translates to a waste of time. And it’s what we consider friction.
#2. Identity: This type of friction concerns the customer’s identity. For some reason, customers expect you to know who they are.
When you don’t, it creates friction.
For example, customers might get frustrated if they have to create an account every time they purchase something on your website.
How many pieces of information must a customer provide before you validate their identity? The fewer, the better.
#3. Memory: This friction is about the customer’s memory. If a customer has to remember something to complete a task, that’s friction.
For example, if a customer has to remember a password to log in to your website, that’s friction.
When you transfer them between departments, why can’t the new agent access their previous conversation? If the customer has to explain themselves repeatedly, that’s friction.
If the customer calls back for an issue they already resolved, that’s friction.
#4. Consistency: How consistent is your customer experience?
Does the customer get a different experience every time they interact with you? Do your representatives give a different answer every time the customer asks the same question?
Customers expect a consistent experience, regardless of how they interact with you. And when they don’t get it, it creates friction.
For example, when a customer inquires about a product online and then calls to ask about the same product, they expect to receive the same information.
If the representative tells them something different, that’s friction.
#5. Visibility: This type of friction has to do with the customer’s ability to see what’s going on.
Are they able to see the status of their purchase? Are they able to see the progress of their service request?
Can they see how much longer they have to stay on hold?
The more visibility the customer has, the less friction they’ll experience.
The customer must see where they’re in the purchase process. They must see if their issue is resolved, their package has been shipped, or their refund is processed.
If they can’t see it, it’s friction.
#6. Empowerment: This friction affects the customer’s ability to complete a task.
Are they able to do what they need to do? Or do they have to wait for someone else to do it for them?
For example, a customer might be trying to cancel their subscription on your website. But instead of being able to do it themselves, they have to call customer service.
Another example would be if a customer tries to check their account balance but can’t log in because they forgot their password.
To fix it, they have to call customer service. And then they have to wait on hold. And then they have to talk to someone who might be unable to help them.
That’s a lot of friction.
The idea is to give the customer the power to do things themselves. The more they can operate independently, the less friction they’ll experience.
Why should a customer have to contact you?
Can’t you proactively reach out to them?
For example, if a customer abandons their shopping cart, why can’t you send them an email?
If a customer’s subscription is about to expire, why can’t you send them a text message?
If a customer’s account is inactive, why can’t you give them a call?
The idea is to be proactive. Don’t wait for the customer to reach out to you. Reach out to them first.
Even better, anticipate their needs and take action before they even have to ask.
For example, when a customer buys a product, why can’t you send them an email with instructions on how to use it?
Or why can’t you send them a text message when their package is about to be delivered?
#8. Choice: This friction affects customers’ ability to choose how they want to interact with you.
Do they have to use the phone? Or can they use live chat?
Can they email you? Or do they have to go through a contact form?
The more choice the customer has, the less friction they’ll experience.
For example, if a customer is trying to contact you, but they can’t find your phone number, that’s friction.
Friction doesn’t only affect consumers. Even on the company’s side, employees also want to experience less friction. After all, they’re the ones interacting with customers day in and day out.
Nicholson identified seven main types of friction that employees experience:
#1. Manual Sign-on: This type of friction has to do with the number of steps an employee must go through to sign into their account.
For example, if an employee has to enter their username and password and then a code is sent to their phone, that’s a lot of friction.
And worse, they have to do it every time they want to sign in, with every software they use.
The idea is to automate and consolidate the sign-on process. For example, you can use a single sign-on solution like Okta.
With Okta, the employee only has to sign in once. And then they’re automatically signed into all the software they use.
#2. Siloed Applications: This friction concerns the number of software or apps employees have to use.
For example, if an employee uses one software for their email, another for their CRM, and another for their project management, that’s a lot of friction.
Pega conducted a study on this and found that the average employee has to switch between apps a thousand times a day.
The idea is to use consolidated software. For example, you can use Salesforce. It has everything an employee needs: email, CRM, and project management.
#3. Manual Data Entry: Some companies still use antiquated data entry systems, like paper files and spreadsheets.
They have to enter data into these systems manually. And when something changes, they have to update them manually.
AI and robots (commonly known as RPA) can automate these processes. So the data is automatically entered into the system and then updated when something changes.
They can help you eliminate repetitive tasks and free up your employees’ time so they can focus on more critical tasks.
#4. Enterprise Amnesia: A customer support agent shouldn’t have to ask the customer the same question another company representative has already asked.
For example, if a customer calls to cancel their subscription, the agent should already know why they’re cancelling.
The idea is to have a centralized database where all the customer’s information is stored.
The agent must have everything they need to know about the customer’s previous interaction with the company right before them.
That way, they can provide a better customer experience because they don’t have to start from scratch every time.
The system should provide the agent with the customer’s history, so they can pick up where the last agent left off.
Disempowerment occurs when an employee has to pass customers off to another department.
For example, if a customer calls to cancel their subscription, and the agent has to transfer them to billing, that’s disempowerment.
The idea is to have a system where the agent can take care of everything.
The agent should be able to cancel subscriptions, process refunds, and even send the customer a follow-up email.
#6. Failed Self-service: Self-service is when the customer tries to solve their own problem without contacting customer support.
For example, if a customer has a question about how to use the product, they can go to the FAQ section of the website.
They only contact customer support after they’ve tried self-service and failed.
The idea is to have a system where the customer can easily find the answer to their question.
The FAQ section should be easy to navigate, and the answer should be easy to find.
#7. Manual Wrap-up: Manual wrap-up is when the customer has to wait for the agent to finish their paperwork.
For example, if the agent has to put the customer on hold to fill out a form, that’s a manual wrap-up.
The idea is to have a system where the agent can fill out the form while on the phone with the customer.
The agent should be able to do everything they need to do without putting the customer on hold.
How Do You Identify Customer Friction?
There are a few ways to identify customer friction:
- Customer Surveys: Customer surveys are a great way to identify customer pain points.
You can include questions about customer friction in your surveys.
- Call Recordings: Call recordings can also help you identify customer friction.
You can listen to the recordings and look for instances where the customer is frustrated.
- Customer Feedback: Customer feedback is another excellent way to identify customer friction.
You can ask your customers directly about their experience with your company.
- Net Promoter Score: The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measure of customer satisfaction.
You can use the NPS to identify customer friction.
- Customer Churn: Customer churn is another way to identify customer friction.
If you’re losing many customers, it’s a sign there’s something wrong with your customer experience.
- Pretend to be a customer: Pretending to be a customer is a great way to identify customer friction.
You can go through the customer experience and look for areas where you’re frustrated.
- Mystery Shopping: Mystery shopping is another way to identify customer friction.
You can hire a mystery shopper to go through the customer experience journey and give you feedback.
- Analyse Competition: Analysing your competition is a great way to identify customer friction.
Look at their customer experience and see where they’re doing better than you.
- How do they sell their products?
- How do they handle customer service?
- How do they onboard new customers?
By understanding your competition, you can identify the areas to improve.
How to Create a Frictionless Customer Experience
If it were easy, everybody would do it. Creating a frictionless customer experience is hard work but worth every minute and every dollar.
It’s a strategic process that requires a deep understanding of your customers, their journey, business as a whole, and how all the pieces fit together.
Our MediaOne team find it helpful to use a customer experience map when thinking about how to create a frictionless customer experience.
We begin by interviewing all the elements of the business, from customer service to marketing to product development.
Then we develop personas for our typical buyer journeys and map out the touchpoints.
Once we have a good understanding of the customer experience, we look for areas of friction and brainstorm ways to eliminate them.
Here are some of the steps we take to create a frictionless customer experience:
Step 1: Discovery: The first step is discovery. We need to understand the customer, their journey, and the business.
This step requires interviews, research, and data analysis.
Step 2: Customer Journey Mapping: The next step is to map the customer journey. We need to understand how the customer interacts with the company.
- What are their pain points?
- What are their friction points?
Identify all the steps, and potential journeys, and map them out.
Step 3: Develop Personas: The next step is to develop personas. We need to understand who the customer is, what they want, and how they think.
Step 4: Alignment: The next step is to align the company. We must ensure that all the departments are aligned with the customer journey.
Your tech stack must align with the company’s objectives.
Marketing campaigns must align with the customer journey. And so should your product development roadmap and sales process.
Step 5: Identify Your Contact Touchpoint: Spend time reviewing all the potential touchpoints and ensuring they align with the customer journey.
Wear your customer’s minds, and think about how they would interact with your business.
Customers may find your business through a Google search, social media, word of mouth, or various other channels.
A touchpoint is any interaction between the customer and the company.
Here are some examples of touchpoints:
- Live chat function
- Call centres and customer service agents
- Email Assistance/contact page
- Free product demo
- Client testimonials
- Marketing emails
- Blog posts and articles on your website, LinkedIn, or Medium
- Social media posts
- Product packaging
- In-store experience
- Sign up button/newsletter subscription
- Your comment sections
We suggest you make a long list of all potential touchpoints and note how the customer would interact with each one.
Aim to engage, support, and convert customers at every touchpoint.
Step 6: Understand Your Touchpoints: The next step is to understand your touchpoints. We need to understand how the customer interacts with the company.
How do they experience each touchpoint?
What are their thoughts and feelings?
- Identify the purpose of each touchpoint. Does it lead to somewhere helpful? Is it redundant? If so, you want to get rid of it. For example, if you have a live chat on your website, but it doesn’t lead to anything helpful, get rid of it.
- What’s the average time the customer has to wait in a queue? How long does it take to resolve the issue? How long does it take to get a response for a live chat, call centre, or live chat?
- Is there personalization throughout the customer journey? If not, you’re missing out on an opportunity to connect with the customer.
- How many steps are there in the customer journey? The goal is to make it as frictionless as possible. If there are too many steps, the customer will get frustrated and may not complete the journey.
- What’s the customer’s motivation for going through the journey? Is it to purchase a product, sign up for a service, or something else?
- How proactive are you in solving the customer’s problem? Are you reactive or proactive?
- Are you using the right tools to support the customer? For example, if you’re using a live chat, are you using it to its full potential?
- If you have a brick-and-mortar store, how clean is it? Is it inviting? Does it smell good? Does the system you’ve created ensure the customer has a good experience and spends minimal time in the store?
Step 7: Optimize Your Touchpoints
Now that you understand your touchpoints, it’s time to optimize them.
One great way to reduce customer frustration and friction is to offer a self-service option.
That could be in the form of a knowledge base, FAQs, or a tutorial video.
Another way is to offer more ways that they can contact you.
That could be in the form of a live chat, call centre, or email support.
And finally, make sure that you’re using the right channels.
Be where your customer is.
If they’re on social media, make sure you’re active on social media.
If they’re searching for you on Google, make sure you’re ranking high on Google.