3 reasons why eliminating customer friction is not always intuitive

People remember, and pay for experiences. But, some businesses are delivering unhappiness, and they don’t know it. And they might not have an epiphany even if they go out of business. This is sad…

From a customer experience perspective, a business’ single focus should be to eliminate all the obstacles that will stand in the way of the customer achieving their desired outcome.

But, eliminating friction is not always intuitive. Why? Here are three reasons why:

  1. The “sell vs serve” mindset. Specifically, if a business trains and tells its staff to sell, then that is what they will do. They will see every human that walks into their establishment as nothing more than dollars and cents. Without a thought about the overall experience that is delivered. On the other hand, those businesses that have a serve-first mindset, and how they deliver value, think about that experience. These types of businesses seduce us with their service and experience, and we actually want to keep coming back.
  2. What one person dislikes is not the same for someone else. This is where trade-offs must be made, and it is where, I think, most stumble precisely because of that. Businesses want to streamline their operations, not personalize them.
  3. People have to be inspired to wow. This one goes hand-in-hand with the two points above, an unhappy team member can’t create an engaged customer.

Don Peppers wrote a solid post about friction and the customer experience, here is powerful excerpt:

But for your business, the inevitable existence of consumer friction represents opportunity. Every time you can reduce the friction in your customer’s experience, you are adding value, eliminating waste. So identifying and eliminating the kinds of friction your customer encounters can be very beneficial when it comes to gaining a competitive advantage and improving a customer’s loyalty and lifetime value.

Mr. Peppers hits the nail about removing friction/waste. Businesses must remember that people don’t think about whether a company is going to deliver a frictionless experience to them. And they shouldn’t. All they care about is getting whatever it is that they want done.

But most people, and businesses, don’t see things this way. For them, it is about what they want from the customer.

So, if you’ve come to a moment of clarity and want to change things around, how do you identify and eliminate friction?

Send your staff (along with you) on a delight/disgust excursion of competing and alternative offerings

I once did a little excursion with a restaurant with the intent of opening eyes, hearts and minds. I told the owner that he must spend a couple grand that would be given to his staff so that they go and dine at competing/alternative restaurants. I told him that these were going to be the best two grand that he would ever spend because his, and his staff’s, brains were going to be blown away.

The exercise is very simple, it revolves around a simple tool and anyone can do it (see this article for reference on tool):

  • Make a list of 10 places that in some way have blown your mind away. Include competitors who you think are great at what they do. How you decide about who goes where, it depends on the budget and size of your team.
  • Pick a date or dates where everyone can do. The quicker you can do this exercise, the better.
  • Make a budget of how much think you need to spend on those dates.
  • Buy a notebook you can carry with you on these excursions.
  • On your first page you will use, in the header, write the name of the place you are visiting.
  • Next, draw a vertical line in the middle of the page. On the left write “delighters” and on the right write “disgusters” (see image below).
  • Next, look out for stuff that you like and write it on the delighters column. For the things that you dislike, write them on the disgusters column.
  • Regarding time, don’t spend all day at one single establishment. Go as if it were any other day.
  • When you and your team are done going through your list, meetup back at HQ to go over the results.

Back at HQ, get everyone to write their respective notes, using the columns, on card boards so that everyone can see. If you have a big room, cluster and stick these card boards to the wall.

Now, this is the interesting part. If you’ve been smart and honest about your business, then you should have a good idea of your own delighters and disgusters. If you have suggestion boxes, or some way that you’ve asked your customers for their opinion, then you can mine for these insights.

Otherwise, you will have to figure them out before doing this exercise.

Anyway, the end result of this exercise is that you should have an intuitive view of what people like about your business and other competing/alternative businesses. Your list should have specific activities, that you observed, that either add or reduce value from the overall experience.

delight disgust tool

Key takeaway

We all have opinions of what we believe “sucks”. And as business owners, being lazy minded, we don’t dig deeper to find out what that means to customers. We can dig deeper if we want, but the above exercise doesn’t need to be a complex. By keeping it simple, we want to capture what we notice, not what we think should be there.

This is a HUGE step in improving your overall brand experience.

Additional notes: this specific exercise falls into the “incremental improvement” category of innovation. If you really want to get more interesting, then I recommend you take a higher level view and think about specific themes, such as customer experience, delivery, operations, etc, and think about companies outside your industry that you can study, and see how they do what they do. Going out and borrowing ideas from other domains is a very powerful innovation tactic that not many use.

If you want help figuring out how to find delighters/disgusters to improve or transform your customer experience, ping me 😉



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