Finding Friction

You likely are reading this while waiting for something. Waiting in a line. Waiting for a doctor. Waiting on perpetual hold. Waiting for your luck to change.

That half-filled shopping cart you saw at the checkout line the last time you were at the grocery store was abandoned by someone whose tolerance for waiting ran out. That lonely cart means that someone took their precious time back by leaving – with their money.

Friction drives the design and deployment of service innovations.

When the wait for a service or a thing starts to feel longer than you deem reasonable, and that this-is-now-a-pain-in-the-ass feeling creeps up on you – that, my friend, is service friction. To consumers, time now has a value greater than money.

Friction is anything that gets in the way of your customer getting what they want at the moment. There are many forms of service friction; waiting is just the most common.

Here are four sources of service friction that you must overcome:

  • Friction by Bad Design: a poor user experience design can create a physical or virtual space, process or technology that results in customer frustration
  • Friction by Complexity: a product and/or service that requires a lengthy explanation to understand
  • Friction by Integration: the “seams” a customer feels as they are slowed by the way processes, technologies and physical spaces intersect
  • Friction by Indifference: a company culture that doesn’t care about what customers experience is contagious, and not in a good way

Amazon gets the angst that ultimately ends with an abandoned shopping cart. That’s why they created the “one click” purchase. Their recent acquisition of Whole Foods will drive all sorts of innovations into the retail customer service experience.

Once they innovate, their competitors will be forced to meet or exceed those soon-to-be new standards too. Expect to be able to “one click” your way right out of Whole Foods very soon.

You may not have the R and D budget of Amazon (or an R and D budget at all), but you can, and must remove as much friction as possible from your customer experience to stay competitive in today’s business environment.

How to Eliminate Friction From Your Customer’s Experience

Assess where you are you setting up friction zones for your customers. The gap between the current customer friction points and the desired experience can be eliminated through service innovation.

Three ways to eliminate friction:

  1. Know your customer and their experience very well. Experience your offering not as you do, but as a first-time potential customer would. See what they see, feel what they feel. Watch, observe and ask questions.
  2. Use Design Thinking to find solutions that improve the customer experience.
    Design Thinking is a solution-focused, problem-solving methodology that uses a staged process. By using a designer’s mind, with a bias towards action, you can build a better customer experience.
  3. Develop a service innovation mindset.
    Consider the learning you acquire from your customers, apply design thinking methods, and encourage your mind to fixate on new ways to deliver value.

Stay relevant and competitive by relentlessly finding the friction in your product(s) or service(s) and always be working towards eliminating it.

Hire those who are similar minded and this continuous type of elimination will perpetuate a culture where each and every customer’s experience matters.

Your customers will notice, and ultimately reward you with their business.

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