By Mark Grainger
When we talk about a good customer experience (CX), some elements are practically a given. It has to be multi-channel. It has to be personalised. And it has to be frictionless. Friction, we’re told, frustrates customers – and frustrated customers don’t stick around.
But what if I told you that friction could actually improve your customer journey, increase confidence in your brand and drive loyalty?
In this blog, I’ll explore the good and the bad of friction – and how you can harness its power to increase customer retention.
What is friction?
Friction is any part of the customer journey that makes a customer stop, even for a split second. Conventional wisdom holds that the more friction there is, the more likely a customer is to drop off before completing their purchase. Even when customers manage to complete a journey full of friction, they’re unlikely to return (and will opt instead for more ‘seamless’ journeys with your competitors).
Friction should, therefore, be eliminated at all costs. Or should it?
It stands to reason that the more problems, pitfalls and sticking points there are in a customer journey, the less likely it is that someone will reach the end. But that’s not always the case.
Market research giant Forrester describes good friction as “extra time, steps, engagement or information in the short term that lead to a desirable outcome for the customer and/or company.” In other words, friction isn’t just a sticking point for a customer. It can simply be a moment of pause, which isn’t always a bad thing.
Good friction can be anything from asking someone to confirm their shipping address or stopping them at checkout to ask if they want to add extras to their basket. In these cases, friction is beneficial for both you and them. Sure, it takes an extra few seconds to confirm the address – but better a few seconds now than having to contact customer service later to amend an order (or chase down a misdirected delivery). Equally, upselling towards the end of a journey can increase average order value.
Friction can also add a valuable extra layer of trust and confidence into the journey, which can be the difference between a one-and-done customer and a lifelong one. Banks, for example, could reduce ‘friction’ in their mortgage application process by automating the whole thing with chatbots and AI-decision makers. But for the first-time buyer who might not understand everything, a little hand-holding can give reassurance they’ve completed the process correctly and confidence the lender cares about them. Indeed, financial customer journeys in particular can often benefit from added friction in the form of additional security checks, as these increase confidence in fraud prevention capabilities (and therefore trust).
Of course, there are times when friction does get in the way of CX. When a journey and the business functions behind it are disjointed, customers get passed from pillar to post – leading to more and more frustration.
Take, for example, the omni-channel experience that most brands try to offer these days. Businesses give customers a wide choice of channels to use, which is great in theory as it allows customers to engage with a brand whenever, wherever and however they want. But all too often, these channels don’t join up – and people end up having to repeat themselves and start over. This is frustrating and can put a customer off for life: 89% of consumers have moved to a competitor following a poor customer experience with a brand.
Ultimately, there’s a time and a place for friction
The goal of a seamless or frictionless customer journey is still a valid one. The CX should be as straightforward as possible, so you delight rather than alienate customers. After all, why would someone want to spend 10 minutes doing something that can be done in 2?
But friction, when introduced at the right moments for the right reasons, can serve as a valuable customer checkpoint. If customers understand the reason behind these moments of friction, and, crucially, if those reasons are in their best interest, you can boost confidence and loyalty in the long run.
At the end of the day, an extra security check or a pop-up at checkout isn’t going to drive your customer away. But a customer journey that’s disjointed and doesn’t put the customer first will.
Learn more about how automation can help you streamline the customer journey – in just the right ways. Take a look at Engage Hub’s on-demand webinar, featuring guest speakers from Avant Money and Forrester.
Download your free copy here.
About Engage Hub
Every customer is unique. Engage each one.
At Engage Hub, it’s our mission to make sure your business treats your customers as individuals to engage each and every one, so you win them over faster and keep them for longer.
With over 30 years in the business, our services have evolved alongside the needs of our clients, including some of the world’s most successful brands across the financial services, utilities, telecoms, retail and logistics sectors. We understand the challenges you face – from data silos to legacy systems – and have built intelligent, intuitive and effective solutions that work for you.
Our commitment to excellence has helped us build a reputation as the leading global provider of data-driven consumer engagement and customer retention solutions. At a time when brand loyalty is at an all-time low, our data orchestration technology delivers the kind of experiences your customers have now come to expect. So, you can always keep them engaged and happy.
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