Decrease friction for a better Customer Experience

January 24, 2014

We often think of friction as something mechanical, when one part moves roughly over another. Friction can also be between people, when a conflict erupts over a clash of opinions. In business, there are also barriers that can cause friction that can prevent a customer from completing a task—whether it’s a long wait on a phone call or a complicated purchase process. Removing resistance and conflict from your customer touch points can greatly enhance a positive experience.

Let’s look at a typical task, such as ordering a product online, to see how you can eliminate some common friction points.

1. **Don’t be that infamous needle in the haystack** At the most basic level, a customer has to find your site. Do you have a memorable, easy-to-type URL? Are you featured prominently on search engines? Do you take advantage of referrals via social media? Is it mobile or tablet ready? The transaction doesn’t start if the user can’t find your site. Be visible. Make sure the user can see it on the device they choose.
2. **Want, need, find…all in a heartbeat** Customers have to find the product they want. Does your information architecture organize products in recognizable groups? Does the design quickly lead users to what they need? Is your search fast? Do you offer enough product data to help users make a decision? Customers need to find what they are looking for and feel comfortable with buying it. This sounds obvious. Yet, many companies build sites through an internal lens and don’t properly test how customers actually use it. Customers may view your offerings very differently than you do. Continuous customer testing is the key.
3. **You're on their clock!** A customer doesn't want to waste his or her time. Does the design help direct users to what they need? How fast does your site load? How many clicks does it take to complete a task? Are some of those clicks pointless? It may be hard to believe, but increasing speed by one second can have a measurable effect on your site traffic. Amazon claims that a page load slowdown of just one second can cost them as much as $US1.6 billion dollars a year. Google claims that search results slowed down by 4/10ths of one second can cost them eight million searches per day. Always look to improve your site’s performance.
4. **Easy in, easy out** How much information do you require at checkout? Do you have an actionable design? Are there needless steps such as making them duplicate the same shipping and billing information? Do you ask for information that you’ll use for future marketing and not necessary to complete the current transaction? Studies show that the more form fields, the greater the risk the user will not do it. Companies often see sales as opportunities to gather information that will generate leads for future sales. But the reality is, they may be trading a current sale in hopes of future purchases. Think carefully about the data exchange you require and ask yourself if it’s an equitable exchange for the customer.

Removing any one of these friction points can have the immediate effect of improving your conversion rate. More importantly, you will also be enhancing the overall customer experience, increasing consumer happiness and building brand loyalty. As you map your customer’s journeys, start looking for opportunities to move towards a smooth, friction-free experience. Do you have an example of friction you've experienced? Leave a comment and tell me your experience.

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