Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

Friction Kills the Customer Experience

Chalk Board FrictionFrictionless Business

Merriam-Webster’s defines the word friction three ways; the act of rubbing one thing against another; the force that causes a moving object to slow down when it is touching another object; and the disagreement or tension between people or groups of people. If you tie the concept of friction to the concept of customer service, none of these definitions are good.

Looking at it from another angle, the opposite of friction is agreement, peace and harmony. Most of us would agree that we would like a customer experience without friction, one that is easy. Yes, that’s the word; easy. When it comes to business, especially customer service, the antithesis of an experience with friction is one that is easy.

Customers hate friction in business. Unfortunately, it happens to us quite often, sometimes multiple times throughout the day. It’s when we are put on hold, transferred to someone else or when we have to repeat our complaint or problem to numerous customer service reps.  It’s being stuck in a long checkout line and dealing with traffic in a crowded parking lot. It’s when we expect an item to be delivered on a certain day, and it doesn’t arrive. It’s the sales rep that is late for a meeting. The long wait at the doctor’s office, even though we were on time for our appointment. It’s the Cable TV guy that never shows up. It’s anything that makes doing business with someone anything other than easy.

So, what’s easy?’s one click purchasing is easy. PayPal is easy. The automobile dealership that picks up my car for service instead of me having to bring it in is easy. Uber, the transportation company that’s giving the traditional taxi industry a run for its money, is “uber-easy.” Once you have an account with Uber you don’t even have to take money out of your pocket to pay the driver – not even a tip. And now, Apple introduced the iPhone 6 that includes Apple Pay, which effectively turns your mobile phone into a credit card. Sometimes you can substitute the word easy for convenient, like a bank that has extended hours so people who work during the day can do their banking on their way home or on Saturday. These are examples of easy, frictionless, ways to do business.

So, where are the friction points in your business? Or put another way, where do you find you are rubbing up against your customer, slowing down progress, or even having a complaint or disagreement?  What customers want is the opposite. They want a customer service experience that is easy, which means no hassle, no problems and no friction!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright ©MMXIV, Shep Hyken)

  1. Shep,

    This couldn’t possibly resonate any more with me than it already does! At ConsumerAffairs, we often speak about the perils of friction – especially when it comes to getting feedback from happy customers. It it’s too hard to leave a review, a happy customer or satisfied customer typically won’t jump through the hoops to do so. The time after the purchase is probably one of the most neglected and high-friction areas for many businesses. Brands definitely need to focus on a low friction experience from start to finish…and then beyond!

    Have a great week,

    Danica Jones
    ConsumerAffairs for Brands

    • Danica, you are exactly on point. Perhaps “low friction” training should be a part of the onboarding process of every employee – as well as ongoing reminders. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

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