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What Causes Friction

In the past few months leading up to my new book, The Convenience Revolution, I’ve focused on ways to be more convenient for your customers. I’ve shared six Convenience Principles and numerous examples and case studies. The goal is to eliminate friction. What I haven’t done is talked to you about what causes friction.

Here’s a question: What is it that you don’t like about some of the companies and organizations you do business with? As an example, there is always a company that makes me go through their entire advertising pitch before anyone picks up the phone. I’ve practically memorized it. It’s frustrating that I am forced to listen to that recording every time I call. That’s friction.

Here are TEN WAYS companies (and employees) create friction. These are the “convenience infractions” that potentially drive away customers.

  1. Bad policies: I hate when someone does something that seems like a waste of time, and then blames it on a policy or gives me a negative response to a question and says, “It’s company policy.”
  2. Duplicate paperwork: I’m always amazed at the amount of duplicate paperwork that is filled out. I recently talked to an executive of a bank, and he mentioned it was a big problem.
  3. Cumbersome technology: Hard-to-navigate websites drive away customers.
  4. Broken anything: If something is broken, the moment you find out about it, start fixing it. I’m surprised at what isn’t fixed in a reasonable period of time.
  5. Making customers wait: Sometimes a wait is inevitable. However, if you make a customer wait, let them know how long. Then don’t be late!
  6. Inconsistent information: When a customer gets two or more different answers to the same question, what pain do you cause their brain? Confusion is friction.
  7. Poorly trained employees: It can tie into inconsistent information, but it’s more than that. Employees that demonstrate a lack of knowledge or competency frustrates customers. Frustration is friction.
  8. Not being able to talk to a person: This is also frustrating. Some companies make it hard to get to a person. If a customer is on a website and needs help, there should always be a human fallback.
  9. A bad customer experience design: The concept of CX design is a hot topic. Companies are assigning executive titles to the person in charge of “design.” This isn’t designing labels and packaging. This is designing the total end-to-end experience the customer has with your company. This is the person in charge of eliminating friction!
  10. Anything that wastes a customer’s time: This is more than putting a customer on a long hold. When it comes to business, the opposite of friction is easy, as in convenient. Much of convenience is not just being easy, but also saving the customer time. Anything that doesn’t save the customer time, or wastes their valuable time, is friction.

This isn’t meant to be a rant. It’s simply a list of some of the ways companies frustrate their customers and cause friction. And, it’s a partial list. There are other ways companies cause friction for their customers – and even their employees. Now it’s time to ask yourself the tough question: Am I guilty of any of these convenience infractions?

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote 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 © MMXVIII, Shep Hyken)

  1. Pauline Ashenden says:

    The ironic thing is that often when companies cause friction for customers, they also cause friction/expense for themselves. For example, if agents can’t answer your question first time, it adds to costs – while annoying customers. It is a lose-lose! There’s more on making it easy for customers and reducing friction in this Eptica blog post

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