Talk of seamless customer experiences is all the rage these days. From our research, we’ve seen that brand executives understand that customers want an easy, convenient experience that doesn’t ask too much of them. This makes complete sense. Customers are already handing over their money to brands when they purchase products and services. None of them want their experiences to be difficult and time-consuming, and when they are, customers are more likely to buy from someone else.
Enter Roger Dooley, marketing expert and author of the upcoming book Friction: The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage (McGraw Hill). Loyalty360 recently sat down with him to discuss his thoughts on the things that make customer experiences worse.
“I started off as an engineer,” Dooley said when we asked him how his book got underway. “I moved from there into nontechnical management roles. Finally, my corporate career seemed to be going well. I was in charge of strategic planning for a Fortune 1000 company at a pretty young age, just 29. It was a dream job, but I chose that moment to bail out and become an entrepreneur.”
He continued, “In the early days of home computers, I co-founded a direct marketing company. That company grew to a fairly substantial size. I was with that for about a dozen years or so. I transitioned from there into an IT outsourcing business, got into digital marketing and SEO, and along the way I cofounded a business called College Confidential. As I was working on that, I started a little side thing.”
This side thing, Dooley said, stemmed from what he saw as a convergence between neuroscience and marketing. “I registered the domain neurosciencemarketing.com. I started writing a few small posts there, and as I dug into it, I got more and more fascinated by the topic of using brain and behavioral science to market better. I was getting some traction, too. People were liking what I was writing and sharing. That ultimately led me, after five hundred or so blog posts, to write my book Brainfluence. It hasn’t been a crazy best seller, but it’s been a consistent seller, which is good. It continues to chug away at a modest pace.”
He continued, “As I started thinking about these subjects, I got involved in conversion optimization, mainly as a speaker sharing my behavioral and neuroscience insights at conversion conferences. I came up with a little framework I call The Persuasion Slide. It contains four elements, one of which is friction. On a playground, a kid will go down a slide, but he may not go all the way because the slide is rusty or poorly maintained. That’s friction. I realized this was the perfect analogy for what was happening in ecommerce, where you have literally trillions of dollars of merchandise abandoned in ecommerce shopping carts.”
He said, “If we get into why people abandon their shopping carts, the top reasons are, except for one or two, because of friction: a complex checkout process, a requirement that you have to set up an account, unexpected charges or processes at the very end. When you have to put in too much effort, you often just end leaving.”
He went on to cite another example, this one involving cable providers. “They too often penalize customers,” he said. “They lure customers in, and if customers don’t threaten to cancel, they charge them a higher price. This doesn’t make any sense. They should be giving their loyal customers the best possible deals. For example, you’ve been here for five years; we’re offering you a 10 percent discount. But that’s not the way they operate. Customers are forced to keep re-negotiating to get the best price. This process usually involves a lengthy phone call and interacting with multiple representatives.”
Dooley believes that this kind of friction is extremely common. It can be seen in all kinds of situations, from ordering pizza to buying an ebook to shopping for perfume online. “The more you start thinking about friction,” he said, “both internally and with your customers, the more you’ll keep seeing it. When I’ve spoken to groups at conferences, afterwards audience members are constantly exclaiming ‘Friction!’ for things like unnecessary difficulty when they’re standing in line. They begin to see friction in places they didn’t think of before.”
He offered a novel solution. “Developing a friction-aware culture is probably the most important thing,” he said. “For example, for decades nobody thought about friction in the taxi experience. Taxis were sometimes a pain, but that was the status quo and there was no changing it. Then Uber came along and showed them how frictionless an experience could be. If people inside businesses can adopt that same approach, both customers and team members will benefit.”
Clearly, companies face the problem of friction. With the advent of the internet and then mobile technologies, customers have come to expect more and more. If their experiences aren’t simple and seamless, they abandon brands very quickly. Given Dooley’s expertise, however, we believe that brands that tackle the friction challenge will see lots of success.