“Our goal is to make it so there's as little friction as possible to having a social experience.”
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook
Facebook set out to make using social media easy for everybody (including your parents!) by limiting points of friction. It’s been rewarded with billions of engaged users and the advertising revenue that goes with it.
Reducing or eliminating friction from your business can have drastic effects including:
- Higher lead-to-customer conversion rate
- Increased retention and renewal rates
- Enhanced productivity in the workplace
Reducing friction sounds great, doesn’t it? Of course it does, but first you have to find the points of friction in your own business, and it can be trickier than you think.
In this blog post we’ll demonstrate common examples of friction in the workplace, from new business acquisition to internal processes.
How to reduce points of friction in your business
1. Business development and customer onboarding
If you’re looking to reduce friction it’s always a good idea to start with your onboarding process.
Well, ironing out your onboarding process is the quickest way to increase revenue and all the business benefits that come along with that.
Sales professionals have an extremely difficult job. With the amount of choices consumers and businesses have today, sales teams have the difficult task of breaking down defenses, explaining unique selling propositions, and overcoming objections to the sale. And while there are many ways to optimize the sales process, one immediate way to reduce friction is by automating (high frequency) administrative bits within the sales process.
Customer onboarding is a great place to start.
With the technology available today, there’s absolutely no reason that there should be any hiccups during the onboarding process.
A “yes” from a new customer should automatically trigger (at minimum!) the following actions:
- Electronic signatures delivered instantly to finalize the deal
- Customer-facing email or web onboarding process
- Update CRM and accounts receivable records
- Notify and transfer new customer to the appropriate support team
Again, these are just a few examples and will vary depending on your business. The point is that all these actions should (and can!) happen in minutes with very little manual effort. The majority are easily automated with the right software.
2. Consumer-facing marketing
Speaking of new customers, help your sales team out with warm leads by reducing friction points in your marketing efforts.
We’re all bombarded with marketing messages every day, and we’re all making judgments on the companies that issue the material. Are you being whacked over the head daily with sales messages on Facebook from a company whose website you glanced at once? Not exactly the optimal experience for a prospect.
Instead of pushing sales messages the majority of the time, modern marketers aim to provide marketing “so useful, you’d pay for it.”
Shortening the path to conversion or increasing the quality of leads that convert is the goal.
Areas of friction in digital marketing, which generally comes down to “conversion rate optimization” include:
- Website design and user experience
- Landing page length
- Brand voice and trust signals
- Commitment to testing and optimization
Each one of these variables can be tested and optimized. Improve your customer's path to purchase by testing your messaging, making sure every landing page has a clear (and relevant!) CTA, and using testimonials or reviews to build trust.
Bottom line: Don’t wait for the customer onboarding process to reduce friction—use your marketing to grease the chute for your leads.
3. Employee engagement
Touchy subject, we know, but also a huge source of friction for your business. So huge, in fact, that Gallup estimates a that the U.S. has in lost productivity every year due to disengaged employees—one of the primary symptoms of dysfunction. Ouch!
Dysfunction in the workplace is common, but there’s a big difference between the occasional missing yogurt and company-wide chaos and discontent. A decrease in employee engagement can indicate some type of friction, whether its administrative-based (improper use of tools or procedures) or relationship-based (a communication breakdown somewhere that's causing frustration).
Here are a couple of areas of friction to look out for at your company:
- Employees operating outside of standard operating procedure to move their projects along
- Employees using ‘Shadow IT’ and workarounds that put the entire system at risk
- Employees not using a new tool based on lack of proper knowledge and onboarding
Digging into these issues can illuminate opportunities to smooth out your internal processes, and increase employee engagement as a result.
4. Lack of written process
Quick story: The B-17 bomber was a technological marvel; the most advanced aircraft of its time. It was so complex, however, that on a test flight before mass production, one of the most experienced pilots (and crew) died in a crash. It was considered too complex to fly, until somebody created a written checklist for takeoff, in-flight operation, and landing, and posted it in the cabin. With that checklist in hand, the B-17 went on to become a major strategic advantage to the United States during WWII.
The point is, written checklists can help us succeed during complex tasks by making the process completely foolproof with clear instructions. This works for military strategies all the way down to the way we work in the office.
Look at an example of the friction created by an employee who doesn’t know what to do:
- Can’t figure out how to complete task, searches online to no avail
- Calls manager, who is at lunch, leaves a message for help
- Work stoppage, so he begins a different task
- Manager returns frustrated and harshly explains the proper process
- Employee forgets how to complete the task next time, starting this process over again
Is this scenario exaggerated? You tell us! We’ve seen it happen plenty of times. Whether it's a customer onboarding checklist or an employee onboarding checklist, written checklists for at your company can eliminate this point of friction.
5. IT and infrastructure
As we mentioned earlier, there’s no excuse for letting technology get in the way of productivity. Tools should enhance your work, not hinder it! Any time your tech stack causes friction is an immediate call-to-action to find out what’s causing the problem—tech, training, or user error.
For example, many companies have a storage limit for email. Account managers can use up a ton of storage with their email chains, which are essential to them for documenting approvals, etc.
If account managers are spending 30 min per week deleting emails to stay under the email storage quota—that’s 2 hours per month, 24 hours per year. How much do account managers get paid? An extra terabyte of email storage is about $100 and could last an account manager the rest of her life. You do the math.
When you break down known areas of friction in financial terms, the case to reduce friction through technology becomes a no brainer.
6. Customer service and account maintenance
Have you ever taken a follow-up survey from a company you subscribe to? Perhaps you were in a good mood or they offered an incentive, but either way, you’re clicking through their questions which include (to your dismay) a bunch of personal info they should already have. Depending on how many there are, it can be enough to make you not want to finish the survey...
A half-filled out survey isn’t ideal, but it’s not the end of the world. Extrapolate that same unnecessary friction to a new business deal and you could have some real issues with your bottom line!
Customer support calls are a part of life, but turning that into a dreaded experience by adding friction is a surefire way to send your customers looking for solutions elsewhere. Some friction is inherent in customer support, mainly because things aren’t working properly, hence the call! But that doesn’t mean you can’t improve the experience by reducing the friction associated with those interactions.
For instance, what’s the average number of touches before a customer support issue is resolved? If it’s more than one, you have room to improve. There are plenty of options: well-organized FAQ pages, software that auto-fills known information, and chatbots can all improve the support process—just to name a few.
The good news: Friction is inevitable, but not insurmountable
Points of friction can be described as the straw that broke the camel’s back—one straw added during the customer onboarding process, another during your internal meetings, and yet another while providing customer support. Each straw by itself isn’t such a big deal, but if you have many different sources of friction, or repeat offenders, you might end up with a big problem.
From the consumer side, a small point of friction in the sales process might cost you 10% of your potential sales. Add in another point of friction in the payment process and you might lose another 5%. After that, customers experience an issue with customer support and 5% give up and leave.
These three “minor” points of friction just cost you 20% of your customers. Poof. Gone.
You’re losing real money from these minor sticking points. And they’re all over the place.
Consider this real-life example:
James has heard about your software and is interested in learning more. He heads to your website, but the product documentation is limited, and the FAQ page doesn’t answer his questions. Friction = 1, Your Company = 0. No big deal.James tries to use the live chat option, but it’s after hours so he leaves a message and hopes to be contacted later. Friction = 2, Your Company = 0. Still salvageable.
James answers the phone expecting to speak with a product specialist, but instead is greeted with a salesperson with commission breath. The sales rep can’t answer his technical questions, but tries to push the deal through anyway. If the sales rep had an online document ready to sign over the web, he might have still closed the deal, but alas, he didn’t. Friction = 3, Your Company = 0.At this point, your company is down 3-0 to James and the friction would take a miracle to overcome.
Perhaps if the first two interactions would have gone smoother, James would have had a little more patience with an overly eager salesperson, but friction created earlier created a bad starting point for their discussion. The deal is over before it even began.
Multiple sources of friction with your company procedures will kill your bottom line, and too much dysfunction will create issues with morale and employee retention. Identify and reduce/eliminate sources of friction in your business for a smoother, more profitable ride on your camel.
One Action You Can Take Today
Read our eBook "Integrated sales: unlocking speed and productivity for growing businesses" It's chock-full of great tips on how to reduce friction in your sales processes by integrating.