How to Reduce Customer and Employee Friction in Our Businesses

(Episode 2 of 2 with Roger Dooley)

How to Reduce Customer and Employee Friction in Our Businesses

Welcome back to another episode with Roger Dooley. In the first episode we discussed Roger’s career and how he monetized his business College Confidential. In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss why we need to reduce friction for our customers and employees, and strategies to do that. 

Why We Need to Reduce Friction

According to BJ Fogg, author and social scientist at Stanford University, there are three things we need to create or change behavior: motivation, a prompt, and ability. 

First, a person must want to have that behavior or the result that behavior would bring. Second, there must be a prompt or trigger to get the ball rolling; this could be an ad, phone call, CTA on a website, etc. Lastly, there must be an ability, or in other words, it must not take too much time or effort.

“If you’ve got enough motivation and enough ability . . . when you get that prompt, then the behavior will occur. If you don’t have enough motivation or it’s too difficult, it won’t occur,” Roger explained. 

If we focus on motivation, particularly getting customers to do things like place orders, it can be expensive. If we have 25% off today only, we’ll definitely see more orders, but that costs a lot of money. Instead, Fogg and Roger recommend focusing on ability. When we reduce friction and make something easier, people tend to do more of it.

For example, Amazon has made it easy to place orders, watch Prime Video, and listen to Amazon Music. They use less packaging, so it’s easy to open and better for the environment, and they make returns easy. “They know that by making it easy they are building customer loyalty,” Roger said.

Strategies to Reduce Friction for Customers

Here are three strategies to reduce the amount of friction our customers encounter.

  • Customer Effort Score

A customer effort score (CES) is a measurement of how much effort it takes a customer to do something such as place an order. To get a CES, we can ask our customers how easy or difficult it was to do a task and average the answers we get. 

“The important thing there is it’s not their absolute effort. It measures their perception of effort because it’s their perception that counts,” Roger said. “[Customers] are not comparing you to your direct competitors; they’re comparing you to how easy it is at Amazon, at Uber. If you are putting them through more effort [than that], then it’s a high effort process. The simple one to 10 rating will help you understand whether customers see you as being high effort.”

[Customers] are _Blog

If they do see our company as being high effort, we can take steps to simplify things for them. We can ask follow up questions about which parts of the process were difficult or what they wish had been different. We can take this feedback into account and simplify the tasks our customers encounter. 

  • Actual Effort

We can also measure the actual effort through the many different analytic tools available to us. We can measure things such as how much time people spent in different parts of the process and where people bailed in the process. If 20% of people leave in the third step to placing an order, we know there’s a problem there, and we can fix it. We can use analytic tools to find friction and eliminate it.

  • Click Tracking

Click tracking is an inexpensive way to gain key customer insights. With a click tracking tool, we can see where people are clicking on our website or mobile app. With this tool we can see the places they are clicking that don’t lead to anything. Often there are things on websites that look like buttons that will take us somewhere, but don’t actually lead to anything. With click tracking, we can find these spots and take advantage of them.

Recently, I helped build a site for an organization. On one section of the site there was a list of benefits. Through click tracking, we noticed that people were trying to click on one or two of the benefits in particular. We learned which benefits were most important to people. We learned that they wanted to know more about those benefits or receive that specific benefit. We made those benefits clickable, so it would take them to learn more about and receive the benefit they clicked on. 

Click tracking is a great way to learn where our customers are clicking, and then utilize that information to their benefit as well as ours. Through click tracking, we can help them find things easier and learn about what is important to them.

How to Reduce Friction for Employees

Businesses often waste their employees’ time and effort because they don’t trust their employees. Sometimes there are time-consuming, tedious rules created because one employee did something incorrectly one time. “What that does is create extra work for every employee that has to deal with it,” Roger said.

How to Reduce _Blog

When Roger used to work for a large corporate company, he had to do expense reports. Even though he was at a VP level with the company, he was required to attach a receipt for every expense he incurred that he wanted to be reimbursed. So, when he came back from a business trip, he would have a stack of receipts he had to keep track of and staple to his expense report. 

On one trip, he lost a receipt for a $2 cup of coffee. He sent the expense report anyway and it was sent back to him, telling him he needed to either find the receipt or remove the expense. “Not only were they wasting my time, people in the home office were wasting a lot of time going through these [expense reports],” Roger said.

The company “improved the process” by allowing employees to scan or take pictures of the receipts, then identify which line item on the expense report they go to, and flag the account number and the job number they applied to. For people like Roger who didn’t understand the account numbering system, this only created more problems for the employees that had to deal with this.

“Other companies don’t do that; they have very simple limits,” Roger explained. Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer co-wrote a book called No Rules Rules, in which they discuss Netflix’s strategies and how not having such strict rules can be better for a company. 

For example, they may say employees can submit reasonable expenses. That means if an employee took a client out to an expensive dinner in the interest of the company, that cost will be covered. However, an employee should know better than having the company pay for an expensive dinner with their spouse. 

“They don’t establish all these rules. They make it very simple and easy and effortless for their people, and for their internal people, their accounting people as well. Because businesses lack trust in their employees . . . it creates extra work for them,” Roger said.

One way to find the rules that frustrate or create extra work for our employees is to ask them, “What one rule drives you crazy? What’s the one rule that wastes most of your time?” We can also have a “Mickey Mouse” meeting as Tom Peters did for years where people identify “Mickey Mouse” processes or regulations. Or we can have a “stupid rule suggestion box” where employees can submit rules they think are stupid. 

There are many ways to find these kinds of rules because our employees know where they are spending unnecessary time and effort. If we can eliminate the unnecessary rules, our employees will likely feel more satisfied with their work. When we listen to our employees, it can build loyalty in the company.

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Roger for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

  1. When we reduce friction and make something easier, people tend to do more of it.
  2. We can use a customer effort score to see if our customers think it’s easy to do things such as place an order with our business.
  3. We can use analytic tools to find friction in our processes and eliminate it.
  4. Click tracking is a great way to learn where our customers are clicking, and then utilize that information to their benefit as well as ours. Through click tracking, we can help them find things easier and learn about what is important to them.
  5. If we can eliminate unnecessary rules, our employees will likely feel more satisfied with their work. When we listen to our employees, it can build loyalty in the company.

Connect with Roger

To learn more about or connect with Roger:

Next Steps

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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