A lot of smart questions were asked, and many great conversations went on. If you’ve missed it, here’s a summary of the top 10 Q&A.
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Q: Friction in the customer experience causes drop-offs, what are some ways to identify and measure friction?
Roger: This could be its own book, but a few quick thoughts…
- Customer perception of effort is more important than absolute metrics. If the customer thinks your process is high effort, it IS high effort, even if you are better than your competitors, or better than last year. Customers are comparing you to the experience delivered by Amazon and Uber, not your own competitor group. So, ASK them… but don’t create a high effort survey. One question about effort is enough. Four or five emojis will get better responses that a one-to-ten scale. But, even 1-to-10 like NPS is OK.
- Measure everything. How many clicks, scrolls, form fields, etc. to get through your process. Every one of those is friction. That includes false clicks, when people click stuff that isn’t clickable.
- Site search can be really important, and I see HUGE differences between competitive sites. How many searches does it take for a customer to find a result? Is the result they click at the start of the list? If they have to go to the second page of results, you are likely losing sales. In my keynotes and workshops, I often highlight the difference between the two home supply giants, Home Depot and Lowes. HD’s search function has always produced far more relevant results than Lowes in my tests. (I hope Loews is catching up, they are otherwise very solid.)
- Watching customers in action often shows unexpected friction. Amazon saw customers struggling to open those horrible plastic clamshell packages that many products use even today, and introduced frustration free packaging. People liked it. People liked the products better, too – negative comments went down 73% on products with the easy-to-open packaging. The better CX translated into better product perception.
Q: In B2B products it’s hard to get reliable data sometimes. Low sample size, low response rate. How do you identify if something is really friction or misinformed data?
Roger: Low volume situations are always more challenging. A/B testing either takes too long or doesn’t work at all. Collecting behavior data is difficult. In those cases, measuring/observing behavior and studying individual “journeys” can be useful. Also, instead of sending out mass surveys, if you have a small number of customers, individual, personalized outreach may work. A short conversation, a personal email, etc., may get you some good results. It’s always going to be tougher to get certainty when volume is very low, but you have to try to learn from the data you can collect.
Q: When doing roadmap planning I often have to decide between removing friction or building a cool new feature. Is outweighing those options a valid decision making process, or would you always go for removing friction first?
Roger: It’s hard to say without specifics, maybe that new feature is REALLY cool. But, in general, I lean toward less friction. Not only does reducing friction increase conversion, there is some amazing data from Garner showing how minimizing customer effort dramatically increases loyalty and repeat purchase behavior. Also, their data shows that high effort customer service interactions lead to 88% of customers saying bad things about the brand vs. just 1% for low effort interactions.
Q: When we notice there’s friction, but our product can not change immediately, what are some ways to engage with the customers in the meantime?
Roger: The first thing to do is challenge the idea that the product can’t change quickly. Is it truly impossible, or is it a case of priorities? I had a situation where a client wouldn’t spend $10K to fix an obvious UX issue because the budget was tight as the fiscal year was closing and the corporate parent was trying to make their predicted number. Jeff Bezos would never do that. He’d fix the problem even if it made the current period numbers look worse.
Ask yourself, “What Would Jeff Do?”
But, if the problem really can’t be fixed in the near term, look for solutions that make the friction less annoying. Disney major rides always have long lines. They can’t stuff more guests onto the rides, so they take mitigating steps. When lines are long, they have entertainers and costume characters interacting with guests. They overestimate the wait time – when you go by the sign that says “30 minutes,” it will likely be less. They use reservation systems to let guests avoid standing in line at all. And, with their Magic Band technology, they try to redirect traffic to less-busy areas.
For software, I hate watching processes that have a slow moving progress bar. I’ve seen some vendors create dozens of amusing messages to distract users. Others will let the process occur in the background and notify the user. Each problem needs to be looked at individually.
Q: How do you make a frictionless journey for your users and still educate, guide them to features and the value they can get out of your product?
Roger: Onboarding for apps and software is a challenge. Many times, I’ve downloaded a tool that looked useful but couldn’t figure out how to start. I don’t know if you have got to that point in Friction yet, but one reason Whatsapp grew so quickly compared to other messaging apps was that their onboarding process took just two minutes, including verification. No password, everything was designed for speed. And, they made inviting your friends super-easy. You onboard in two minutes, invite your friends, who do the same and invite their friends… Was worth many billions before any revenue.
But there can be tension between “frictionless” and “secure.” Video sharing app Zoom has blown away big names like Skype, Apple, etc. in part because it is VERY easy to get going, start a video meetup, etc. But, part of the way they do that is by passing important security protocols. So, it’s important to strike an appropriate and ethical balance.
Q: How important is this when it comes to getting rid of friction in products and apps and do you see many companies doing AB testing to remove friction?
Roger: Smart companies are always testing. Amazon has never done a big redesign on their website because at any given moment they are optimizing features, design elements, etc. with hundreds of tests. The big travel sites, like Expedia and Booking, are also relentless testers. It helps to have enormous volume – you can often get meaningful results in hours or days at most. But even lower-volume brands can try different things to improve results. I’m seeing a lot of people with titles like “Director of Experimentation” and “Experimentation Lead” these days, try a LinkedIn search.
Q: When you having a more complex product (e.g. complex accounting SaaS), where the user just cannot be onboarded simple. What is in your opinion the best way to mitigate this problem?
Roger: Complex products make onboarding difficult and frustrating. My personal nemesis is Photoshop, which has a non-intuitive interface and a bewildering array of functions. I’m trying to deal with that by watching a series of short videos that show you how to do one thing each.
A good model for dealing with complexity is Intuit/TurboTax. There is likely nothing more complicated on the planet than the U.S. tax code. The instructions for the 1040 form, the one most people use, run over 100 pages. TurboTax software simplifies the process in multiple ways:
- A simple interface that usually asks one or two questions per screen.
- Very simple language that is casual and friendly (unlike the language on the forms)
- Help pop-ups available.
- Progress meter.
- Auto import data whenever possible.
- Determine correct path for the user (which forms, which choices, etc.)
Taxes are still a painful process, but TurboTax definitely makes the whole thing easier.
Follow up question: Can you elaborate your views for help pop-ups? I believe it’s helpful and rather subtle but every now and then I get feedback to say it’s annoying and blocking their view (even though there’s the option to close it) which just throws me off…
Roger: I prefer popups that activate only when you click a symbol or button. Maybe make the close button bigger!
Q: What impact can positive marketing messaging play in creating a more frictionless user experience?
Roger: There are a couple of factors here. First, a friendly persona (even if the messages are automated) takes a little stress out of it. In Friction, I describe Buffer’s onboarding process that was both ultra-simple and friendly/encouraging.
The second factor is setting expectations. People’s expectations change their actual experience. One study showed a “$45” wine tasted much better than a “$5” wine, even though the wines were identical. (Two Buck Chuck, actually). People not only said the expensive wine tasted better, their brains reacted that way when viewed in an fMRI machine. The higher price tag made the wine actually taste better!
So, it’s wise to tell people they will have a super easy experience. Unless you really fail to deliver, they will experience what you led them to expect.
Q: What role can gamification play in creating frictionless user experiences?
Roger: I don’t think gamification is directly a friction-reducer. But, it can provide extra motivation. Moving up a leaderboard, earning a badge, etc. can all encourage desired behavior. I’ve seen this in online communities I’ve managed. Even when the only “gamification” was moving from “New Member” to “Member” status, you could see behavior change. Those members getting close to the next level would start posting much more frequently, often just a few words, to advance quickly.
Gamification works in part because of something called the goal gradient effect – the closer you get to a goal, the harder you work to get there.
Q: When there’s a growing list of customer feedback = friction, do you have a best practice in categorizing and prioritizing them?
Roger: There’s no magic formula for prioritizing what to fix first. Sometimes, the most important problem will be obvious because that’s what customers complain about most or because it is a clear barrier to conversion.
But, when in doubt, go for the low-hanging fruit. Fix the easiest things first, then attack the most time-consuming ones. On average, that will produce the quickest gains in customer experience.
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