Delivering a Frictionless Customer Experience: A Game of Snakes and Ladders

The idea is to identify and remove all pain points, hurdles, and hassles that the customer may encounter during their interaction with your brand and to save them effort, time, and frustration.

Things like a lengthy login process, too many options, confusing navigation, unresponsive website, not being remembered, content not being tailored, offers not being personalized, inconsistent messages, unfriendly employees, not enough automation, and unresolved issues… All these (and countless more) could make your customer feel less than valued.

So how do you start smoothing out the friction points your customer encounters?

The Big Picture

Jiaqi Pan, CEO of, defines Frictionless Customer Experience as At its core (…) the alignment of the 4 C’s which describe the mindset of a company that has a customer-centric approach to offer the right content in the right channel with the right context.”

The four C’s he refers to are: Customer, Context, Content, and Channel. Let’s take a look at those.

Customer – the Heart of It All

Get to really know your customer. Who are they? What gender? How old? What do they do? Where do they live? What do they like, hate, prefer, distrust? What problems do they have and how can you as a business solve them?

Context – the Here and Now

Now zoom out. What real-life situation is your customer currently in and how will it affect their engagement? Are they sitting in front of the TV? Standing on the train? Eating? At home or in a busy restaurant? Is it raining? Are they in a meeting? Reading in the bath?

Your SMS notification in a meeting may cause annoyance. Your email can’t compete with the Super Bowl. Your industry report won’t be appreciated by a customer on vacation, but job vacancies in the area may well be. If at a conference, you customer can’t talk or listen, but might be able to read and write. If driving, the opposite would be true.

Additionally, what is your customer’s context with you? What stage of the life cycle are they at? Is loyalty strong? Are they in the middle of a complaint process?

By taking your customer’s context into consideration, not only are you proving that you care about them personally and respect their schedule and time, but you’re hitting them with your message at a time most likely to elicit engagement.

Content – the When and Where

This covers everything from articles and digital products to software. Messages should be consistent across all channels and content personalized to customers’ specific interests and needs.

Customer+context+content means you can deliver the right content to the right customer at the right time, i.e., when they find it most natural to be engaging with you.

Channel – the Way and How

The concept of “channels” is not a customer one. You customer just wants convenience and to connect in whatever way they want, whenever they want.

So, once you’ve worked out who your customer is, what problems you’re solving for them, where they are, what they are likely doing, and what sort of content best supports them at this very moment... Then you can start working out what channel is best for engagement and interaction.

This way, you slot into their day the way a tea break does. Naturally.

What Does FCX Look Like?

Helping customers avoid cues and call-center waits with intuitive self-service systems. Providing artificial intelligence chatbots to get people to the information they need. Removing confusion or the need for repetition. Giving the customer visibility over a process they are involved in. Making sure the customer feels in control.

The tools available today enable you to know what your customer needs before they do, so why make them ask?

Amazon is testing its new convenience store called Amazon Go, which identifies what products customers have picked up (and put back) and automatically creates a virtual shopping cart, which it then deducts from their Amazon account. No cues. No hassle. Just groceries.

The grammar-checking tool, Grammarly, recognized the importance of being where their customers were, so they built plugins/extensions for Microsoft Office, Firefox, Chrome, and even Facebook Messenger as this is where people needed them most. No integration. No fuss. Just clean grammar.

Supermarket chain Whole Foods uses location-based marketing to detect when a customer’s phone is nearby and to send them ads and special offers based on their purchasing history while they are in the vicinity. Convenient. Helpful. Caring.

Your Ladder to Success

­­Customer experience is a top priority for businesses in 2019 and is considered more important than price or product in building loyalty. In fact, 89% of businesses are expected to soon compete mainly on customer experience.

According to the Tempkin Group, within 3 years of investing in customer experience,  companies that currently earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million.

That’s one hell of a ladder.

Beware of the Snakes

There is no doubt that you should be working to make your customer experiences as smooth and pain-free as possible. But you need to be careful not to inadvertently spark new areas for friction. The challenge lies in enhancing your individual customers’ preferred way of interacting with you. And perhaps redefining who your ‘customers’ are.

1. One Person’s Wine…

What removes friction for one person may actually be making another’s experience more difficult.

I love banking online—the convenience, paperless statements, the immediacy. For my mother, it’s a nightmare. She doesn’t want to do her banking over the internet. But as her bank has aligned their in-branch experience with its online one (for my benefit), she’s left frustrated by the lack of a real person to talk to and a private space in which to do so. Most of the time she’s forced to do her business in the branch on a screen with the divided attention of a busy member of staff who’s “here to help”.

So, when removing steps or introducing advancements in technology, remember that you’re not dealing with a block of people, but with individuals. How would individual customer segments react? Are they equipped with the up-to-date technology or know-how necessary to benefit from your frictionless efforts (e.g., apps, QR, geo-location)? Can you roll it out to early adopters immediately but give slower ones the time they need? Are the customer benefits you’re introducing clear? Will explanations or training be required?

It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

2. Losing Face

​​The lack of human connection my mother experiences with her bank has had a huge effect on how she feels about the brand. She feels like a number, not a customer.

A reduction in human contact can distance a company from its customers, so it’s doubly important for you to be raising the stakes when a customer is in direct touch with you. That experience should feel personal, you should remember them, impress them with your prior knowledge of their situation, and tailor the result directly to their needs.

They should feel valued, listened to, and that their query is important and being dealt with.

3. Keep It Real

It’s important not to lose those improvised moments of excellent customer service by having a rigid and too-standardized system. Ensure your process is flexible enough to empower staff to take initiative in the right situations. Keep ‘scripts’ light and personal, and leverage your employees' own personalities and sense of humor.

4. Look Under the Rug

You can’t create frictionless front-end customer experiences from a back-end system that is rife with sticking points—your employees are customers too. Typical in-house friction points are things like multiple manual logins for various programs, manual data entry, having to switch between programs to complete one task because applications are siloed, then having to copy information from one to another, having to ask a list of the same questions (again) before being able to help anyone.

5. Face Facts

Today’s omni-channel expectation with cross-device interaction via a wide range of channels has made it difficult for companies to maintain consistency. Technologies and processes will need to be upgraded in order to provide consistent and frictionless experiences across all platforms.

You need accurate, up-to-the-second information about customers all stored in (and accessible from) one place so that employees get a single customer view, including customer profile, buying history, website behavior, and communications (emails, social, chatbot).

And you’ll need sophisticated marketing tools like personalization, segmentation, A/B testing, marketing automation and web analytics to deliver tailored and consistent experiences across all your touchpoints—website, mobile, social, apps—easily.

Replace cumbersome disparate tools and silos with one Digital Experience Platform. Managed all from one place, it integrates with your favorite third-party tools, scales with you, and delivers powerfully connected tools that propel you to success by providing meaningful end-to-end experiences for both customers and employees.

Who Wants to Play?

Your customers are being trained by the likes of Amazon, Uber, Google, and Alexa in what they can expect from brands and how good it feels to receive it. So, there is just no way around the fact that expectations have rocketed and if you’ve not got the jet fuel, you’ll get left behind.

To get your brand ready to deliver on those exceptional and powerful experiences that customers crave, trial Kentico with a one-on-one personalized demo.

By Yvette Hastings

Posted: Wednesday 13 November 2019