Jared Cornell is a customer-support specialist, a marketing evangelist and a book lover, associated
Friction is part of life. We experience it all the time - at work, in relationships, in politics - it's everywhere. But when it comes to business, friction cost can be extremely high.
In the business environment, friction refers to anything that causes customers to hold back or hesitate as they go through your company's conversion funnel. For B2B companies, giving customers a frictionless experience plays a critical role in building customer loyalty, retaining them, and increasing sales.
Some of the factors that cause customer friction in your business include unknowledgeable support or sales staff, slow shipping, long service waiting time, among others. More than ever before, customers expect brands to go out of their way and deliver positive customer experiences. According to a customer experience report developed by PwC, 1 in every three customers is likely to quit buying from their favorite brand after just one negative experience.
With this level of expectations, B2B companies need to focus more on reducing customer friction than on delighting customers to remain competitive.
So, what can B2B companies such as yours do to reduce customer friction and increase customer experience?
Customers use different channels to communicate with companies whenever they have an issue or query. The question is - how fast does your company respond to customers when they reach out?
The truth is, customers don't want to be kept waiting before a response comes through. On the contrary, they want their issues resolved within the shortest time possible. According to a 2019 survey conducted by Aircall, 94% of customers expect a response within 24 hours when they reach out through email, and 96% within 5 minutes when they make a phone call. Statistics from Fonolo indicate that 82% of customers consider a quick resolution of their issues as an important factor in defining quality customer service.
A sure way for B2B companies to ensure customers quick responses and fast resolution of customer issues is the use of issue ticketing software. Help desk automation allows companies to set specific rules that are based on time and event triggers. This automates routine tasks such as status updates and ticket routing, effectively freeing support staff time to focus on more critical tasks.
An interesting way to reduce issue resolution friction is to assign each customer a dedicated account manager. Using help desk software, B2B companies can set rules that filter incoming issues using customer names then automatically reroutes them to the respective account managers for resolution.
Customers value efficiency - they want to receive quality services or products without compromising convenience. A lot of times, efficiency is viewed from the business perspective - how a company needs to minimize costs while operating in a competitive environment. However, customers have a way of viewing efficiency, which entails looking at the time and effort they need to put in interacting with a brand.
Where customers have to put significant effort into purchasing, paying, or returning products to customers, they develop anxiety and negative emotions that could cause friction. B2B companies that focus on reducing friction need to pay attention to efficiency-related pain points. They can alleviate them to ensure that customers get a frictionless experience when buying products or services from it.
A classic example of a company that has hacked this strategy is Uber. This cab company identified several efficiency pain points among its customers. They include anxiety of waiting for a cab, not knowing how much a ride would cost, whether they can trust the driver, and how to track a cab in case they forgot items in the car. Uber developed an application that addressed these pain points and disrupted the cab industry by providing customers with a 'personal driver'.
Through the application, users can request for a ride where they are, get driver details including his head-shot image, car type and registration details even before he or she arrives. Prior to pick-up, customers can see the route of their journey and how much it will cost them. This reduces anxiety and puts the customer at ease.
Customers expect sales, marketing, and customer representatives in companies to be knowledgeable about the products or services the company offers as well as the processes involved. If these teams are not well equipped with the knowledge and the tools they need to comfortably engage different customer types, customer frictions will result.
Statistics from AmericanExpress show that 74% of customers expect to be attended by a knowledgeable professional whenever they engage with companies. In a B2B business, the customer facing teams are the face of the company. As such, they should exude confidence and demonstrate in depth knowledge of the company they represent when talking to customers.
B2B companies should ensure that they hire, orient and train their customer facing teams correctly to enable them to serve customers effectively and reduce friction.
To reduce friction, a B2B company needs to identify the pain points its customers are experiencing. An effective way to do this is by listening to customers. A company can listen to its customers through interviews and surveys.
In addition to these, consider interviewing stakeholders and reviewing your customer journey processes - the longer they are, the higher the chance of causing customer friction. At the same time, analyze the complaints and reviews that customers raise or leave with the customer facing teams, on social media, email and other communication channels.
Analyzing all this feedback will provide valuable insights on the pain points your customers are experiencing. Once you identify the pain points, find creative solutions to address them to provide your customers with a positive experience. This is important because, according to a report by Microsoft shows that 52% of customers expect companies to act on the feedback they provide.
Amazon is a great example of B2B companies that has been able to identify customer friction points and address them for better customer experience. The company identified the shipping process to be a pain point its customers were facing.
What Amazon learned was that, though customers found the process of purchasing items online to be easy and straightforward, shipping the items was costly and took time particularly when customers needed the items delivered sooner. The result - customers turned to physical stores to buy whatever they needed.
To address this pain point, the company launched Amazon Prime. This is a free 2-day shipping service available in selected cities. The company also launched a same-day delivery service to ship items to loyal Amazon Prime customers at no charge, an example of customer loyalty programs.
Reducing customer friction is the key to giving customers a positive experience and delighting them. B2B companies that focus on alleviating customer pain points have a higher chance of increasing conversions that those that don't. It all starts with unraveling those pain points by walking in their shoes and listening to them. This is followed by finding creative ways to address those issues that keep them from buying from you. To start giving your customers a frictionless experience, begin implementing the strategies explained above in your company today.