Why customers need ‘positive friction’ in their CX experiences

Kavita Singh spoke with Ken Ewell, chief customer officer of SurveyMonkey, about why CX needs friction, why customer insight needs to be prioritised, and how agile is being used at SurveyMonkey.

KS: We always see the phrase ‘seamless customer experience’ being thrown around. I’ve used it myself! But why do you think there does need to be some sort of friction?

KE: Not all friction is bad friction. When you meet someone, you could move faster by not asking their name – or trying to remember it if you do – but we know that information creates a better experience down the line. So, our task is to make sure any friction adds value for the customer. Immediately if possible, but without exception over time.

Customers correctly expect an effortless transition from one touchpoint to another when engaging with brands, and brands should be prepared to deliver that across digital channels, in-person, or both. So creating the optimal experience is about knowing that friction and friction-free touchpoints both have their uses and in mixing them to create a value added journey. Introducing checkpoints to confirm identity in a banking transaction is not seamless, but is really good compared to the alternative. It’s even better when customers know and understand the improvements in security that have been put into place over the prior six months.

Recognising and acting upon the negative emotions felt during a customer journey can only strengthen a company’s offering to their audiences. This idea of ‘positive friction’ can create a more personalised experience for each customer, which is becoming ever more important in this digital age.

KS: How can marketers add friction while still providing great customer experience? Any tips on navigating this?

KE: Creating intuitive and engaging feedback processes provides brands with the insight needed to craft marketing campaigns that better resonate with intended audiences. Marketing campaigns cost money and take time to get right. Doing so without the best knowledge possible about what your audience actually wants and values is a risk not worth taking.

This type of friction, I would argue, is necessary to creating a smooth, interruption-free customer experience. Brands can see themselves from a customer point of view, can make the customer feel valued and, in turn, create a more personalised experience.

KS: A need for customer insight seems to be a must have now, especially with the digitalisation of most companies. Why is now NOT the time to stop prioritising, obtaining, and acting on customer insight?

KE: Customers matter most – full stop. Their insight should always be prioritised. Customer insights allow brands to gain a deeper understanding of how people think and feel about their services, which helps strengthen a brand’s offering. By building a robust customer experience strategy, businesses are able to deeper understand the needs of the customer and exactly why they have these needs. This is especially true now, where we are in the unique position of being on the precipice of emerging from a pandemic. It is impossible for businesses to predict what the future will look like, so getting customer insight on a regular basis will help marketers and other professionals understand what their audiences want. 

Digitalisation is here to stay and this insight is key for all businesses to make sure that they are meeting – and exceeding – customer expectations. Those that choose to stop prioritising acting upon and obtaining this data will not only struggle to adapt and to evolve, but will begin to lose touch with their consumers.