Apply a Little Human WD-40 to your Customer Friction Problems
Updated: May 14
Friction ruins nearly every mating surface, from metal, plastic, and even stones in a river blasted by water over time. WD-40 is often used to lubricate and protect surfaces from moisture which, on metal, can cause friction-inducing rust.
Friction between you and your customers can ruin the relationship no matter how invested you both are in working together. Friction in business processes creates no intrinsic value for customers. If every customer interaction is wrought with friction, bureaucracy, complexity, or wasted time, there can never be real loyalty and certainly not high lifetime value.
What is your WD-40? How can you reduce customer friction or effort and become Easy to Do Business With?
During the past year, we have been interviewing successful CMOs, CDOs, CCOs, and other customer strategy executives to learn what works in reducing friction at the customer interface.
Based on our experiences and interviews, there are a handful of critical capabilities that companies need to deploy to truly become easy to do business with.
The first capability is a strong Customer Advocacy function. This must effectively and regularly gather the voice of the customer (VOC) with a special emphasis on high-touch assessments of top customers, in real-time. As well, this function must have the ability to determine both the customer and business impact of this feedback. Like peeling an onion, becoming easier to do business with is a process that requires us to distill and prioritize key themes for systemic resolution, progressively tackling issues of increasing difficulty. Strong customer advocacy also requires a strong and steady hand in orchestrating the customer care function across channels and lines of business, as well as an aggressive process for issue escalation and resolution.
Another capability is the Roadmap & Strategy function. Because customer executives typically don’t own all customer-impacting processes, Ease of Doing Business demands the ability to influence the organization using customer data and business impact to prioritize friction reduction efforts. One of the critical capabilities within the roadmap & strategy function is development of leading and trailing indicators that establish the guide-wires for the entire organization as focus is applied to driving change, measuring incremental progress in reduction of friction, celebrating successes, and making the inevitable course corrections.
Successful Ease of Doing Business initiatives require a strong Orchestration & Engagement function to drive service recovery, account management, engagement, and customer success processes. Strong customer engagement enables friction hotspots to be easily identified and validated through VOC and advisory councils, and solutions are best tested directly with those customers directly affected.
Perhaps the most important capability in reducing friction and driving Ease of Doing Business is the Analysis & Insights function. Altogether too often, friction isn’t noticed until the relationship is frayed so badly a rescue is very costly or the relationship is damaged beyond repair and the customer has left. Strong customer measurements, analytics, and insights are crucial.
Distilling a single, comprehensive set of metrics that presents an overall view of Ease of Doing Business is hard work. But the payoff is enormous. In our interviews with CMOs, CCOs, and other customer strategy executives, we’ve found that many are measuring NPS, CSAT, reading verbatims, or polling sales teams, etc. to back into identifying processes that might be adversely impacting Ease of Doing Business or customer effort. However, very few are directly measuring this effectively.
We recommend creating an overall Ease of Doing Business metric that is rolled up from other measures, and a transactional Customer Effort Score that can be surveyed after specific interactions.
The last capability we’ll mention is Employee Engagement & Organizational Change. The most successful customer executives are changing their game by incorporating the Ease of Doing Business and customer effort metrics into employee MBOs. And they are engaging employees across the business in cross-functional teams to fix the biggest issues.
How can you leverage these capabilities to become the human equivalent of WD-40 and not only insulate customers from the biggest sources of friction, but remove that friction altogether?
If you want help
If you’d like assistance in developing these and additional capabilities, we’ve created an Ease of Doing Business Accelerator, a 1.5-day workshop designed for senior executives from marketing, customer care, services, other critical customer-facing roles, AND their cross-functional teams. It enables you to work on real customer strategy challenges & opportunities for you plus 3-4 members of your cross-functional team.
You’ll walk away with a clear definition of Ease of Doing Business/effort drivers, an explicit linkage of drivers to operational and financial metrics important to your CEO, and a detailed plan to resolve the highest priority Ease of Doing Business obstacles.
You can attend a public accelerator and benefit from cross-pollination with other non-competing companies or you can bring it in-house to work exclusively on your own strategies.
If you’d like to learn more or join us at the accelerator, please select a convenient time for a brief call.