How Friction Is Killing Your Marketing Success

Roger Dooley

Roger Dooley, author of FRICTION, joins the Content Experience Show Podcast to discuss how friction is the enemy of any healthy and successful business.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

Roger Dooley

Meet Your Business’s Worst Enemy

Friction costs businesses trillions of dollars in e-commerce each year. It erodes healthy company culture. It drives potential customers away from your website and toward your competitor, all because of your site’s failure to deliver a smooth and intuitive customer experience.

No one understands the danger of friction better than Roger Dooley, who has spent years studying the intersection of behavioral science and marketing and has just completed work on his latest book, FRICTION. His research has led to shocking discoveries about just how costly and pervasive this problem can be for all kinds of businesses—and how strangely reluctant businesses are to address it.

In this episode, you’ll hear how friction manifests in customer experience and internal operations. You’ll also hear Roger’s advice for calling it out in constructive ways and taking steps to eliminate it from your workplace. Tackling these issues head-on just might have a profound impact on not only your bottom line but the health of your company as well.

In This Episode

  • Why friction is the enemy of business success.
  • Case studies of businesses that identified high-friction customer experiences and innovated to make them effortless.
  • The surprising reasons why businesses sometimes fight change and refuse to innovate.
  • How friction manifests inside your organization (and loses you money).
  • Tips for calling out organizational friction on the job.

Quotes From This Episode

“Businesses confronted with an obviously better user experience generally don’t say, ‘Wow, we can do that and maybe even do better?’ Instead, they fight it.” – @rogerdooley

Once people start seeing friction, they cannot unsee it. They get really motivated to get rid of it, which is a good thing. Click To Tweet

“If you look at why people abandon shopping carts, most of the top reasons are frictional in nature.” – @rogerdooley

Resources

Content Experience Lightning Round

As a Game of Thrones fan, do you have any predictions for the final season?

Roger isn’t sure, but one thing is certain: There will be lots and lots of character deaths!

See you next week!

What Great Brands Do That Good Brands Don't in Content Marketing

Okay content is easy. Killer content is hard. This nifty eBook shows you the difference, based on our real-world work with dozens of brands. A must-read!

Episode Transcript

Anna: Hey everybody, welcome to the Content Experience Show Podcast. I'm Anna Hrach from Convince and Convert. Randy Frisch won't be joining us today, but that's okay because we have a fabulous guest joining us.  
  Today we're talking with author and keynote speaker Roger Dooley. Now Roger's new book Friction is available for pre-order right now, and it comes out in just a few days, so make sure you check it out.  
  We do have the inside scoop for you today on what the book is about because we actually talk a lot about, no surprises, Friction.  
  Now what you'll discover today is that's actually two sides of friction. And both can pose some serious problems.  
  The first side is the customer side where it frustrates our audiences, it costs us sales, and it reduces loyalty.  
  But the other side, which is also the side we don't tend to think about a lot, is actually internal friction within our organizations. Now that internal friction can destroy productivity, it can reduce employee engagements, and even increase turnover.  
  So we talk a lot about both sides of friction today, including how to spot it, and what to do about it. So let's hear from Roger and get the scoop on what we can do about friction.  
  Hey, Roger, thank you so much for joining me today. I'm so excited to chat with you.  
Roger: I'm super happy to be here, Anna. Thanks for the invite.  
Anna: Yes. So we got to chat a little bit before the show, and we've been chatting over the last couple of weeks, as well. But for those of you out there, let's get to know Roger.  
  So Roger, would you mind telling everybody just a little bit about yourself?  
Roger: Well, these days, and for the last period of years I have been an author. My first book was Brainfluence, it came out about eight years ago, now, a little less. My new book, Friction, comes out on May 17.  
  They're related in a way by the fact that they both apply behavioral science in differing degrees. And I got into that because my interest in neuromarketing, which is sort of the intersection of neuroscience and marketing.  
  What I found over time was the insights from behavioral science were often more actionable for companies that could not afford to do their own expensive neuromarketing studies. So a lot of my work is focused on that area.  
  But before that I was a serial entrepreneur for decades, a direct marketing guy in the early days of home computers. I co-founded a computer catalog business then.  
  That morphed into an IT outsourcing business, SEO. And along the way I co-founded a business called College Confidential, which became the biggest college-bound site ... The busiest site for college-bound students and parents.  
  It was primarily driven by its community, so it was a very social site where people exchanged information about this really complicated and confusing process. But it's been in the news a lot lately because of the insane things that people are doing to get into the colleges they want to.  
Anna: I know, I was just going to say this podcast could take a total left turn right now if we really wanted to. But, we'll keep in on ...  
Roger: Right, great. Our focus was on, first of all, people helping other people because nobody has all the answers. We do not advocate any unethical ways to get into a college, but we did help people optimize what they were doing.  
Anna: That's good to know, yes. Yeah, there's been crazy stuff happening with that lately. But, yeah, definitely ... Oh man, that's a whole other podcast on its own.  
  Roger, I'm super excited, as I mentioned, to have you here because I actually love behaviors and neuromarketing. I find it all insanely fascinating, especially when you even consider behaviors like how Disneyland guides people into everything with sights and sounds and foods, and just designs this entire neural experience that we just don't even process, but we do. I love those inherent behaviors that we don't even know we do. So I'm excited to chat with you about that.  
  But I'm even more excited about Friction, because this is something that I personally identify with on both sides.  
Roger: Well, I think that you're not unique in that, Anna. I've been speaking at conferences about friction to varying degrees over the last year or two, sort of testing the waters and refining my ideas.  
  What I found is, when I talk about friction, and then I'm hanging out with the attendees later, maybe we're standing in the lunch line, or something like that. They start seeing friction where they probably wouldn't have before.  
  Something is difficult to do, there's some kind of a delay in getting what they want. Or there's no forks, so they can't eat. Immediately, they say, it's friction.  
  So I think that we all experience friction in our daily lives. You know, it's a natural thing, but to the extent that you want people to do things that you would like them to do. Say, complete an order on your e-commerce site, or perhaps turn into a lead on your lead generation site, or share your content via their own social media channels.  
  Friction is your enemy. Any unnecessary effort will reduce the number of people who do what you want them to do.  
Anna: I love, too, exactly what you were saying about how after people talk to you, or they hear you speak about friction, they all of a sudden recognize.  
  I think friction is one of those thing that, exactly like you said, we experience it on a daily basis. How many times have you said something to the effect of, all I want to on this website is X. Or all I want to do with this brand is Y. Why can't I just do that?  
  When we are building these experiences for customers, we oftentimes don't take that into account. Or we don't see the friction of our customers as marketers.  
Roger: No. It's strange because today we've got such wonderful tools to observe the behavior of our visitors, our customers, our app users. I mean, you can analyze everything that they do: How long they're on the site, how many times they search for something, where they click.  
  Even if they click on things that aren't clickable, you can measure that.  
Anna: Yeah.  
Roger: But people don't use that. Just to relate to what you're saying, Anna, I'm constantly on websites or using apps where after a few seconds I just sort of shake my head and say, did anybody actually watch a novice user trying to do this?  
  Because I feel like I'm reasonably technically adept.  
Anna: Yeah.  
Roger: I have to struggle to figure out how they expect me to do things. Now, undoubtedly it made tremendous sense to the designer and perhaps the other people who were engaged in the process, because they know what you're supposed to do.  
  But for the first-time user even the simplest little user observation study would show that, wow, not everybody gets this intuitively.  
Anna: Absolutely. And I think what's funny to is, we understand that we need to remove these friction points. But I don't think we actually understand just how much they cost us.  
  You have some amazing facts and stats from different sources about just what the cost of friction is. Are there a couple that really stand out, that can really help put all this into context for our listeners?  
Roger: Yeah, I think probably the biggest one that comes to mind is the $4.6 trillion dollars of merchandise in the bin in e-commerce shopping carts.  
  To put that in perspective, that's more than twice as much as the $2 trillion dollars in actual e-commerce sales. So there's a tremendous amount of waste there.  
Roger: If you think about all of the money and effort the pay-per-click ads, the social media marketing, the content marketing, the SEO, the web design. Everything that went into getting those visitors to the site, or to the app, and get them all the way up to the checkout process and then have them not complete it.  
  It's a tremendous amount of waste, and a lot of it is pointless. If you look at why people abandon shopping carts, most of the top reasons are frictional in nature.  
  Number one being a complex or confusing checkout process. Then beyond that you've got things like having to set up an account, as opposed to being allowed to checkout as a guest.  
  Perhaps having to give them your credit card information as opposed to letting them take it from PayPal, or someplace where you already have it stored and don't have to go through that part of the process.  
  There's a million things. One thing I was just looking at today is a broken auto-complete. Chrome and Google make is super easy to fill out even long forms.  
  I don't advocate long forms. If you want people to complete a form, shorter is better. The fewer fields, the better.  
  But if you do have a form that has fields that need to be completed, Google is very good at auto-populating those things for you. They will fill in the blanks.  
  You just start typing Roger in first name, and immediately it'll fill in the rest of the form for you. But I see probably 15 percent of the time, or more, there is a problem with the way those forms are coded.  
  And this isn't something that you can see by looking at it. If you're the chief marketing officer and you look at the form, it looks great. Looks fine, all the blanks are there.  
  It's only if you look into the coding that's behind the scenes, or if you actually try and place an order, that you find out that, gee, it populated my first name and my last name okay, but for some reason in the email field it put my phone number because the coder somehow repurposed the field.  
  In fact the craziest one I had was I just, about two days ago I was registering for a conference. Every single form populated with the same word, Roger. It's actually my first name.  
  Somebody apparently coded it by just replicating the first name field. So every single field auto-populated ...  
Anna: So your address and your street name was Roger. Your city was Roger.  
Roger: Yeah, yeah. My email address, my phone number, everything. So it was ...  
  People don't realize this stuff, Anna.  
Anna: Yeah.  
Roger: Another, I think, interesting way of looking at it is, people don't perceive the true number of steps in their processes, whether it's a checkout process or anything else.  
  I was at a behavioral science marketing conference and a firm there that does this kind of analysis for businesses said that the first thing to do is, when they're asked to optimize a checkout process is ask, well how many steps are there in the checkout process?  
  Typically whether it's the marketing person or a coder will say, oh, three. But when they actually go in and examine all of the motions and steps that a real user has to take, which could include scrolling, and clicking, changing the focus of the browser so it's in the right field, and all these things.  
  It ends up not being three, but more like 25. This is so true, but people just don't perceive of that as being effort. But all of those little things are effort and friction.  
Anna: It's so funny, too. This has been such a theme on the podcast lately with a couple different topics in a couple different areas.  
  It's just so funny that as consumers, within every single day. We are naturally built as consumers, and we are customers.  
  But when you flip that coin and you make us market something or build an experience for our customers, it's like we forget what it was ever like to be a consumer.  
  We put all these roadblocks and these hurdles in the way, and we don't even realize that we do it.  
Roger: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. People ask for more information than they need. You see a form and suddenly go, it's asking for a fax number. Really? Why?  
  How long has this form been there, and why would they possibly want that? These things you just see all the time, and people accept them.  
  To look at it another way, often people just accept that an experience has to be a certain way.  
  In my book I talk about Uber, which is a great example of friction reduction. People put up with taxis for probably 50 or 80 years, pretty much unchanged.  
Anna: Right.  
Roger: The mechanism for calling a taxi, for them picking you up, was just about the same with very few differences. People didn't perceive it necessarily as high friction.  
  They figured, well this isn't the greatest experience, but it's the best we've got. Until Uber came along and took almost all the friction out of the process.  
Anna: Yeah.  
Roger: You knew exactly where your driver was. You knew when he was going to arrive at your location.  
Anna: They could communicate those problems.  
Roger: You knew how long it was going to take to the destination, and what the route was going to be. And then when you get out there's no fumbling for cash, or tips, or trying to do a credit card process in the back seat of a car.  
  It's just, okay, goodbye. They made it so frictionless that people absolutely loved it. The only defense, in most cases ...  
  Something else that's pretty typical, Anna, is that businesses confronted with an obviously better user experience generally don't say, wow, we can do that and maybe even do better.  
  Instead they fight it.  
Anna: Mm-hmm (affirmative).  
Roger: So instead of taxi companies getting better at what they do, they try to pass laws to make Uber either illegal, or to make life much more difficult for Uber.  
  It was the same thing with music sharing.  
Anna: Yeah.  
Roger: Where Napster showed how easy music storage and downloads could be. They made it so, so simple. And instead of the music companies saying, wow, we can adapt this and figure out how to make money off it, as Apple eventually did years and year later.  
Anna: Yeah.  
Roger: The music companies took both Napster, and even consumers, to court over it. It's our natural tendency, apparently, is not to automatically go for the path of least friction, but just to preserve our existing model, even if it sucks.  
Anna: I know. You know what's funny is I actually use that Uber example a lot about changing industries, and internal changes, and how critical that is as well.  
  Before we jump into that, though, we have to take a quick break. But, Roger, when we come back I definitely want to dive more into the other side of the coin of friction.  
  We talked about the consumer side, but I would to dive deeper into that organizational friction side. Because there's a lot there that can be worked out, as well.  
  So everybody stick with us. We are going to take a quick break and come back with Roger and chat more about friction.  
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Anna: Hey everybody, welcome back. We are here with Roger Dooley and we are talking about friction. Before the break we were talking a lot about friction with customers and the cost of what that really means and how we can remove friction with customers to make a better experience.  
  But Roger, you also started to talk about how friction is also changing the business model side of things. And also, there's internal friction that we experience, as well.  
Roger: Definitely. You know we talked about the $4.6 trillion dollars that are wasted in e-commerce shopping carts that ended up being abandoned.  
  There is a somewhat similar statistic for inside companies and organizations. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, there's $3 trillion dollars in what the authors called organizational drag, which is, in essence, friction.  
  It's things like procedures that end up wasting time, meetings that have too many people, that don't get enough accomplished, emails that get widely distributed and end up causing endless amounts of time just scanning them and deleting them.  
  All these things that happen inside companies that really are not necessary. So that $3 trillion is a huge number, too.  
Anna: Yeah.  
Roger: So it's really crazy what companies do. They have procedures that perhaps somebody implemented years ago for some reason and everybody is still doing it.  
  In one case when these consultants went into an organization and started asking about which rules were causing the most wasted time, some of the things that people cited as rules weren't even rules.  
  They were just things that people had been doing, and everybody assumed that they had to be done that way. So that's the corollary. And to my mind, Anna, the most important thing is to develop a friction aware culture in an organization.  
  I think that companies that do that can become more efficient internally at the same they're seeing that friction in their customer experience like we talked about a few minutes ago.  
  Once people start seeing friction, they cannot unsee it. They get really motivated to get rid of it, which is a good thing.  
Anna: That is really good. It's insane, I'm sure everybody was nodding along with your comment about being in too many meetings, or too many people, and just that cost.  
  So how do people become friction aware within their own organizations?  
Roger: I think once you ... Reading my book would be one way.  
Anna: Yes, absolutely.  
Roger: But once you start thinking about it and see some examples of it and how it's been cured, then I think you start seeing it as it affects you.  
Anna: Yeah.  
Roger: Some people may or may not get on the bandwagon. I did a stint as a corporate executive for a while. After being an entrepreneur for many years I sold a business and ended up, as part of the deal, joining the company for a while.  
  I had a lady that worked for me who was a product manager who was really having difficulty getting her new product strategies developed. She seemed to have good ideas, but when we looked at her schedule she was in meetings for 32 hours a week, typically.  
  You can imagine if you're in meetings for that long and then you've got email to deal with and just the usual sorts of stuff, there's no time for any kind of productive work.  
  Just a week ago on my podcast I aired an episode with Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work. And he really emphasizes the importance of having some uninterrupted time where you can get into a flow state.  
  If you have to do creative work or work that requires deep thought, like, say coding or designing or something like that, if you're constantly interrupted, if you're pulled off for different tasks, if you're getting interrupted by important emails and phone calls and such, you'll never get into that flow state.  
Anna: Right. It's crazy how those little, tiny interruptions can disrupt your entire train of thought, and your entire day.  
Roger: There's some evidence that an interruption ... If you're engaged in some kind of a complex process like writing code, or design process, or something, one interruption takes you 20 minutes to fully recover from and get back to where you were before.  
Anna: Oh, that's insane. That is so insane. Even just the mental effort to try to get back on track, too.  
Roger: This is why open offices are not a great idea.  
Anna: Yeah, I'm not a fan of open offices. I worked in several and I did not appreciate them from a productivity standpoint.  
  So, Roger, question for you, because a lot of times the people who are most likely going to be recognizing friction points are going to be those who are not at the C-suite, or even at the manager level.  
  Sometimes bringing up areas of friction can seem sort of like you're being a contrarian, or maybe you're just causing trouble, or just being negative. So how could people start to point out some organizational friction without being seen as that sort of Debbie Downer?  
Roger: Right, you don't want to be seen as, well, this person is whining because they don't want to do the work.  
Anna: Yes.  
Roger: They want to take some kind of a shortcut.  
Anna: But being in 32 hours of meetings is a good reason to complain.  
Roger: Right. Well, I think there does have to be some management buy-in. Ideally, at least a mid-level or lower-level manager can start the ball rolling.  
  But, if not, then it's ... Have to point out what could be saved. Do a costs/benefits analysis. You know, it's not like, gee, this is really a pain for me to do.  
  But if you can show that, hey, this would free up 45 minutes of time per week if I didn't have to create this report that nobody reads, and I could be doing this other task that you've been wanting me to do. That's one way.  
  I'll give you an example of how corporate procedures can just totally get in the way of actual productivity. In this case, fortunately, in this example, management buy in was from the very top.  
  It was Jack Welch, when he was CEO at General Electric. His reign there pretty much qualified him as the manager of the 20th century because what he accomplished there, in terms of growth, and profitability, and shareholder value was amazing.  
  Now some people question his legacy because after his successor took over things began to come unglued around the time of the financial crisis. But you really can't argue with what Jack accomplished.  
  What he did was, first of all he de-layered. The typical sort of bureaucracy in corporations at that time was command and control, where one manager would have maybe six or eight subordinates. Who would then in turn, each would have some similar number of subordinates.  
  When you were a large corporation this created many, many layers of management. So that by the time information got to the CEO it had already been passed through ten or fifteen different filters.  
  He de-layered, made the organizations much flatter so that communication could happen that way. And then, in a later iteration ...  
  And he saved massive amounts of money in the process. He ended up taking well over a hundred thousand jobs out of the company, which may or may not be good.  
  But he made them much more efficient and much more profitable by this combination of de-layering and also just getting rid of operations that were not profitable for the company.  
  Then he did something else. He blew up all the barriers so that people could talk across functions and across layers of management. Because even then, there was sort of a protocol.  
  If sales wanted to talk to manufacturing about something, they would go through a chain of command. Up through their chain of command who would then go across to manufacturing, and then down through there.  
  He stopped that from happening. He said, okay, if you want to talk to somebody, you can. And in one meeting he asked people, well, what can we do to make life easier?  
  These were hourly workers, union workers, in the meeting. Which, for them, being asked, what would be helpful to you was kind of a novel thing for management. Because they were often in the past sort of on opposite ends of the table.  
  One machine operator said, okay, I'm handling sharp metal pieces all day at my machine. I use work gloves, and every week or two these gloves wear out and I have to go get a new one.  
  To do that I have to leave my machine, leave my building, go to the building where the tool crib is. I have to fill in a requisition form for a new pair of gloves, then find a supervisor to approve it. Get the gloves, go back to my workstation.  
  And depending on how long it takes to find a supervisor and everything else it takes, this could waste an hour or two of time every time it happens.  
Anna: Oh my God.  
Roger: They said, well, why don't we just have a box of gloves there. Somebody explained, well, some previous manager was afraid the workers would steal the gloves if they didn't have a procedure for getting them.  
  So the solution was simple. Put a box of gloves by the guy's workstation.  
Anna: Right.  
Roger: When he needs one, he'll take some. The loss from theft is going to be absolutely minimal, if not zero. Compare that to the huge amount of time and productivity that was gained by that process.  
  But nobody ever really questioned whether it was essential that getting a new pair of gloves should take an hour or two until they looked at it.  
Anna: Wow.  
Roger: So speaking up is really one of the first ways to do it. But I would put it not in terms of, this is a disagreeable effort for me, but in terms of how much time and money it'll save the company.  
Anna: Nice. I love it. Yeah, solid advice. Start with the benefits, not just the problem. Give a solution, plus what's in it for everybody.  
  So Roger, I know you had mentioned that the other best way to reduce friction is to go read your book. I know it comes out very, very soon, May 17th. Where can everybody pick up that book?  
Roger: Well, on May 17th it should be available wherever one normally buys books. It's already listed at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and the other major sites.  
  Assuming the trucks roll when they should, hopefully it'll be in bookstores too, then.  
Anna: Nice. I'm really excited to read it. Roger, thank you so much for being on the show today and walking us through some of those friction points both from the customer perspective and the internal organizational perspective.  
  Everybody, stick around though, because we are going to chat with Roger. Now that we've gotten to know the professional side of Roger, we're going to get to know Roger on the personal side.  
  So stick around and we are going to have a bit of fun after this break.  
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Anna: All right, Roger, so we got to know the professional side of you. Let's chat a little bit more personal.  
  I know that you are a Game of Thrones fan, correct?  
Roger: That's correct.  
Anna: And we are just less than a week away from the season premiere of the final season.  
Roger: Right.  
Anna: So, just curious out there ... And anybody who hasn't seen the show up until this point, you might want to go ahead and just stop listening now. And then go watch Game of Thrones and then come back and listen.  
  Curious, what are your predictions for this season? How do you think it's all going to come to an end?  
Roger: I think many people will die. That's the one certainty.  
Anna: This is true.  
Roger: The actors themselves don't know how it will end. And of course, they have resurrected people in the past.  
Anna: Well.  
Roger: So really, there's not necessarily a logical path for them to follow. But I'm expecting some really epic battle scenes between dragons and armies. And undoubtedly some palace intrigue along the way.  
Anna: Absolutely. All right, is there anybody you think will end up on the Iron Throne?  
Roger: You know, I have a photo of myself on the Iron Throne.  
Anna: Oh, there you go.  
Roger: I'm holding it back until it gets a little bit closer to post. But no, in fact I saw some speculation that maybe nobody would be on it, or something.  
Anna: Oh, interesting.  
Roger: I don't know. I mean, certainly there are some people who you would like to see on it, perhaps more than others, the likable characters.  
Anna: Yeah. Very true.  
Roger: As opposed to the evil characters. But I guess we'll see.  
Anna: Very true. I know, that show has so many twists and turns you never know where it's going to go. Which is, I think, why I like it so much. Nothing is sacred on that show.  
Roger: It really set a new standard for TV where ...  
  TV tends to be predictable because you know, actors have contracts. When they finally kill somebody off, usually it's because there was a contract dispute.  
  In this show, right in the first season, they killed off a few major characters. It was like, whoa, this is different.  
Anna: Yeah, I know. They took Kill Your Darlings to the most literal sense.  
Roger: Right, right. I mean, who would have expected Sean Bean and Ned Stark at that point? This is a guy that could carry the whole show for seasons, and boom, he's gone.  
Anna: Yeah. I know.  
Roger: I hope that wasn't a spoiler for anybody, but that was season one.  
Anna: You know what? They've had about nine years to see it up until that point, so that wasn't really too big of a spoiler. But, awesome.  
  All right. Well Roger, thank you so much. We will have to catch up at some point and see where we're at on The Game of Thrones predictions and spoilers and all that later this season.  
  But thank you so much for being on. It was really great to have you here.  
Roger: It's been a lot of fun, Anna. Thanks for inviting me.  
Anna: Yeah. Everybody else, thank you so much for joining as well. I will be joined again next week with the amazing Randy Frisch from Uberflip.  
  Until then, please go ahead and leave us a comment wherever you listen to this podcast. Let us know what you want to hear next, what topics you like. And we will talk to you next week.  
 
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