Embrace a Dose of Good Friction


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By Soon Yu and Dave Birss

Excerpted from Friction: Adding Value by Making People Work for It.

Photo credit: Soon Yu and Dave Birss

Over the last couple of decades, customer experience has made it to the forefront of business priorities. Which makes it all the more incredible how many poor experiences there still are out there.

The big companies also know that it’s not a one-and-done task. Even the best customer experience can lose its shine over time as competitors catch up, and customer expectations evolve.

But many businesses have been inadvertently making their offering bland in their efforts to improve the experience. They’ve solely focused on giving the customer LESS friction, creating experiences that don’t engage people’s minds or make them feel anything.

The major downside of winning customers by being frictionless is that their loyalty is only to the experience that is the most effortless and seamless. Your customers will quickly switch to another competitor that creates an even more seamless experience than you.

Good friction, on the other hand, creates engagement and consideration, rewarding customers with happy chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins and adrenaline. This makes the experience more sticky. And the pleasure customers get from the happy chemicals results in much higher switching costs.

So, how do you benefit from this? Use the MORE framework.

Give your customers MORE

M: MAP – Map the journey from the first touchpoint to the last. Chronologically list interactions and add key decision points. Inside these moments, identify the ones that are the most pivotal.

O: OWN – Own the pivotal moments and make them your signature using friction. Identify interactions with high emotion and select the most consequential ones.

R: REMOVE – Remove the pain and reduce bad friction. Identify bad friction causing frustration, confusion, redundancy, and risk. Then, eliminate sources of bad friction.

E: EMBRACE – Embrace a dose of good friction. Add good friction to increase exclusivity, meaning, belonging, rapport, assurance, competence, and engagement.

This is the heart of the message. The real opportunity lies in adding good friction to your experiences. So, we need to look at our moments to see where we can go beyond removing pain to adding pleasure.

Good friction in action

To demonstrate this, let’s look at to the world of car sounds.

As you’ll have noticed, electric vehicles are very much on the rise. The UK recently announced that it would be banning the sale of petrol, diesel, and hybrid cars by 2035, possibly even earlier.

The benefits are clear. As well as reduced emissions, the vehicles are quieter, more adaptable, and have incredible acceleration. It’s no wonder automotive brands have been investing heavily in their development.

One such manufacturer is Porsche. They recently released their first electric car, the Taycan. It’s a Porsche through and through. From its elegant lines and fat tires to its luxury interiors and aggressive acceleration.

The one thing it doesn’t have is the throaty roar from a sports exhaust. And that auditory experience is part of the thrill. The sound of a finely tuned engine at high revs adds to the adrenaline rush and gives you feedback on what the car is doing. So Porsche set to work, creating some tasty ear candy for their drivers.

They couldn’t just replicate the sound of a petrol engine. The Taycan was a new kind of car, and they had to embrace that. So, they ended up creating the Porsche Electric Sport Sound – an electric whine that rises and falls in line with the car’s speed and acceleration.

They designed the sound to be heard inside and outside the vehicle so that other road users can hear the car as it whips past them on the autobahn.

Of course, in rational terms, this sound is entirely unnecessary. The quietness of electric cars is undoubtedly a benefit. But this piece of good friction is an emotion-booster. It enhances the adrenaline rush. And like a Pavlovian response, just the thought of it will release dopamine in the minds of Taycan owners.

Good friction releases happy neurochemicals, so why wouldn’t we embrace it?

About the Authors:

Soon Yu is an international speaker, award-winning author, and expert on innovation, branding, design, and entrepreneurship. He most recently served as the Global VP of Innovation and Officer at VF Corporation, parent organization to over 30 global apparel companies, including The North Face, Vans, Timberland, Nautica and Wrangler. He is the author, alongside Dave Birss, of Friction: Adding Value by Making People Work for It.

Dave Birss is a popular creativity speaker who spends his time helping individuals and organizations get to better ideas. He’s a former advertising creative director who spent 20 years of his life coming up with marketing concepts for the world’s biggest brands. Now he travels the globe explaining how to have more effective ideas.


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