Personally I love a frictionless CX and I was glad I could make a business out of my passion when I launched Conversion Rate Optimization as one of the services of my company’s Digital Marketing+ offering.
All along I’ve been debating with myself and my customers whether there’s an optimum level of being frictionless or frictionless was one of those things to which the aphorism “more the merrier” applied.
I recently went through a couple of experiences that rekindled this debate.
The first one was in the B2C space with the housing portal Housing.com and the second one was with the B2B SaaS product SalesLoft.
Founded by a fellow alum from IIT Bombay, Housing.com provides a very frictionless experience for buying, selling and renting property. Let alone short forms or prefilled forms, Housing didn’t ask me to fill any form at all. This contrasts sharply with every other housing portal that has had me complete long forms to list my property. Housing places a great emphasis on data quality and freshness. To execute this, the company sends out its own Data Collectors to the propery to click photographs and enter its particulars directly into a mobile app from onsite. I found the CX very frictionless.
All was well until the leads started coming in and chaos followed.
One potential tenant told me that he wished to start an office in the apartment. Another guy wanted to convert the flat into a corporate guest house. The third guy wanted a pad for himself and a couple of his colleagues at work.
When I told them that none of these was permitted according to the housing society, all three of them pushed back saying Housing.com listed my property when they searched the portal using their specific needs as filter criteria. I apologized to them profusely for the confusion caused by Housing – looks like its Data Collector tapped too many buttons on his app without asking my explicit confirmation for each of them when he created the listing on my behalf!
After reading a blog post about this “Sales Development Prospecting & Automation” software, I immediately visited its website and signed up for its free trial by filling a short form. As soon as the software installed itself as a Chrome Extension on my browser, it showed me a button that said “Generate Leads”. Like any other marketer, I found this to be a powerful CTA and hit the button. Lo and behold, my screen just filled up with a long list of names of people in various companies. I hadn’t specified any criteria for selection. I had no clue what was the basis on which SalesLoft had compiled this list. I gave up with the trial. It was only during a subsequent conference call that the company’s sales rep explained the rationale behind the list.
On the face of it, it appears that there’s something like being too frictionless. After all, if Housing had asked me to fill a form, I’d have ensured that my property was not listed for commercial zoning or any of the other exclusions. If SalesLoft had asked me to fill a form asking me for what kind of leads I wanted, I’d have been in a better position to understand what leads it served up.
However, jumping to that conclusion would be falling into the “the more effort our customers make to get our quote, the more interested they are in doing business with us” trap that I urge my customers not to fall into. Friction shouldn’t be used as an instrument to qualify leads.
In the same way, there’s nothing like being too frictionless.
That said, I do think there are ways of making sure that a frictionless approach doesn’t result in confusion, and hence, abandonment, at later stages of the purchase funnel. For instance,
- Housing could have emailed me the draft listing with all the options highlighted and given me the opportunity to correct the errors before going live. (The portal didn’t even ask me to register or create a password, so I didn’t even have a way to access my listing online and edit it).
- SalesLoft could’ve clearly listed the search options it used for compiling the list. The options could be placed on the top / left of the page à la LinkedIn / JigSaw-Data.com respectively. Had it done that, I’d have automatically been able to do some “sales development and prospecting” with this list, which is exactly what the software advertises as its mission.
So, to answer the question that is the title of this blog post:
No, there’s nothing like being too frictionless. Less friction is always better. But it takes extra efforts – from explanatory language to tweaks in the onboarding process to other things in between – to ensure that smooth sailing at an earlier funnel stage doesn’t spoil the overall conversion with unintended friction at later stages.