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Personally I love 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 is one of those things where the aphorism “more the merrier” applied.

I recently went through a couple of experiences that have helped me settle this debate. Sort of.

The first one was in the B2C space with the housing portal Housing.com and the second one, with the B2B SaaS product SalesLoft.

Housing

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Housing assures data quality without causing friction

Founded by a group of fellow alumni 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 when I listed my property on it. This contrasts sharply with every other housing portal I’ve used in the past that have made me complete long forms. To execute its missionary zeal to ensure high quality and freshness of data, Housing sends out its own Data Collectors to the propery to click photographs and enter its particulars directly into a mobile app while they’re onsite. This delivered a very frictionless CX.

Then the leads started coming in and all hell broke loose.

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!

SalesLoft

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Confusing List on SalesLoft

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 immediately. Lo and behold, my screen filled up with a long list of contacts from various companies. Since I hadn’t specified any selection criteria, 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.

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On the face of it, these experiences might imply that it’s bad for something to be 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, that would be the wrong conclusion.

As wrong as the misguided belief that, if the customer is compelled to make more efforts to contact a vendor, then they’re more interested in doing business with the vendor. Friction shouldn’t be used as a lead qualification tool. Nor for accomplishing outcomes for which there are better ways.

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Data.com / Jigsaw Lead List

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. To go back to my two examples:

  • 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 – as we’ve seen above – to ensure that smooth sailing at an earlier funnel stage doesn’t create unintended friction at later stages of the purchasing process.

Ketharaman Swaminathan On April - 24 - 2015

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