Roger Dooley talks about how eliminating friction at work can lead to better productivity.
- The cardinal rule of friction
- How to reduce the friction of meetings
- How mistrust creates friction
Roger Dooley is an author and international keynote speaker. His books include Friction: The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage and Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing. He is behind the popular blog, Neuromarketing, as well as a column at Forbes.com.
He is the founder of Dooley Direct, a consultancy, and co-founded College Confidential, the leading college-bound website. He has an engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from the University of Tennessee.
- Book: “FRICTION―The Untapped Force That Can Be Your Most Powerful Advantage”
- Book: “Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing”
- Blog: Neuromarketing
- Podcast: Brainfluence
- Website: RogerDooley.com
Resources mentioned in the show:
- App: Pocket
- Book: “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini
- Book: “Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies” by Paul Zak
- Company: Gallup
- Personality: Cal Newport
- Personality: Jack Welch
- Personality: Richard Thaler
- Personality: Werner Heisenberg
- Previous episode: 124: The Science Behind Trust and High-Performance with Paul Zak
- Software: Google Tag Manager
- Survey: Customer Effort Score
- Survey: Net Promoter Score
Thank you Freshbooks!
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Roger, thanks for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.
Well, happy to be here, Pete. Thanks for the invite.
Well, I’m so excited to dig into your stuff. And I understand that you currently operate as a behavioral scientist but that was not always your path. You started as a chemical engineer. Can you tell us how did you cross over and do you see some natural crossover ideas between the two?
Sure. And to clarify, I only play behavioral scientist on the internet. I am not actually a behavioral scientist. Although, I do write a lot about behavioral science and certainly try and convey some of the ideas from great scientists to business people in ways they can understand. But, yeah, I did start off life as an engineer, a chemical engineer, and only did that for a few years. But, Pete, I think that being an engineer and training as one kind of gives you a worldview, a way of looking at things, that serves you well regardless of your profession. You really sort of have to deal with reality.
Engineers can’t do stuff based on faith, or based on, “Well, this seems like a good idea,” or even sort of argue their way through it. If they’re going to build something, it’s got to stand up and not fall down. I was a chemical engineer and, if you’re designing plants or reactions or whatever, they simply have to work. So, if you can bring that same kind of thinking to the pursuit of business and other topics, I think it’s still valuable.
Okay. I’m with you. And so, one such concept is friction and we’re going to go all over the place with this. But why don’t we kick it off by sharing how do you define friction and why do you say it’s the enemy of business?
Well, the simple definition is any unnecessary effort to perform a task. And the reasons it’s the enemy of business is because it is everywhere, even where we don’t see it. If we saw it and recognize it, there’ll be a lot less of it, and it’s funny, because people think they see it.
A couple of years ago, I was getting ready to speak at a conference, there was a mastermind, a group of very smart people, and the organizer wanted me to record a promo, he said, “Okay, I want you to share your best idea in advance.” I said, “Okay, I’ll do friction.” He said, “No, no, no, everybody knows about friction. You got to do something else.” So, I humored them and I did something else, but there is that attitude that we know all about it, that, yes, okay, you have Silicon Valley trying to make things frictionless and so on, but the reality is, in our daily life and daily interactions with businesses, there is a lot of friction both as a customer and as an employee.
Think of all the bad processes you encounter on websites and mobile apps where you can’t figure out what to do, or you try and do something and it doesn’t work. And within companies, there is perhaps even more internal friction in the vast majority of companies, according to Gallup, something like 85% of employees are disengaged with their employer, they aren’t actively engaged, which means they’re not going to be loyal, they’re not really going to deliver that great customer experience, and a big reason is so much of their time and, more importantly, effort is wasted.
It’s wasted by meetings that don’t get anything done. It’s wasted by dealing with emails that they really don’t accomplish anything, bad processes internally that waste their time, rules, ways of getting things done that don’t make sense. It’s just amazing how much time is not really productive. And people realize that, and if the company is not working to cure that, then it’s no wonder employees become disengaged.
Well, so I think you’ve done a fine job outlining some of the key examples of friction that we all encounter and what can be at stake with regard to engagement. Could you maybe make this come alive for us with a compelling story in which you saw the power of friction in great force?
Well, I think maybe the best examples are ones that our audience is familiar with, and I’ll give you two from business examples dealing with customer experience and friction and also with the invisibility of friction.
One is Uber. Nobody thought about all the friction there was in the taxi process. Taxis were pretty much unchanged for, I don’t know, 50 years or so, and people just accepted that they were the way they were and occasionally you might get aggravated if you couldn’t find a taxi at all on a rainy afternoon in Manhattan or something. But most of the time, we just figured, “Okay. Well, this is the process. This is the way it is. There’s not a better way.”
It wasn’t until Uber came along with such a smooth experience, even from hailing the ride in the first place, to paying them at the end where there is no payment process at all. That’s the easiest process when there is no process. You just get out and say goodbye. Suddenly, people’s eyes were opened, and they said, “Whoa, wow, those taxis really weren’t that great, were they?” And that accounts for Uber’s tremendous popularity and also of their somewhat smaller competitors. They just changed this where people had not even seen it to begin with.
And I think the other sort of mega example is Amazon where they have put so much effort into minimizing customer effort. There’s many reasons why they’re successful, but that is one of the biggest ones. When you ask people what drives loyalty, they may give you, say things like, “Well, boy, a really outstanding experience, having my expectations exceeded.” Research shows that what drives customer loyalty are low-friction experiences, minimum customer effort.
Gartner, the big research company, did some phenomenal research that showed when people had a high-effort customer service interaction versus a low-effort, the high-effort customers were 96% of customers who had a high-effort experience were likely to be disloyal compared to just about a tenth of that for low-effort customers. When it comes to repeat customers, 94% of low-effort customers were likely to repurchase compared to just 4% of high-effort customers.
And we can see that at Amazon. They have gone out of their way to minimize effort starting with one-click ordering. Way back in 1998, they patented one-click ordering that I know I thought at the time that’s kind of goofy. He can’t really patent that, can you? Well, it turned out they could. And when Barnes & Noble implemented it on their site, Amazon and Barnes & Noble got in a huge legal battle. Ultimately, Amazon prevailed after spending millions of dollars to defend that patent. And what did they accomplish with that time and trouble and expense? All they accomplished was forcing their competitors to add one tiny little click to their process.
Now, if you talk to the average IT person and say, “Well, gee, I have to click that, it’s only three keystrokes,” they’d say, “Oh, hey, three keystrokes, who cares? It’s nothing.” For Amazon, it was worth that huge legal battle to defend disadvantaging their competitors by a single click. And beyond Jeff Bezos and other smart guys, Steve Jobs saw that at the same time he was launching his music store, and he didn’t try and fight the patent, he didn’t try and come up with some kind of workaround. He went to Amazon and paid them a million dollars so that he could implement one-click ordering in iTunes. And we know how that worked out.
So, to me, Amazon does it in so many different ways. They came up years ago with frustration-free packaging. They saw that people were really frustrated by these plastic clamshells that you can’t open with your bare hands. They’re great for retail, I guess, because they’re sort of hard to steal and they show the product off. But when you get the thing home and you’ve got to use some kind of sharp instrument to get them open…
And their plastic is sharp. I cut myself with the plastic I’ve cut.
…and they’re terrible for the environment. Yeah, if you don’t stab yourself with the knife you’re using, you stab yourself with the plastic shard. And Amazon said, “Well, we don’t need that.” They came up with frustration-free packaging. Just simple cardboard packages that you can open with your bare hands, they’re better for the environment, very minimal risk of injury. And the amazing thing is this, not only did people liked the packaging better, Pete, but there was a 73% reduction in negative feedback on products that were packaged that way. So, people actually liked the products better that were packaged that way.
They have focused on this since day one. Way back in 1997, Bezos was talking about frictionless shopping, and one of my favorite quotes is from Jeff, he said, “When you reduce friction, when you make something easy, people do more of it.” And that is pretty much the theme of the book, and it’s a lesson that not everybody has learned.
Yeah. Well, I appreciate you sharing all these examples, and it really does resonate in terms of in many, many different implications and applications of when you reduce friction, you make it easier. Like, podcasts have been around for, I guess I should know this, but more than 15 years and, yet, it’s only the last few years that they’ve “exploded, taken off” like all these things. And, in many ways, that’s just because it’s become easier. Like, there’s a podcast app natively on iPhones.
There is plentiful bandwidth available from your cellular towers as opposed to Wi-Fi so that you can just listen anywhere, no problem, without really stressing so much like your data limits. It’s like a tiny fraction. You don’t need to worry about it. Whereas, several years ago, you might say, “Ooh, I’ve only got one or two Gigabytes a month.” Well, now more people are having more. So, it totally adds up that there’s less friction, the more people will do that thing.
So, let’s talk about, now zooming in on the workplace, how can we apply some of these principles so that we get more great stuff done, so that our teams are more effective? What do you see are some of the top sources of friction at work and the best solutions for lubricating it?
Well, I think, often, organizations that start off lean and mean and very effective where people are totally engaged and working really hard, they tend to grow if they’re successful, and the bigger companies get, often be more bound by rules and procedures and processes they become. And to some degree that’s necessary. If you’re going to have a large organization, often you do have to have some standardization and processes. You do have to have guidelines for new people and so on. It’s sort of goes with the territory, and that’s okay. But often people, managers in particular, don’t even know why they are doing things.
There was one, I’m thinking it was by Bain, but I’m not sure if they ask people about which rules they were following that were either pointless or wasted their time. And so, a bunch of employees said in this survey, they nominated various rules. And what they found was that half the things that people mentioned weren’t even rules at all. They were simply the way things had been done, and they’ve been done that way for so long that they had somehow become codified into a rule. And people didn’t think it was a good way to do it but they just kept on doing it because they thought that that was what the company wanted.
I think meetings are a horrendous waste of time. Fortunately, I’ve been an entrepreneur for probably, I don’t know, 35 years or something, and I had a brief stint of a few years where I’ve built a business and ended up joining a very large company that purchased that business as part of the deal, and, by and large, it was a pretty good experience. They’re good people and certainly not as dysfunctional as many businesses but they had some of the typical big-company problems, including meetings. And I had a person working for me who’s a product manager, and she was a smart person, but she was not really succeeding in innovating new ideas, and we talked about it, and she said, “I don’t have time.” I said, “Well, why?”
We looked at her schedule and she had as many as 32 hours of meetings in a typical week, which is insane because how much time after that do you have left for productive work or, as Cal Newport would say, deep work, which is what you have to do if you want to be creative. You’ve got to have that time set aside. And, instead, it was difficult to keep up just with the flow of paperwork and stuff, and email, and everything else, and the meetings. That is not an atypical situation. Stats vary on that but many, many people spend half, or two-thirds of their time, in meetings. And you simply can’t be doing deep work when that’s happening.
Now, meetings can be very useful. If you can bring a team of people together and discuss something quickly, reach a conclusion, establish a course of action, that’s really valuable. But so often, they become just sort of institutionalized and people come and they really don’t accomplish much. All the people that attend really don’t have to attend. They’re there because, well, something might come up that would affect them and so on. And you can even go down the list.
But, to me, the one question that can help people uncover where the sort of least-productive highest-friction aspects of a job are to ask a simple question of one’s people, and that is “How can I make your job easier?” Now, a lot of people have never heard that question or have never had a boss ask them that question because they’re basically used to a boss saying, “Well, how can you get more done? How can I help you work harder?” And that is what people expect but that is not really the question.
When you ask people that question, it does two things. First of all, it can help you identify bottlenecks or bad processes that are wasting time that you can’t see but your people can see. No manager can really understand what everybody that works for them is doing or having to cope with, at least in most cases, unless they’ve done that particular job. But when you ask the person who’s doing it, they know where the problems are. And not only that, when you ask them that, you are showing them that you are on their side. You are not the boss saying, “How can you work harder and get more done?” Instead, you’re asking how you can make their job and, by extension, their life easier.
So, to me, it’s a double win. You find those friction points and you also help increase the engagement of that employee because once they believe that the company cares about them and is trying to make their job easier, not just make them work harder or be more productive, then they can feel that bond and be more engaged.
Yes, I dig that. And so, that’s a powerful question right there in terms of, “How can I make your job or your life easier?” And so, I think in the realm of meetings, what sorts of solutions have emerged when people approach that problem with that question?
I think that there are any number of approaches. First of all is to, I mean, there have been some sort of mechanical approaches, like saying, “Okay, no-meeting Mondays,” for example, or in one extreme case, “Meetings only on Wednesdays” where they really wanted to cut down on the number of meetings. And those things can work and they can help. I think that really expecting each leader to manage the meetings they are responsible for and to view them from a standpoint of having a big impact on the people that they invite.
Another sort of interesting little technique is to limit the number of people that can be invited to a meeting. Yet another one would be to show the cost, sort of have a cost factor for each person. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be down to their salary level, but show, “Okay, if you’re going to invite a senior engineer to the meeting, that is worth 123 bucks an hour or something,” so that people could see the cost of the meeting that they’re calling.
And scheduling software is great, things like Outlook and some of the other tools that are available that let you easily connect. If you recall the old days where if you wanted to set up a meeting, you, or somebody working for you, would have to call around and try and find a common time, and you get a couple people lined up, and another third person can’t do it then, so you have to kind of change the time. With a scheduling software, it makes that easy. The problem is it treats any time that you are not in a meeting already as available for scheduling, so blocking out time and that schedule for deep work, saying, “Okay, I’m not going to be available during these times.” Now, assuming that you have the ability to control your life that much, that’s another great technique for ensuring that you’ve got the bandwidth to do good work not just go to meetings.
All right. So, that’s great when it comes to meetings. Can you share what are some other common causes of friction at work and common solutions for them?
Well, okay, one thing to clarify, Pete, in my book, I do not deal with interpersonal friction. That’s sort of either a boss or the passive-aggressive coworker, that sort of thing. Those are real issues but those are not the kind of friction that I deal with. That would be a whole another book, and that book has been written too, I think. But the idea of finding rules that people are following, that they find unproductive, is a good one. Asking people, if they can eliminate one rule, what would that be, that’s wasting most of their time or is most annoying to them?
I’ll give you an example from my own experience. Again, this is with that big company that I worked for for a bit. They had an expense reporting process like every large company, and I would travel on business occasionally, and even though I was a VP-level person, as they brought me in, I had to report even the tiniest expense if I want it reimbursed. So, if I bought a $2 coffee at the airport, then if I want to be reimbursed for that, I would have to not only put that on my expense report, but I would have to furnish a receipt for that. And this is way beyond IRS guidelines. IRS guidelines do not require that. They set some limits on which expenses required documentation and which don’t.
This really was super annoying. It added a lot of time to the expense-submission process. I know I lost a bunch because either I just didn’t get a receipt, or I lost the receipt, or something, and I always wondered if anybody looked at that. And, one time, I found out that they did actually looked at that when I stapled a quarter-inch of little papers to my expense report, somebody did look at it because accounting came back and said, “Oh, hey, you do not have a receipt for this $3 item here.” I don’t know where it went. I had it when I was doing the report, but it got lost somewhere. So, not only was it wasting my time but it’s wasting somebody else’s time who was reviewing all those.
And then, to cap it off, they came up with a solution to make it more efficient, where there was an electronic process that you could scan these receipts, take photos of them, you could then attach these JPEGs or PDFs to your electronic document, and it would go into an electronic workflow, and it was all wonderful except that was very efficient for the accounting people because you were documenting it in a very clean electronic way, you were assigning account numbers that were really cryptic to the average person, like, “What kind of expense is this?” You’ve got all these accounts that have accounting names, and you can’t really figure out where it goes.
So, basically, what they did was created a process that was efficient for them, but for the employee made it even more onerous and inefficient. And the point is, there was not a reason for this. Ultimately, I ended up asking the financial guy after he had left the company and I had left the company, I said, “Why did you guys do that? That seems crazy.” “Well, they did not trust the employees not to cheat on their expenses or put stuff down that they didn’t actually spend.” And, Pete, that brings us to the issue of trust, which I find underlies a lot of friction inside companies.
Now, I know you’ve had Paul Zak on the show, and his book “Trust Factor” is really amazing. And, as you know, he found that high-performing organizations have high levels of trust. And the converse is true too, and obviously if you’re asking your employees to submit $2 expense receipts and then denying expense reports because they forgot a $2 receipt, there is not much of a trust factor there, and this is limiting the performance of these organizations.
So, looking for those things, there is a great story in my book from GE way back in the Jack Welch days before the turn of the last century, and they asked that question that I mentioned, “How can I make your job easier?” to a group of union workers in manufacturing, not the most cooperative folks in dealing with management. And one guy spoke up and said, “Yeah, I handle sharp metal all day at my machine and I wear out a pair of work gloves every week or so. To get a new pair, I’ve got to shut my machine down, leave the building, go to another building, go to the tool crib, fill out a requisition form, find a supervisor to sign the requisition form, take it back to the tool crib, where then they will issue me the gloves, and I go back to my building and my machine, and that can take an hour or two depending on how hard it is to find a supervisor where there’s a line at the tool crib.”
And it turned out that the reason they had this rule was because they were afraid that people were going to steal gloves. So, the solution was put a box of damn gloves by the guys’ machine. And it turned out, he did not steal all the gloves every day, and they saved hours of time per week, plus they established that, “Okay, we trust you. We’re not making you go through this horrible procedure because we don’t think you’re going to steal a $2 pair of gloves.” It’s crazy.
So, I think that when you look at those procedures and see how many are based on lack of trust, when you fix those, not only are you saving time, but you are indicating that you trust your people.
Yes, that’s really resonating, that many rules come about from lack of trust. And so, underneath it all, if you have the trust in place, then you may not need those rules. That’s great. So, I love your question there on, “How can I make your life and job easier?” I’d love to get your view on what are some other ways that we can spot friction and common means of reducing it?
Well, I think that spotting it in the customer experience is both easy and potentially a trouble point. We have so many metrics now from our digital tools we can see where customers are slowing down, whether they are clicking on stuff that shouldn’t be clicked at because it can’t be clicked on.
If they are bailing out of a process, there are so many tools we can use that can give us some of this friction information. We can also ask them. But one thing that I’ve seen is even as we try and improve customer experience, and I call this the Heisenberg effect because Heisenberg says, “You can’t measure something without changing it.” He’s referring to subatomic particles, and I apologize in advance to any actual physicists who would say that’s an oversimplification of his Uncertainty Principle. But, basically, what I see happening is people try to measure their customer experience and end up affecting it.
Net Promoter Score is a decent metric, that’s where you ask if somebody is likely to recommend your company to someone else. And it’s, certainly, better than doing nothing, but sometimes the way people try and capture that is you go to a website with the intention of getting something done, you want to place an order, you want to get some information, what’s the first thing you see? A damn pop-up that is asking you if you want to do a survey when you’re done. Nobody clicks yes.
I’ve got that on slides that I do in my speeches, and I’ve shown that pop-up, or an example of that pop-up, to thousands and thousands of people, and I always ask, “Who actually clicks, ‘Yes, I’ll do the survey’?” And in all of those, I probably have like two or three people raise their hands and everybody else doesn’t. Nobody does that. So, you are annoying 100% of your customers to get a return of a fraction of a percent of them, and the fraction of a percent that answers is probably not representative.
They’re probably already pissed off at you for something and they’re looking for any opportunity to tell you that. And even worse, these things like hotels, or airlines, or cruise lines send you after your experience, I mean, normally I delete those things. I stay in hotels a lot when I’m traveling for speaking and such, and every time I get them, “A brief survey about your stay.” And I found these surveys are never brief, there’s always a million questions.
But I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express which enabled me to be on your show today. I’m significantly more intelligent because of that. And I found that the lighting in the hotel that I stayed in was kind of strange. It was cold lighting temperature, felt very industrial, and not warm and cozy, so I said, “Okay, I’m going to tell them about that. Maybe they don’t know that.” So, I actually opened the thing when they said, “Tell us about your stay,” and there were a few questions. Everything is on a scale of one to ten. Can you really rate whether your front-desk experience was a 7 versus an 8? You’re forcing people to really think about this, which is cognitive friction or cognitive effort that’s wasted with those fine gradations.
But, again, I get into it and I answered the first few questions. Then I get to this thing. It’s like a 10×10 matrix, asking me to rate all these different things and one big thing, again, from a scale of one to ten, and things like the pillows, the electrical outlets. And I didn’t even notice these things. I didn’t want to talk about them. I tried to skip over that so I could get to a form field that I could just type in my comment but it wouldn’t let me. I had to answer every single question to proceed with their stupid survey. And so, I just bailed out of the whole thing. It was just too much effort.
And when you make customers work like that, you are actually affecting their customer experience negatively when maybe they did want to tell you something but you just made it too difficult for them. United Airlines, I’ve been a 1K for five years and I have a special customer service line I like to dial into. It’s answered immediately every time, always with a competent US-based representative, so it’s a great service. But, amazingly, even though they recognize me when I call in, a little robot voice says, “Hello, Roger,” because they recognize my mobile phone.
And then before they connect me with a representative, I have to listen to a 15-second recording asking me if, at the conclusion of the conversation, I would like to answer a survey about the experience. And in order to say no, even though I’m on my mobile phone I’ve got up to my ear, I cannot use a voice command. Up to that point I could use voice commands to ask for a representative, but I have to take the phone away from my ear, open the dial pad, and click 2 to decline to do the survey.
And the crime in this is that these are their best customers, their most loyal customers, their highest-revenue customers, and they are slowing down every customer service interaction by about 15 seconds, at least, because of their desire to ask about the experience. I was tempted to say, “Yes, I’ll answer the experience,” and then say how annoying their little message was, but I suspect if I did that, that would not be an option. They would want me to rate the representative on whether he or she was helpful and so on. So, we see this just all the time, and companies are not aware that, even as they’re trying to make their service better, they’re making it worse.
Boy, there’s so much in there, and I appreciate sort of like the broad span of examples. It’s sort of like, “Who are you making things easy for? Are you making it easy for the employee who processes that data?” “Yeah, we sure are. They’re able to say, ‘Cool, I’ve got my 10×10 matrix, I could see that pillows are really our problem here so effortlessly because of how that survey was formatted so I can just get right to it.” But you’re making it very not easy for the end party.
And so, it’s sort of like if we were to flip it around, the easiest possible thing they could do would be to say, “Hey, what do we need to know about your experience at our hotel?” And you can say, “The lighting was ghostly weird and I didn’t like it.”
Yeah, you’re exactly right, Pete. What I advocate is maybe a very simple checkbox. If you’ve seen those things at airports or other kinds of facilities where…
The happy face?
…they have like three or four emojis ranging from happy to sad with neutral in the middle, “How’s your experience?” People can relate to that. They don’t have to think about it. They can choose the happy one or the neutral one almost on autopilot because they know what kind of experience they had. And then give them a big empty blank space where they can say whatever they want. The problem is this doesn’t fit neatly in spreadsheets. It’s hard to take those answers. It takes extra effort, so that’s why I think companies don’t do that. They like to have that granular information of, “Hey, our pillows are up 10% from last year.” But that isn’t really helping the customer.
Certainly. And, in a way, I guess I always come back to it doesn’t really take that much financial investment to turn that into something more usable because, you know, a temporary employee, an intern, could go ahead and say, pull themes out of these data, and then tell you, “Hey, out of 200 responses, 14 of them were about the pillows, and 70 of them were about the lighting.” It’s like, “Okay. Noted.” That took you some effort but not a lot of costs for that time to get there. And, boy, I, too, love those emojis. I love them so much I took a photo. And so, that can give you your quantitative stuff real quick. And then you really do need to get out of the way to provide an opportunity for that feedback.
And you got me thinking right now, I ask people to email me, “What do you think about the show?” firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s like, “Can I make it even faster and easier? Like, tap a button or a link in the show notes description in your app player, and then write two words.” You got my wheels turning, Roger.
Right. You said you took a photo, I did, too, and I posted it on Facebook and said, “This is what survey should be like,” because it was like a three-button, three-emoji set of buttons. And a bunch of people immediately replied and said, “Boy, I never touch those because they’re outside the restroom, and I see all the people don’t wash their hands.” But if it’s a digital thing, you probably don’t have to worry about contamination.
We’re really covering our bases here. I love the thoroughness. Well, you tell me, do you have any further tips on when it comes to identifying and eliminating friction? Any top suggestions you want to make sure to cover before we hear about some of your favorite things?
Well, sure. I think there is something. We talked about Net Promoter Score, and I don’t have a problem with Net Promoter Score. I don’t think it’s the sole answer to whether you’re doing a great job or not, but it’s better than doing nothing for sure. There’s also something called Customer Effort Score that is designed in the same way that NPS does, measure how customers perceive their effort. And it is the perception of effort that counts.
You can say, “Well, boy, we’ve got best-in-class processes for our digital customers. We’ve looked at the competition.” They are not measuring you against your competition. They’re measuring you against Amazon and Uber and others. So, if somebody thinks they had a high-effort experience, that’s what counts. Even if yours is best of your breed, it doesn’t matter. If they thought it was high-effort, it was high-effort. And that happens to be a product, like Net Promoter Score is a product. You don’t have to use that particular product. But measuring customer effort in some way, I think, is good, or customer perception. Google does that.
I had a support session, I need some help with Tag Manager, which I would say is a pretty high-friction product if you’re not highly technical. And after it, they did not ask me a lot of questions about the person that helped me. They asked me whether I found the experience to be effortful or not effortful. I don’t recall the exact terms they used. But I thought, “Wow, this is really brilliant.” I see so many companies, after you complete an experience, they’ll ask you about it. And they won’t ask the right questions because I don’t think they want the answers.
I had a really awful interaction with my internet service provider where I could not find online what speed I was paying for, and it turns out that that information is not available online. You have to get it from a representative, which is bizarre to begin with. But I went through this conversation. The representative was fine. She’s very helpful and it was just their bad process. I had to come up with a four-digit code from an invoice and all this ridiculous stuff just to get the information, the bandwidth I was paying for. It wasn’t like I was trying to hack into the account. I just want to know what my speed was because I wasn’t getting it. And it turned out I was not getting it.
But, at the end of the process, they say, “Would you like to comment on this?” I was ready to comment at that point, having wasted 20 minutest just to find out my internet speed. So, instead, they did not ask me about what I thought about their company, whether I’d recommend them or anything like that. They asked me about the rep, whether the rep was courteous and helpful. And then they gave me like a thousand characters to talk about the representative. This is not the problem. I think that they did not want the answers to the real questions. They don’t want to ask people would they recommend them because they know that, typically, not just my particular one, but, in general, internet service providers and cable TV companies are at the very bottom of customer satisfaction scores, and so they don’t want that data. They ask about the rep.
And if you’re mad and you ding the rep, “Well, hey, okay, that was the rep’s problem.” It’s crazy but I think that asking simple questions and honest questions is the way to go. And ask about effort, then give people a chance to explain why. If they thought it was high-effort, it doesn’t seem like it’s high-effort, give them a chance to explain. You may find out that there is a reason for that customer it did seem like a lot of effort.
All right. Well, Roger, that’s so much good stuff. Now, can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?
Well, I will go to Richard Thaler, our Nobel Prize winner in behavioral economics, and he sort of echoes Jeff Bezos, but he actually won a Nobel Prize for this. He said, “If you want to encourage some activity, make it easy.” And that, I think, is a very powerful quote. It is repeated by behavioral scientists in various ways, but he is the voice of authority on that.
Well, now, could you share with us a favorite book?
Yeah, there are so many. I would have to go with “Influence” by Robert Cialdini just because it’s the basis for so much. And if you read just that book, you will understand a lot about human behavior and, in particular, about how to change that behavior, about how to be persuasive and be influential.
And could you share with us as well a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?
Probably a Pocket would be my number one. Pocket app, which is a reader app that when you see an interesting article someplace, you can save it to Pocket for later consumption. And this really increases your productivity in two ways. First of all, instead of being sidelined when you’re in the middle of something, and you see an interesting article, and pausing to click through and read it, which will interrupt your flow, you can just save it. So, you are staying in the moment, but not necessarily losing track of that article.
And then when you read it, Pocket strips out all of the unnecessary stuff, all the ads, the sidebar stuff, the links and everything else so you just see a very simple article. You can switch to a web view if you prefer, but they give it to you in a bare bones view as a standard. So, again, you aren’t distracted, you can consume it pretty quickly. And then you can consume it at your leisure. So, to me, that is a huge timesaver. And if somebody is looking to be a little bit less distracted in 2020, that would be a good place to start.
And how about a favorite habit?
Well, building on the Pocket habit, every day after breakfast, I will sit with my dog on the couch and he will typically snuggle up. And I don’t know if you discussed that with Paul Zak, but when you snuggle with your pet, you both see a boost in oxytocin, so that’s one part of the good habit. And I read articles that I’ve dumped into Pocket over the last day and so I get some little productive time while I am snuggling with my dog. So, it’s a win-win.
And is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks?
Yeah, I think the theme of my book “FRICTION” can be expressed in a simple sentence, and that is, “Friction changes behavior.” And to build on that, even a little friction makes a difference. Going back to Jeff Bezos and one-click ordering, it was worth so much to protect that one tiny little bit of effort for Amazon, but people just don’t realize that. If you realize that by eliminating tiny, tiny bits of effort, you can be more successful. That’s really important.
And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?
The easiest place to start would be RogerDooley.com, and there I’ve got links to my other content, my blog at Forbes, my neuromarketing blog, my podcast is there, and my social profiles are linked, so a pretty good place to start.
And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?
Yeah, I would try and find at least one element of sort of pointless friction in what you’re doing, something that you can control or perhaps bring to the attention of somebody who can fix it. It can be something small. Maybe it’s a rule that doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s a process that you can see a way to improve, it’s just that nobody has improved it. And even if it is not in your own organization, maybe you’ve had a bad user experience or a customer experience someplace else, don’t be afraid to call it out.
If it’s not within your company, call somebody out on social media and say, “Hey, look at this on your website, or in your mobile app,” or whatever the problem was, and there’s some chance that it will get fixed eventually. I found that I’ve done that a lot, and oftentimes it does not happen very quickly, but a couple of months later, I go back and, hey, they’ve fixed that. Now, was it my input? I don’t know. But, to me, I think it’s always worth trying.
Well, Roger, this has been so much fun. I wish you much joy and little friction in your years to come.
Well, thank you, Pete, and I wish you, too, the same. And I really appreciate you having me on the show. It’s been a blast.