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Friction Book Summary – Roger Dooley

What you will learn from reading Friction:

– How you can make people work harder by making their job easier.

– Why choice and decisions can create friction and what this means.

– Why customer service should aim to reduce friction as much as possible.

Friction “Unnecessary expenditure of time, effort or money in performing a task”


Making something easier = increasing chances it will be done:

1894 French Philosopher Guillaume Ferrero “mental inertia and law of least effort” 

When you reduce friction, make something easier, people do more of it. 

Friction can be found by observation and experience. What do people do anyway that takes loads of time? Or avoid doing? 


Choice is Friction:

‘Thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats, they can do it but they’d prefer not to.’ – Daniel Khaneman. 

Too many choices creates friction. As a decision is a step in the action chain. How do we make quicker decisions? Well, we use heuristics as our way of reducing cognitive effort. 

Rules are a common form of heuristic that help us to navigate decisions.  

So, some great questions are:

What rules will help me achieve this goal? 

How can I make the decision easy to make? 


Reducing Friction on Websites:

Remove wide range of features, make interface simple + intuitive and easier to use. 

Help people choose by: 

  • Quick visual heuristics (rating)
  • Text reviews for detail
  • Flag products as (best-seller, amazon’s choice)
  • Side by side comparisons?
  • Customer also bought (complementary items)


People hate entering data. So, companies like Amazon have introduce one click ordering – or technically zero click in the form of subscriptions. 

You should provide tools or visual reinforcement to aid decision making. Convey information in easiest way will lead to easier decisions. 


How to reduce friction:

Mapping out step by step the current customer experience map helps to visualise where possible friction points will be. Customer touch points are also a prime place for friction to take place. Accessible and functional FAQ’s and recommended next steps are great ways to reduce friction. 

Remember, reducing friction is a good starting point for a business idea, if something is annoying, slow or effortful for you find out how to make it quick and easy.  


Improving Customer Experience by removing friction:

“Historical growth has always, historically and across industries come from tackling consumer friction”

Google’s ‘people also ask’ box and ‘did you mean’ auto-correction is friction reduction at its finest. By providing people with instant alternatives to what they could have meant, reduces anytime spent on retyping. 

You can make an experience seamless and anxiety reducing by reducing friction and information asymmetries. For example, Uber – not only was their friction involved with hailing a cab and paying in cash but also anxiety and uncertainty of availability. As Uber has found customers tend to be willing to pay for a low friction experience. 

Less friction = more adoption on on-boarding processes or when opening app for first time. Therefore, the easier it is to sign-up the better. So, reducing size of any form will increase completion rate. 

Amazon’s key steps to removing friction: 

  1. Permanent login (leverage browsers)
  2. Credit card storage
  3. Password (security risk?)
  4. Frustration free packaging (cardboard rip)


Improve product experience by packaging necessary items together:

Remember that products that come without batteries create a barrier to being used. You can reduce the friction by supplying batteries with your product. 


Removing the friction of Payment:

It’s hard to beat the smooth experience of no transaction at all. 

Buying (especially expensive things) brings up pain emotions in brain -therefore the magic of contactless is the removal of the feeling of money changing hands. 


Friction at work:

There is friction in selling – how do you make a decision easy to make for the client? How do you convey little effort? 

How can I make my job easier?  

What would this look like if it were easy? 


Unnecessary process is friction:

Bureaucracy is the epoxy that grease the wheels of progress. 

Work is elastic in its demands on time. 

Trust is a form of reducing friction as you can let people get on with things, instead of policing. So, look for places where a small increase in trust will results in a big decrease in friction. 

If your team are spending time on tasks which aren’t absolutely necessary. Eliminate them. 

“Kill a stupid rule a weekly check in”

15 minute brainstorm of things that are frustrating or slow down productivity.  

Decide whether to get rid of it. Also think about unspoken rules and assumptions. 


Friction and Customer Service:

John Maeda – The laws of simplicity: 

These are two conditions: quantitatively faster (wait time is shorter) and qualitatively faster (wait time is more tolerable). These are two key elements of customer service. 

Delight isn’t a big factor in keeping customers loyal. Studies have shown customers want a satisfactory experience. Customer frustration is linked to effort. Therefore, the more effort hey have to put in, the more frustrated they get. 

-96% of customers who put forth high effort to resolve their issues are more disloyal. 

-The effort of having to deal with someone or something creates dislike. 

These high friction experiences for the customer decrease google rankings.

What is high effort in customer service?

  • Multiple contacts to solve a problem
  • Having to change channels
  • Impersonal treatment + generic advice
  • Transfers + having to repeat information
  • Perception of additional effort


So, removing friction in your customer service will keep your customers loyal and competitors off balance.