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When you need some PCBs, you may Google “printed circuit boards” and get the name of a number of shops—not necessarily the best shops, but the shops that are the best at using search engine optimization (SEO). Out of the shops you find through Google, you decide to call one, and they’re probably the first one on the list. You get an automated message instead of a human being; that’s friction. You listen to the instructions and still can’t get exactly what you want—friction. You give up and call “O” for the operator as a last resort. The phone continues to ring and goes to a general voicemail box—even more friction. You leave your message, knowing that no one is ever going to call back, so you move on to the next name on the Google listing.
Isn’t that great? Even with all the money that the first company spent on buying their way up the Google listing, which could be up to $100,000 a month, it was all for nothing. That money was all wasted because someone—probably a great voicemail systems salesperson, by the way—sold them that friction-creating phone system.
If you were not familiar with the term “friction” when you read the title of this column, you are now. Friction is anything that stands in the way of making doing business with your company as easy and as smooth as possible, such as those nasty phone systems and company policies that make it difficult for your people to give your customers what they want. Friction is the last thing you want your organization to have.
I learned about friction from Run Frictionless: How to Free a Founder From the Sales Role by Anthony Coundouris. The focus of this book is to help the readers develop systems that will make their companies run as easily as possible and doing business with their company as problem-free as possible. The author advises companies to use what he calls the “4Q system,” which stands for four quadrants based on the following questions.
Quadrant One: Who We Serve
Define exactly who your customer is, along with who is not your customer. This eliminates spending time and effort on the wrong customers and encourages focusing completely on the right customers with the goal of providing a frictionless solution.
Quadrant Two: What We Serve
Establish exactly what your product is, and what it is not, to make sure that you are focused on providing the best product solution possible to the right customers.
Quadrant Three: Who We Are
Define your own company, including its story, brand, what you do best, and what you do not do so well. This self-examination will allow you to do your best and not waste time on what you don’t.
Quadrant Four: How We Serve
This quadrant focuses on what you actually seem like to your customer. Walk in your customers’ shoes and imagine what it is like to be your own customer. Without a doubt, this is a very revealing, and sometimes painful, exercise.
Coundouris guides you in figuring out the minimum amount of customer transactions that it takes to become your customer down to the number of calls, emails, videos, seminars, ads, and whatever else it takes to become a customer. Yes, you get to try out that great phone system you purchased and see how you like it.
Frankly, if you have one of those phone systems, why don’t you put this column aside and call your own company right now. I’ll wait. Well, how did you like it? I bet not too much. Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.
Coundouris goes on to discuss how to serve more customers with less effort, which, of course, is something you can do if you have a completely frictionless organization. The author also shows the reader how to serve more customers faster, but it all comes down to this: If you know exactly who you are, what you sell, to whom you sell it, and then how you are going to sell it, you will learn about what is important and what is not. This will allow you to work on removing everything that is not important—friction—including obstacles to securing and servicing your customers. Then, you will be able to serve many more customers better than ever before. To quote Coundouris, “Fewer interactions make for less friction,” and less friction means more happy customers, which is why we are all in business in the first place.
I urge all of you to buy Run Frictionless. It’s a quick, easy, interesting, and informative read that could help you improve the way you do business. Who could ask for more than that? Out the friction!
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.