A week ago, our team hosted a CX roundtable titled CXM time machine. One of the guest speakers was Forrester’s VP Principal Analyst Joana de Quintanilha. During the talk, she introduced us to her interesting career path and shared glimpses of her current work at Forrester

Joana’s latest research ‘Harness friction in customer journeys to drive emotional engagement‘ grew much of my attention, so I decided to extend our conversation by hosting this interview. I hope this article will contribute to our understanding of how to use friction to drive emotional engagement, customer loyalty, and advocacy. 

Joana, it was great talking to you during the CXM time machine session. You shared with us your non-linear but exciting career path. Could you expand that answer by telling our readers a little about yourself?

an image of Joana, the analyst behind the report on harnessing positive friction.

I am originally from Lisbon but have spent most of my life living abroad. I have done many different and interesting jobs, from investment banking and journalism to customer service and CX consulting. Most of these jobs have had a strong element of storytelling, and a focus on human behaviour.

As VP Principal Analyst at Forrester, my areas of expertise include digital customer experience. More specifically, I use tools like journey and ecosystem mapping, analytics, orchestration, and agile methods. I recently started researching the role of emotions in customer journeys. My goal is to help companies make emotions tangible, so they can build long-term loyalty programmes for their users. 

That’s quite an interesting career path, thank you for sharing it with us! In your latest research, you revealed that ‘designing the appropriate level of friction into customer journeys earns trust and drives revenue-generating loyalty behaviours like retention and advocacy.’ How do you define and differentiate good and bad friction? 

Companies have invested a lot of effort in removing friction from customer journeys. However, what my research showed me is that brands need a more nuanced understanding of friction. Moreover, harnessing friction rather than eliminating it helps firms tap into a broader spectrum of customer emotions. To build upon your question, at Forrester, we define good friction in the following way:

‘Extra time, steps, engagement (human or digital), or information in the short term that produce a desirable outcome for the customer and/or company in the form of empathy, accountability, and dependability that engenders trust.’

Friction, of course, can be bad. Companies should avoid unwanted delays at emotional peaks or the end of the journey. A customer trying to resolve an issue is most likely in a heightened emotional state. They’re likely already angry or frustrated; adding friction will only escalate the situation. 

In one of our previous articles written by your colleagues Enza Iannopollo and Anjali Lai from Forrester, we learned that trust is one of the key factors for building relationships with customers. What would you say are key emotions brands should focus on when designing for more trust and advocacy? How does it all come together in the context of harnessing positive friction?

a diagram explaining the circle of trust in CX.

 

Higher levels of trust are associated with business outcomes such as loyalty, advocacy, and customer lifetime value. In my opinion, customer trust and friction are part of a virtuous circle. The feeling of trust can turn customers into advocates who translate the brand’s values and positive emotions associated with it. Furthermore, the actions of the advocates boost trust among other users and invite a new brand sponsor.

A focus on optimizing friction encourages feelings of safety and confidence, pride in making a unique purchase, respect, integrity and transparency, reassurance about proper setup and successful resolution, and finally, excitement at co-creating something new.

During our CX day celebration this year, we talked with experts from the real estate and healthcare industry. It was valuable to hear how healthcare-related journeys have different challenges and inner complexities. Could you shortly comment on this? How can brands harness positive friction to help patients’ experiences?

Customer journeys differ based on their complexity (number of channels and steps) and intensity (fear of missing out, level of commitment). The friction quotient varies by industry, company, and customer intent. For instance, the healthcare-related journeys put emotions such as confidence and serenity as a key element of seamless customer experience.

a diagram showing how emotions in CX work and how harnessing positive friction can evoke pleasant customer emotions.

For instance, the digital health tool Buoy Health intentionally added friction at the start of patients’ journeys by asking them to fill a symptom checker questionnaire. After using this technology, the rate of patients’ uncertainty about their health concerns dropped from 34% to 21%. Even within healthcare, setting up a treatment plan for a chronic disease is more emotionally intense than arranging a routine check-up.

Furthermore, patients typically want to know the financial implications of the care they will receive. This layered complexity within the patients’ journey provides healthcare organizations with space to inspire trust, provide customers with choices, ownership, and control over the service they consume.

What advice do you have for leaders wanting to create more value around friction? Where should they start?

Let me explain this through the example of the financial-services company Monzo. They think about friction in the context of specific journeys like a gambling block. Monzo’s gambling-block feature uses friction to make customers pause and think before acting.

To remove the gambling block, customers must speak with a customer support agent and explain how their circumstances have changed. After waiting for 48 hours, the gambling block will be removed. As a result, 8% of customers have reversed a gambling block — as the bank intends.

We can look at the same situation from a slightly different perspective. Monzo can observe friction in terms of context flows. For instance, it turned a moment of negative friction into a moment of delight by adding an animation to slow down the authentication journey and land the activation email at the right time.

This approach helps avoid the potential disappointment of an absent email. Following the example of Monzo, my general advice is to test and analyse how to dose the friction and communicate its value.

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