The frictionless user experience is not yet so frictionless

When people talk about frictionless service, this is what they mean (pardon the profanity, but Gary Vaynerchuk is someone you should be watching in order to stay on top of what’s next in social). You only need to watch the first 30 seconds to get what he sees as the frictionless future (or, in this case, the future is now):

There will increasingly be a push for immigrant and refugee-serving agencies to provide frictionless service to newcomers. It’s going to come. We should be aware of and planning for it.

The problem is, the tech bros pushing it haven’t gotten it right yet. And we’re supposed to exalt and follow their lead. I’m skeptical. Not that frictionless is coming. But that we should be following others’ leads instead of learning what we can from them and forging our own path.

Here are a couple of recent stories of my experience with “frictionless shopping.”

The frictionless user experience is not yet so frictionless

A few weeks ago hilarity in the “frictionless” “app economy” ensued (and by hilarity I mean frustration, complete and total frustration). User experience fail. I went to a restaurant site to place order. The restaurant has outsourced order taking/pick up to a third party app. OK, sure. Becoming typical. I go through process of placing order, have to create account (OK, why? I don’t care about your points, I don’t even know what they’ll give me or how many is enough for anything, since you haven’t told me, but fine, I’d like to place an order, so now I have to create yet another account somewhere that will probably mine my personal data in ways I’d prefer they don’t…).

I make my delicious choices, place order, checkout and provide credit card information.


Yes, I’m yelling.

I’ve gone through the restaurant’s website, created an account on a third party app, selected what I want and only after the transaction is submitted find out it’s not going to happen.

This is friction, not frictionless.

What ensues is an example of multiple user and customer experience #fails that we can all learn about.

The business has a website, but apparently doesn’t update it to, say, reflect actual hours of business when they change them. Are they on social media? Yes, it appears they’re on Facebook. Where I now see they’ve taken a picture of a sign of their changed hours (I mean, copy and paste the text from your word processor maybe? But that’s just me.).

Ah, but here’s the rub.

Do you know from their website that they’re on Facebook?

No. Of course not. Not an image, a mention, a link. They use Squarespace on the site, I would imagine it’s not too hard to embed a Facebook feed (and if it is, go ahead and switch to WordPress already).

So, no Facebook feed on their never updated, static, brochure-like site. OK.


But, how about that third party ordering app (for the record, I used their website, I didn’t download their app. I’m old school like that.)?

I contact customer support to let them know that since the business must indicate that they’re not taking orders or are closed at the time I’m ordering on their app/site, that should be front and centre BEFORE I place my order, let alone provide my credit card.

Their response:

“I’m sorry that you had a poor experience with placing your first order as the restaurant was no longer accepting any more orders. If you let me know the restaurant name and location, I can help pass this along to our team internally to further investigate… Your insight is very valuable in helping us to provide the best possible experience for all of our users, again, thank your for your feedback.”

This is the typical tech bro response: “It’s that other guy’s fault. But we’re so happy you told us. I’m sure the trash bin we put your feedback in will appreciate your insight.” It’s infuriating.


Just after I sent them my, ahem, customer feedback email, I went in to check if they keep my credit card information and to delete my account. They do indeed keep the credit card information. I don’t recall being told that when I was forced to sign up to use it.


You know what I like to see on e-commerce sites? Words like: “Guest Checkout.” “You don’t need an account to make a purchase. If you’d like, you can create one at the end.” This is from Best Buy. You know, one of the so-called business dinosaurs that has successfully made the transition so well to the digital era (i.e. they get customer experience).

They get that maybe I don’t want to create an account to buy that one thing. I just want to go through a purchase as quickly as possible (ahem, frictionless) without filling out a bunch of forms and jumping back and forth between their site and my email to confirm my account, etc.

You know, like if I go into their store. I choose, I go to check out, I buy, I leave. Simple. Frictionless, in fact.

Anyway, back to the tech bros who will save us with their apps

Here’s my favourite part of the app experience. OK, I could delete my credit card information from their site/app.

But I couldn’t delete my account.

In fact, when I searched their “Help” centre, the word delete didn’t even result in a hit: “No results for ‘delete account’.” Seriously. Of course, these tech bros call it “deactivate.” And when you find that bit of “help” here’s what you get: “To deactivate your account, please get in touch with our support team (though we’d be sorry to see you go!). If you do decide to deactivate your account, we would appreciate if you can let us know why, and if there’s anything we can do to help change your mind.”


In the frictionless word of food ordering apps, I have to contact a human to delete, sorry, deactivate, my account.


Hey, to their credit, on a Sunday afternoon, I got an email back within an hour confirming from a real human that my account had been deleted. Why not apply that level of customer service to their frictionless app to begin with…

I don’t know, maybe I expect too much. I’m digitally savvy, but I don’t use third party food ordering apps/services very often (0 for 2 with the user experience when I have so far…). I’ve never even taken Uber. You could say maybe I don’t fit their customer persona. But I am a customer (or perhaps a potential customer). And if you’re going to make it hard for me to become your customer, I’ll bet there are other services just like yours in my large urban community. And maybe I’ll just choose them.

Here’s another fun example. I made a reservation at a restaurant using the online third party service they embed on their site. I got an immediate text message that my reservation was confirmed and I’d be getting a confirmation message soon. Of course, I assumed it would come soon, as my reservation was for later that day. When I didn’t I called the restaurant and made my reservation.

Know when I got confirmation? 24 hours later. By text and email. Confirmation of a reservation the day after my reservation was scheduled.

For fun, look at the date/time stamps on the email:

What’s the lesson for your organization?

A good customer experience (or client, whatever you want to call people who access your services) is great when it’s frictionless. But your design and integration with other apps (if using tech) or partners (if offline) or with internal systems needs to actually work together.

And clearly it’s harder than it sounds. So if you’re going to do it. It’s going to take more time than you think.

As Steve Jobs is quoted saying

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

Or in this case, my food…

There’s probably a lot more we could do in our nonprofits to make the client/customer experience frictionless, more pleasant, and an actual experience (something enjoyable, rather than something they must endure).

Here’s a great conversation with someone who’s looking into it for nonprofits.

I’d love to hear how you’re doing it, what you’ve learned, and what makes you want to scream…

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