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Address These 10 Common Causes of Customer Friction to Maximize Success Anything slowing or stopping a customer from purchasing - from poor website design to an unknowledgeable sales staff - is an existential issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

By Scott Baradell Edited by Matt Scanlon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you ever waited too long to be served in a restaurant, or visited a website that took forever to load? If you have, then you've experienced instances of customer friction, which is defined as anything that makes a person hesitant to move through a sales funnel to purchase products or services, or anything that prevents them from returning for more purchases.

If not dealt with, customer friction can affect every aspect of a business negatively, from marketing and sales to reputation — in part because there's so much power in the spoken words of existing customers. One who has had a bad experience will tend to share it with others and/or warn them not to do business with you. This will not only damage your reputation but also drive many present and potential customers away, so it's vital that any causes of friction be identified and addressed.

1. Poor website design

This is one of the most common friction points. When a site is difficult to navigate, is unorganized or cluttered with too many features, links and text, it can overwhelm visitors, causing them to leave. To prevent this, consider:

• Using a grid layout to make design organized and clean.

• Having a clear menu at the top of each page, with only the most important navigational elements.

• Creating a drop-down menu with categories and sub-categories (preferably on the top left side) to help users find what they need quickly.

• Improving the readability of content by using a large-enough font size, along with contrasting colors for background and text.

2. Lack of helpful content

Failing to provide free and helpful content is another common cause of customer friction. This is because most of them don't go straight to buying a product or service: They start off by searching the web for information to learn more about their problems and how they can be solved. Therefore, it's your responsibility to provide content that helps them make a purchasing decision. If you fail to do so, they're more likely to go to other sites that have it, and when that happens the chances of them returning to yours are very slim.

You can prevent this from happening by creating a detailed self-service knowledge base to enable customers to find immediate answers to queries. It should contain resources like instructional manuals and a FAQ section, along with articles, videos and technical guides. It's additionally important to have built-in search functionality that's accurate and intuitive.

Related: The 5 Critical Components of a Great Customer Journey Map

3. Multiple steps before on-line checkout

Making visitors go through too many steps in the checkout process is a major cause of leaving a site before completing a purchase. To eliminate this pain point, you should:

• Make account creation fast and seamless for new customers by integrating it with Google and Facebook for autofill capabilities.

• Have a guest checkout option for those who don't want to create accounts.

• Ask customers to fill in only the relevant information needed to process their orders.

• Make sure forms are easy to fill out on all devices.

4. Lack of delivery service

We're in an era in which many prefer to shop online and have products delivered instead of walking into a store. If you're not offering such a service, you're locking out a substantial number of people. If you can offer it for free, so much the better, but if that's not possible keep your shipping costs low to make delivery affordable to all customers. It's equally important to do so promptly, and provide real-time updates on status and expected time of arrival.

5. Slow site loading

Modern consumers expect a website to load in two to three seconds. If yours takes longer than this, the bounce rate jumps immediately. This will cause a significant reduction in sales and profits. To speed things up, consider:

• Compressing images.

• Cleaning up code.

• Limiting the number of ads on the site.

• Adding a caching plugin.

• Reducing the number of redirects to other pages.

• Investing in a content delivery network service if your visitors come from all over the world.

If you implement these tips and notice that the site is still sluggish, your website host could be the problem. Try switching to a different host and see if speed improves.

Related: 8 Ways to Make Your Website Faster (and Why It Is Critical to Your Business)

6. Making customers wait too long before speaking to a customer service agent

Sometimes there are urgent issues that can only be addressed by a real human being. All too often, however, when contacting a customer service center, people are kept in line for too long with automated voice instructions. Such an experience causes anger and frustration, forcing them to hang up and quite possibly leave your company for good.

So, consider using automated messages only where necessary, and certainly connect customers to real human agents as soon as possible.

7. Lack of reviews or unaddressed negative reviews

Many potential customers will hesitate to do business with you if your website has no customer reviews or has unaddressed negative reviews. Most online shoppers rely heavily on such reviews to decide whether to purchase, and when you have none at or insufficiently respond to those you do get, it makes a business look untrustworthy.

To solve this, consider installing software that asks customers automatically to leave a review and rating after purchasing a product or interacting with your customer service staff. Secondly, ensure that all negative reviews are addressed promptly, both on the website and with each customer personally.

Related: Using Online Reviews to Win New Customers

8. Missing information

When an ecommerce website is missing important information like product descriptions, prices, shipping fees, etc., it can frustrate customers and make them lose interest. One way to avoid this is to ensure that all items have clear and detailed descriptions — as much relevant information as possible, but put as succinctly as possible. Also ensure that delivery costs and any other additional fees are clearly indicated.

9. Lack of knowledgeable staff

Employees who aren't sufficiently informed about your business and its products and services can't provide accurate and satisfactory answers to questions. Having them in your sales team can make potential customers reconsider buying, so train all sales staff regularly and thoroughly.

10. Out-of-stock products

An inability to find desired items in a store is, of course, a sales killer. For instance, someone looking for a suit for an interview the next day will be frustrated and disappointed if his or her particular size or color is out of stock, and you will wind up losing the sale to competitors.

One way to address this issue is to analyze purchase trends to know how much inventory a store needs to have at any given time. Secondly, provide alternative options for items that are out of stock. Also, don't forget to notify customers whenever you have new items available so they can place orders before supply runs out.

Scott Baradell

CEO of Idea Grove

Trust expert Scott Baradell is editor of the "Trust Signals" blog, author of the upcoming book "Trust Signals" and CEO of Idea Grove, a unified PR and marketing agency. Idea Grove has ranked three times as an Inc. 5000 company and was named 2020 Agency of the Year by the Dallas PRSA.

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