In his collection of English Proverbs of 1678 John Rays included this little gem – “Muck and money go together”. By the late 19th Century this had evolved into that well-known phrase “Where’s there’s muck there’s brass” suggesting that where and when things get messy, there is money to be made.

Looking at this from a more contemporary perspective, I think it is fair to add another dimension to this saying, namely “Where there’s friction, there’s brass”. Loads of it is all tied up in legacy processes, duplication and disenfranchised colleagues, so getting stuck into it makes absolute sense both from a business, customer experience and brand point of view.

Friction for both customers and employees is the stuff of nightmares. We expect our interactions with companies to not only be seamless but also easy, with as little effort as possible.

Imagine an approach that delivers the nirvana scenario: reducing costs for a business and giving it back time with which to do more productive things, whilst maintaining and improving its relationship with its customers and employees.

This is exactly what we should and are doing.

In days gone by, businesses were happy to be internally focused and do just what was right for them as they cut costs and improved their bottom line. They would happily reinforce silos by making each one efficient in the small span of its overall influence. All was well with the world.

This improvement process was itself improved to recognise that businesses have customers and they need to be listened to. Unfortunately, old practices die hard and some still exist to this day.

Enter the irrational and highly unpredictable customers of the omnichannel, totally-connected, world. A world within which we are all building and maintaining our brands.

Throw into the mix our colleagues who need to be empowered, engaged and trusted to do an amazing job for those customers. Colleagues who so often make the vital difference for the brand, be they front or back of house.

Businesses have no option but to provide a customer experience that keeps customers coming back and an employee experience that powers the relationship with customers. It is the way brands are built today and getting your CX really HOT should be the ambition of any business and brand owner, be they B2B, B2C or even B2B2C!

Whilst it will often look like the management equivalent of rubbing your tummy whilst patting your head whilst standing on one leg singing opera, there are many things you can do to deliver what your customers and colleagues need, wherever and whenever they touch your brand.

Over the last 17 years we have learnt a thing or two about this and so I thought it might be good to share them with you.

Whilst it’s about the customer journey as a omnichannel relationship, the friction is hidden in the way the business does things, more often than not. It’s processes that either build or destroy the ability to build the brand, touchpoint by touchpoint.

Jump into the muck to find the friction points

  • Dig deep into the insight generated through your digital data, interaction activity, and the discussions you have with customers from everywhere in their omnichannel journey to see where you are creating friction and pain. Then, download this directly onto your customer journey map so that everyone can see it.
  • Get out there to engage with and listen to your people. They will tell you what is working and what isn’t, where they have to work around the system to deliver the customer experience and where inefficiencies are. Basically, they will tell you where you are wasting money and time. Beware not to be seen to just pay lip service, your team will see through you. If you are going to do it, commit and enjoy it. There are no half measures to delivering the insights, and you never know, you might enjoy it. Download this onto your map as well and see where your problems are.
  • With the right people from across the business in the room you can being to really dig into the wastes and work out the priority for sorting them out.
  • The data not only allows you to quantify the opportunity, it also allows you to build the business case around the value of solving each friction point.
  • The biggest lesson we have had is a statement of the obvious but one often ignored by teams.

A bad experience is a bad experience for everyone

  • Wherever you create friction, you do so for you two most important audiences – your people who deliver the experience and your customers who receive it. So, sorting out friction is business-critical.
  • Getting right down to where the muck and bullets fly allows the whole team to relate what they do to the overall bigger picture. They can then see the value of their contribution in both brand and monetary terms.

One person’s output is another person’s input

  • By looking at the whole journey with a cross section of people from along the customer journey, everyone gets to see the interrelationship of what they do and how their actions influence others. I love these workshops as it turns on more light bulbs than the National Grid.

Once you have the data and map, do something special with it

  • After the friction is identified, we need to quantify what its removal will mean to the business in terms of time and money. We all know that time is money!
  • Using impact assessment, a business case can be built to describe the potential returns on the project. This is not just in terms of money but also customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • The single most critical success factor is to translate all the data and mapping work into a format that describes what benefit the business should see through doing this work.
  • There are many cynics as to the value of customer experience improvement work but the proof is always in the numbers. Keep the fluffy brand-speak out of it and just show the financial, customer and employee benefits.

Getting into the muck is difficult. It’s not always nice but it’s where you sort out the issues of friction. Many talk about doing it but only go so far. However, as Carl Jung had it “You are what you do, not what you say you are going to do”.

Getting this right can deliver significant returns to the business. Have a look at some of these:

A pilot project with a logistics company delivered:

  • £79,761 cost savings
  • Improved employee experience through upskilling
  • Improved capacity for new customers

An online retailer’s digital transformation gave:

  • 112,000 hours back to the business
  • £1.6 million cost savings
  • £2.9 million revenue increase

A national newspaper’s brand-driven process improvement yielded:

  • £1m cost optimisation with a further opportunity of £2m
  • Improved employee engagement and customer delight