How CX leaders can fight the workplace friction impeding their progress


Customer experience leaders have never faced so many workplace hurdles as they attempt to do their jobs. So how can CX leaders make the lives of themselves and their co-workers easier by removing internal friction?  

15th Jul 2022

I recently completed a bit of a road tour to California, Vegas, Florida, Knoxville, and Chicago. It was a great privilege to meet with dozens of top chief customer officers from some of the world’s most legendary brands. I’m so happy to be back with the family, but my heart is heavy. Things feel different out there. It’s much harder now to do just about anything. I encountered precious few good experiences on the road… and sadly more bad ones than I could count.

And it’s not just the travel space that’s hurting. As I listened intently to the challenges these CX executives have from healthcare, insurance, pharmaceutical, retail, technology, and many other verticals, I’ve never heard of anything like it. Some of them were literally laughing at the audacity of the hurdles in front of them. We had to laugh, because otherwise we might both tear up.

And YET… even as a sense of hopelessness has captured many business leaders, it is not the case for these CX executives. The work is just too darn important. We stand in the gap for the people we serve; we bring peace and harmony in a world full of chaos. The tenacity, creativity, and goodness I saw inside of these leaders is enough to keep me going, to keep me fighting for better experiences. I’d like to encourage you reading this to feel the same. I believe most customer experience leaders bring a special energy and mission-driven excitement into the workplace. It’s needed right now more than ever.

As I ponder how we could practically start to move the needle, there is one concept I keep coming back to. It’s the idea of the “Friction Fighter.”

A big part of CX work is the daily battle against friction. Voice of Customer identifies the main causes of friction. Experience design brings intelligent ways to eliminate that friction. Experience management unites the organisation together to prevent future friction. As we succeed in stabilising this foundation, words like engagement, innovation, and loyalty suddenly have room to exist.

One point I want to highlight: I’m not condoning a “fighter” mentality in the workplace. What this is meant to do is FOCUS the fight on the right thing… friction. A tremendous benefit of this culture shift is how it helps us see our co-workers differently. When we are intentional to view friction as the problem and take steps to solve it… suddenly we aren’t viewing the people around us as the enemy. We are going to spend way less time fighting each other and way more time doing meaningful work. Our customers win. The business wins.

Friction Fighters: Assemble!

As CX leaders, it is time to awaken our undercover Friction Fighters. These are people scattered throughout the organisation with the superpower of thinking beyond themselves. These are legacy builders who can look past the here and now. They have the same dream as us of making tomorrow a little bit better… turning the tide of negativity and restoring hope. They have a desire to make a positive difference. What they need from you is guidance on how.

Enter “The Code of the Friction Fighter.” This is a simple creed that brings action to the sentiment of reduce stress and friction. It unites those in the organisation who are hungry for change… but who don’t want to fight the battle alone.

The example I’ve provided below is meant to act as inspiration. “The Code” will be most powerful if it is customised to fit your brand voice and your culture.

The Code of the Friction Fighter

  • I will endeavor to reduce friction in my interactions with co-workers and customers.
  • I will aid my peers in their own quest to identify and eliminate friction.
  • I will protect and enhance the flow of knowledge across the organisation.
  • I will take the true path, resisting shortcuts that create more friction long-term.
  • I will sniff out bad process and do my part to fix it, even if it’s beyond “my department.”
  • I will lift up my co-workers and celebrate those who fight for harmony in the workplace.

the code

In my opinion, the best way to introduce “The Code” is to have your senior leaders take the mantle up first. Have them living these principles out toward their team and toward each other on the executive team. Let them live it out… customise it… enhance it together and make it their own. This will make everything feel far more authentic as it is passed onward through a change management cycle.

It’s important to note that this is a culture shift. Any change in culture takes significant time to take root. Be patient, but also be steadfast. Repetition and creative communication will be essential. But the most important thing will be the senior leadership team actually demonstrating these principles month after month. This will prove to the general population that the fight against fiction is not another quarterly initiative they can simply wait out and let die.

I can guarantee that if the employees act as Friction Fighters for each other, they will start doing it for customers as well. Offer the nudge where appropriate, using your Voice of the Customer data as a motivator. Watch as your customer relationships take a completely new dynamic. However you measure customer behaviors, there is sure to be a positive impact from this change in mindset. If you are not already measuring ease of business and / or customer effort score this would be an excellent time to start. Establish a baseline and quantify the positive change your Friction Fighters are able to earn for the business.

Thank you for navigating the tremendous burden you carry as a CX leader. Know you are not alone. I’d love to call out Matt Dixon, Rick DeLisi and the authors of The Effortless Experience as the generals of the “Friction Fighters.” It was they who originally awakened the concept of friction reduction inside of my mind and millions of others who are still finding creative ways to implement these principles. Let’s get out there and turn the tide in favour of exceptional customer experiences!


Replies (3)

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Justin Robbins
By JustinMRobbins
19th Jul 2022 15:27

You're right on, Nate. These friction points are happening all throughout the customer experience and it's not going to stop by the actions of one person alone. I love your code for encouraging and challenging our people throughout the organization to identify and address friction. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks (1)
Jeremy Watkin
By Jeremy Watkin
20th Jul 2022 23:46

Nate, one of my biggest challenges as a contact center leader is getting my team to observe the customer experience issues in front of them and dream up a better, more frictionless way for customers to interact with our products and services. Getting to the next level requires a company-wide commitment. Thank you for packaging this up in a way that I can share with my team as we seek to be Friction Fighters!

Thanks (1)
By [email protected]
21st Jul 2022 18:23

As someone who works on the front lines in CX, this resonates with me. I look to leadership to guide the way and sometimes the ball falls in my court. Shifting the mindset to this "friction fighter" mentality allows me to work closer with my team and move forward in a positive direction. I'll be referring back to this article!

Thanks (1)