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More Trust, Less Friction

More Trust, Less Friction

Your business is, almost certainly, full of wasted effort. There are elements in your customer experience that reduce sales and loyalty. There are internal processes and procedures that waste time and reduce employee engagement. Of the many ways to address these issues, the simplest is to show more trust.

Customer Experience Friction

Is it easier to do business with Amazon than your company? If your answer is “No,” congratulations. But before you answer, “Yes, but I don’t compete with them,” or, “Yes, but my industry is very different,” you should know none of that matters. Your customers aren’t just comparing you to your direct competitors, they are comparing you to the best experience they’ve had. That means Amazon, Uber, and Google.

As I was researching my new book FRICTION, I concluded that one major reason for friction is lack of trust. Sometimes friction is warranted. We willingly submit to an onerous identification procedure and a two-key process to access our bank safety deposit box because we don’t trust others with our most valuable possessions. We use passwords for our online accounts because others might misuse them.

But, a lack of trust can turn reasonable precautions into high-friction annoyances. Websites require complex passwords that are hard to create and impossible to remember. They log you out if you aren’t active for a few minutes. They force you re-authenticate yourself if you log in from a device they don’t recognize, even if the problem is theirs.

Amazon, in contrast, does none of this.

Amazon’s password requirements are simple. They never log you out. In fact, they keep you logged in forever – they want that “Buy with 1-Click” button to always be armed and ready.

That doesn’t mean their security is lax. If you decide to ship to a new address or send out Amazon gift cards (almost as good as cash), you will have to log in or re-verify your credit card. This nuanced approach lets almost all transactions happen with full trust and minimum friction. Less frequent but potentially more risky actions entail a bit more effort.

Code Like Amazon

Undoubtedly, Amazon’s tiered approach to trust and security involves more work for their developers. Most businesses take a lazier approach: if you are logged in, you can do anything. If you aren’t, you can do nothing. This pushes companies to protect themselves by logging out users, challenging new devices, and so on. Every login is maximum risk, so they trust no one. I’d guess that in the last few months I’ve had to log into a hundred times, both for new sessions or because I was working in multiple windows and got signed out. That’s friction.

Amazon trusts their customers in other ways. As a long-time catalog marketer, I know that returns are a huge expense and inconvenience for ecommerce firms. While many firms try to discourage returns with strict limits and procedures, Amazon makes returns easy. You can return products to their lockers, via UPS or the USPS, or even some retailers. Sometimes, they won’t ask you to send back a low-value item. They trust that you won’t abuse them with false reports of defective goods. But, I’d guess at some level of returns they might get a bit more strict.

In an even more remarkable example of trust, I’ve found that on the rare occasions when I’ve sent an item back to Amazon, by the time I get back to my office there’s an email saying that my account has been credited for the return. They haven’t seen the package – it might be empty or contain something else – but they trust me.

Trust Works Both Ways

Research shows that trust is reciprocated. When someone shows they trust you, you are more likely to trust them. This explains why con artists often ask their victims to hold money for them. Once trust is established, it’s easier to fleece the victim. When Amazon exhibits their trust by not treating you like a stranger or potential fraud, you trust them. Today, Amazon is one of the most trusted institutions in the US, second only to the military.

Many, if not most, companies claim to be customer-centric. Few really are. Studies show that minimizing effort is the true path to customer loyalty. When you trust your customers more, you’ll be able to reduce or eliminate friction in every process. You won’t catch up to Amazon, but you’ll crush your competition.

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More Trust, Less Friction

Roger Dooley is the author of Friction and Brainfluence and an international keynote speaker. He writes the popular blog Neuromarketing, contributes at, and hosts the podcast Brainfluence. He co-founded College Confidential, the leading college-bound website. He’s been an entrepreneur since he left a Fortune 1000 company to enter the then-nascent home computer market.