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Be Your Customer’s First Choice by Richard Hammond

‘Friction reduction’ is a buzz phrase across the business world, but as new how-to guide Friction/Reward explains, it’s only part of the equation. If you want customers to choose you rather than the competition then you must also consider reward, and find a way to accurately measure the entirety of the customer experience. By Timothy Arden

Imagine you were a servant in the court of a medieval king. You’d do everything you could to please him, and to work out exactly WHAT pleased him, in the hope of keeping your head firmly upon your shoulders. This scenario sums up the relationship between business and consumer as it now stands, and is likely to remain.

Because, in today’s connected world, the consumer is now firmly in charge. We live in an unprecedented era of total choice, where you can as easily buy a new phone directly from China as you can a Chinese take-away from down the street. This point is made most emphatically in new business guide Friction/Reward: Be Your Customer’s First Choice, with author Richard Hammond, stating it thus: “Brands can no longer dictate, retailers can no longer dictate, vendors can no longer dictate. This isn’t in progress, it’s happened; the process is complete and customers are fully in the driving seat. This simple truth is at the heart of the huge shift in how the world does business.”

As the founder of retail analytics business Uncrowd and someone who has lived and breathed retail his entire adult life, Hammond is perfectly qualified to tackle this vital subject. His previous book, 2017’s Smart Retail, was a well-received bestseller but Friction/Reward is, undoubtedly, his most important work to date. Written expressly to help managers, directors and anyone else responsible for navigating their business, be that an SME or multi-national, improve the bottom line, it provides a new approach to making sense out of the apparent chaos of customer behaviour and tailor their company accordingly.

There are three ways to do this: reduce friction, those little obstacles that get in the way of the customer and their transaction; increase reward, the unique added-extras that makes a consumer prefer one brand over another; or do both, as Amazon has achieved so well. While consideration of reward is not yet firmly established in the minds of many businesses, the reduction of friction certainly is. But what sets this book apart is that along with neatly explaining why every business should get behind friction vs reward thinking, and there’s many compelling reasons to do so, it provides a totally new tool to accurately measure these parameters. Hammond’s friction versus reward metric (FvR).

Using this metric, companies can, for the first time, really know what it is like to walk in their customers’ shoes. As opposed to other forms of customer mapping, it provides a clear breakdown of the entire customer journey as opposed to isolated sections, variously factoring in customer missions, need-states and touchpoints (those intersections where customer and supplier interact). An explanation of the metric and how to apply it forms the middle section of the book, and the good news is that you won’t need a degree in higher mathematics to get to grips with it. In fact, it’s very straightforward and most companies should already have all the data they need to utilise the tool from the customer mapping tools they currently employ.

With the benefit of the metric, businesses can quickly identify those areas of friction and reward that most need their attention, as opposed to the ones that they may (wrongly) assume need addressing. A good analogy is with Disneyland, one of many case studies included by the author to illustrate his points, where the queues may be long, and the food somewhat below restaurant-quality, but visitors are happy to put up with those frictions because of the magical experience their child enjoys when they do, finally, get to have their photo taken with the Disney princess. Rather than needlessly diverting money to talking the queue situation, they continue to invest it, instead, in recruitment and training. As Hammond advises, “only by understanding friction in the context of reward can you truly know which customer experience pain points are really a problem, which gains are truly valued and where, therefore, to direct investment in improving customer experience (CX)”.

Hammond is on hand throughout the book to offer support and guidance, and his jovial tone makes certain that readers remain engaged throughout. There is also a host of dynamic online content available for free from www.frictionreward.com to supplement what’s covered in print, while the author has also established new business www.uncrowd.uk to offer larger companies access to his patented commercial FvR metric software.

Friction/Reward should be considered essential reading for the powerful insights it will deliver. While we live in an era of total choice, Hammond adds that what consumers really want is “not choice, but the thing that solves our problem, that satisfies the central need of our customer mission”. By adopting and applying the FvR metric within your business, you can more effectively pinpoint your clientele’s end-goals and solve a whole host of issues in retaining and growing your customer base at the same time.

Friction/Reward by Richard Hammond (Pearson Business), is available on Amazon priced £16.99 in paperback. For more information visit www.frictionreward.com

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