Friction: Is It Really That Hard to Get It Right?


Friction: Is It Really That Hard to Get It Right?User friction: It is such a complicated topic. If it’s done well, you can appreciate it, or at least accept it, because it’s protecting you and your financial interests. If not done well, it’s nearly universally hated. Striking that balance, while very doable, seems to be difficult for some financial institutions. I ran into an institution recently which provided a perfect example of what NOT to do.

I needed a medallion signature guarantee on some financial documents. I called my local credit union to ask if the branch close to me had someone who could do this. I received an automated reply about heavy call volume, offering me a returned phone call so I didn’t have to wait on the phone for a representative. Great! I thought that would make things easy, so I opted in.

When I received my return phone call, the representative asked for my account number, Social Security number, or member number. Then I was asked to provide my full name. Then I was asked if I had any recurring deposits and, if so, who the deposits are from. At this point, after three authentication questions, I was starting to get annoyed. Then the representative asked yet another question, at which point I said, “All I want to know is if there is someone at my local branch who can provide a medallion signature guarantee.” This was a simple yes or no question with no financial risk. Yet I was being put through the gauntlet.

The representative said that she needed to ask these questions since I may have to make an appointment with someone at the local branch. Well, after providing my Social Security number and name, she should have had all the information she needed to service my request. Have I mentioned that I called with a yes or no question?

At this point, my frustration meter maxed out, and I refused to answer her fourth question. The level of personally identifiable information I had to provide to get a yes or no answer (and maybe an appointment) was too much. I told her that I was done and hung up.

When a process is so complicated that it is easier and faster to drive to the nearest branch than to make a phone call, the process is broken.

Friction is not one-size-fits-all. It needs to be dynamic and based on risk. Processes need to be flexible and inject friction if and when needed.

If I am asking to transfer thousands of dollars out of my account, then bring on the questions. Really authenticate me. I will appreciate the fact that the institution is protecting my interests. If I have a basic banking question that only requires a yes or no response, save the consumer the hassle of all the questions and save the institution some money by handling the call faster and cheaper.

The branch representative was great, and I got my appointment without all the questions. Now that was a good, friction-appropriate process.

Do you measure or monitor user friction in your online, call center, and other customer channels? If so, I would like to hear how you manage it. Reach out to me at [email protected].