“Friction” is not a Dirty Word in a Frictionless World
I’ve been thinking a lot about friction for some time now, and while the entire parking world has become obsessed with the search for a “frictionless” parking experience, I have a different take. Sure, having the ability to drive up to any garage, enter, pay and exit without a hitch would be great. However, I think that’s the best-case scenario.
I’m going to share three anecdotes to support my assertion that while the buzzword “frictionless” is nirvana, even the biggest zealots will agree that a little friction might go a long way toward making the parking experience better than it is today. My first story was in the Wall Street Journal recently, and boy is it a heartbreaker…
We’ll call him Jim, because the story didn’t actually give his name. Jim got a call one day from a scammer claiming to be a computer security company that had just renewed his subscription for their services. Jim claimed he didn’t have a relationship with that company and proceeded to give the scammer his banking information so that the cost of the subscription ($39.95) could be refunded.
The scammer then appeared to deposit $39,950 into Jim’s account. Jim, when he saw a bank balance of $39,000+, endeavored to return it, so he initiated a wire transfer in the amount of $39,950. The wire transfer clerk at the bank dutifully asked if Jim knew the receiving party and Jim told them that he didn’t, but he trusted them.
Jim wired the money and the scammers cancelled the initial incorrect deposit. Jim lost $40K. Wouldn’t it have been great if the bank employee or the bank itself had injected just a little more friction into the transaction? Sometimes, we’re all so focused on “giving the people what they want”, it doesn’t occur to us that slowing someone down might actually save them from making a costly error.
My second story falls under the heading of “friction is necessary.” For example, there was a story of a Zappos employee that sent a grandma a bouquet of flowers to make her feel better because she had a condition that made her feet ache. There was also a story about a Ritz Carlton that accidentally shrunk an evening gown while dry cleaning it, and then took legendary steps to help the guest shop and find another gown for their upcoming corporate event. Both instances talked about how the experience created customers for life because of the extraordinary measures taken during the “service recovery.”
You see, sometimes friction is a blessing in disguise because it creates an opportunity for you and your employees to demonstrate how much you value the parking customer on the other end of said bad experience. Think about that, if all you have is technology to distinguish you, there’s a better than even chance that it is something that will eventually be copied and deployed by your competitors.
Finally, my last story focuses on the concept that “friction is inevitable,” especially when it comes to the use of technology in any circumstance. It’s just not humanly possible to test all the scenarios that could break an application.
Now, for the story. Roy Farris has worked for our company for a long time, and he is particularly good at breaking things that have been “fully tested.” Such was the situation after our developers took specific pains to write an exquisite piece of software to handle a special type of customer. About 15 minutes into his testing, Roy found a scenario that broke their code. The punch line to this story?
It’s impossible to remove ALL the friction and you might not even WANT to remove all the friction. What we really need to do is redefine “frictionless” to include systems and processes to both produce frictionless experiences and “save” the customer experience when friction occurs. That means that facilities get staffed appropriately at the right times, technology is integrated seamlessly with your PARCS equipment, you deploy unique ways to handle exceptions, and you keep an eye on social media for times when your staff or your technology falls down.
This all sounds daunting doesn’t it? It sure is, but I know a couple ways you can learn from a city that has managed to accomplish all of this. Revisit the July edition of Parking Today and read about how Brandy Stanley with the City of Las Vegas has built systems and processes to produce a frictionless and memorable customer experience, or you can attend our session (Brandy and yours truly) at PIE on Tuesday, March 24th at 3PM.