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Customer Behavior

Does This Hurt? Creating Frictionless Customer Experience

‘Does this hurt? No. How about here? No. Here? OUCH YES.’

We have all been there. The doctor poking you with 2 rigid fingers until your yelp of pain tells them they’ve found the problem. Despite all our technological and biomedical advances, their best tool is still systematically poking you about in the abdomen until you scream in pain.

It works because it is simple and effective. Your pain is their ability to diagnose.

So it is too with your Customer Experience (CX). Many companies seem to spend a lot of time plotting their customer journey in great detail, but then they fail to ‘feel’ along it for the pain points.

These pain points are where it can all go wrong for a brand, what the customer is more likely to share with their peers via social media, and what may be their overarching memory of the experience. But there is good news.

Just as in life, pain is just a symptom of the problem. Isolate the pain and fix it, and your brand will live longer.

Dissolve Your Pain Point

Take IKEA.

They are masters of the impulse buy, designing their stores as a series of ‘this could be your life’ showrooms (the psychological term is Virtual Ownership). They orchestrate your walk through the store along a certain route and plant lots of fun, colourful and great value accessories along the way. And those blue bags are on hand everywhere for you to grab and fill.

As I said, they are masters at the impulse incremental sale. However, that success also brings about a problem.

ikea store customer experience
Ikea Store (source:

Their pain point is often at the checkout.

You came in for 1 or 2 small items but now having checked out, for all the little things you casually dropped into that blue bag along the way (they all add up you know!) you now owe them $145.

PAIN. Ouch.

Now, many businesses would leave it at that. They have your money. They have made their incremental sales. But not IKEA.

They know that this is one of the last moments along your customer journey today.

The last thing you want to do is let a customer leave your store angry, disappointed or in pain. And so to dissolve this pain they added a little step between the checkout and the exit door.

The Swipe a Surprise machines (in the UK and IE).

ikea swipe a surprise
Swipe A Surprise (source:,

Here you scan your receipt (now longer than you’d anticipated!) and the machine randomly allocates you a small surprise.

It might just be a free coffee or donut from the in-store café, but either way, it’s a little gift.

It makes you smile. It’s playful and you leave the store in less pain.

These machines are a strategic asset for CX, not just some fun. They help dissolve the identified pain point.

Other brands still struggle with their pain points, either not recognising them or not doing enough to dissolve them.

Today’s consumer demands frictionless. Every moment on a customer experience journey that is clunky or inefficient erodes brand and experiential equity. They expect fluid and efficient at every touch point.

So today, look at your customer journey. Put on a white coat and stethoscope and start poking. Find the pain points. Acknowledge and then do everything in your power to dissolve them. Because as soon as one company removes the friction, they win.

Here are two articles to help you get started:


This article was originally featured on, and is republished here with permission.

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Ken Hughes is now acknowledged as being one of the world’s leading authorities on consumer and shopper behavior, internationally renowned for helping his largely blue-chip client base better understand the needs of the future consumer. he blends his understanding of consumer psychology, shopper immersion, digital anthropology and retail futurology to explore the needs of the new consumer and predict the changes to come. Click here to read more