How Dr Martens Shredded My Feet But Left Me Delighted -OR-
Friction vs Reward 101

Jul 7 · 4 min read
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This article was originally published June 28th, 2018

Sunday afternoon, I’m back from our local shops in Summertown, had a little trundle around the excellent weekly market and popped into the Dew Drop Inn for a beer and crisps for the kids. All told a couple of hours wearing my new Dr. Martens Made in England 1460 boots.

I’ve had them just over a week now. Emily is helping me get the bastard things off and I realise my sock is wet. It’s a little blood and a lot of whatever the hell it is that comes out of broken blisters. I’m smiling between the winces.

Insanely perhaps, I’m happy as you like; I love my new boots. These are my first ever Dr. Martens and they are everything I was hoping they would be; beautifully British made (yeah, I paid the premium), great soles, thick leather, look great on my feet and they mark me out as belonging to my tribe; which is a sort of post-hipster, mid-life rationalised creative grown up. In my head at least.

See, I knew that I was going to have to endure a period of breaking in these boots. I went into the purchase with my eyes open. Before getting anywhere near throwing down £170 I was well aware that there would be pain and that such pain was part of the journey.


This is friction vs reward 101: customers will happily put up with certain frictions, even actual pain, if the reward for doing so is big enough. The two are fundamentally and inextricably linked in customers’ choice dynamic — sometimes it’s as overt as my ruined feet, but mostly it’s a subtle developing process of conscious and unconscious balancing.

That’s our breakthrough at Uncrowd; being able to measure every customer interaction in the context of joined up friction vs reward specific to groups of need-states. That last is critical because there are plenty of customers in need-states that would make the breaking in of a pair of Dr. Martens an absolute no-go.

Take away the direct linking of friction vs reward, and what you get is the current state of customer journey mapping in retailing: on the surface a very useful process of identifying pain points, interactions and opportunities to change the customer experience but one that misses completely the relationship between pain and gain.

Compare our Friction/Reward Indexing (FRi™) with traditional customer journey mapping (CJM). FRi plots each touchpoint in the context of the total experience where CJM surfaces only the frictions and rewards in linear isolation. In my Dr. Martens example; that would mean breaking in would be seen only as a chunky and literal pain point where instead FRi can see that it is an integral part of the total experience.

This isn’t a nebulous problem either; consider a simplified traditional CJM for the ownership part of my boots experience.

A retailer with standard CJM would go

  • 1. Got the shoes — fine
  • 2. Breaking the shoes in — people’s feet are bleeding and it hurts
  • 3. Post break in — happy owners plod about in their Dr. Martens

Alarm bells would ring at that middle stage. The current vogue for customer effort and focusing on friction in isolation would cause the retailer to focus only on how to minimise that pain point and make the wearing of a pair of Dr. Martens a frictionless experience.

So CJM would surface this massive pain point and the business would look to reduce that pain and friction: “okay we need to use softer leather, change the inners, make the sole a pre-shaped profile and more resilient, maybe we reduce the number of eyelets because lots of rubbing happens at the top of the boot there?”

So the business does all that because CJM tells them that’s the pain point and that it must be reduced. But in the process they kill what it is to want, buy, break-in and own a pair of Dr. Martens.

This is how retailers are using CJM right now. Friction vs Reward MUST instead be taken into account, because 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 CX.

Want an example closer to home in a customer sense? Let’s go with Singapore Changi Airport versus Atlanta Hartsfield. Measure the customer journey for both and Atlanta wins; it is regularly awarded the accolade most efficient transit airport in the world because that metric measures friction as time. Atlanta is indeed a faster airport to get through than Changi and yet, flyers rate rate Changi 50 places higher in the World Airport Awards (yep, a real thing and based on 13m customer nominations for 2017) than Atlanta for satisfaction and preference. Why? Because Changi knows that the key friction/reward metric for transiting an airport isn’t time. It’s stress. It takes longer to transit Changi but it’s a nice, relaxing and easy experience. At Changi, customers happily accept more time friction because in doing so they gain the significant reward of reduced stress.

Talk to us about your customer journey mapping needs and we might just help you find the real frictions and rewards that lead you to blitz your rivals in customer experience too.

Cover image: Loco Steve, licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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