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Removing the 'Pebble' to Reduce Customer Experience Friction Points

We often underestimate the impact of effort on customer loyalty. Yes, product quality matters, but how much effort your customer needs to put in to complete a purchase plays an outsized role. Business leaders today aim to reduce friction by designing proactive, positive customer experiences.

Friction, even in small doses, breeds resentment and fuels negative word-of-mouth. 78% of consumers have abandoned a purchase or switched brands entirely due to friction and poor experiences.

Customer experience analytics illuminates the “pebbles” — the recurring pain points, confusing processes, and frustrating moments customers encounter. This lets you go beyond fixing issues to engineering effortless experiences, proactively addressing customer friction before it can damage your brand’s reputation.

What Are Customer Experience "Pebbles" and Why They Matter

Imagine a pebble in your shoe. It’s small and easily ignored at first, but over time, it turns a walk into an ordeal. Customer experience “pebbles” are similar. They’re not major breakdowns but those recurring minor annoyances: a confusing website, slow response times, inflexible policies, or other customer friction points.

One pebble is manageable. But a whole handful? That’s when customers quietly start looking for an alternative. Friction adds up, eroding satisfaction and ultimately leading to customer churn.

Identifying Your Unique Customer Experience Pebbles

Every business has unique potential “pebbles” impacting the customer experience. Collecting and analyzing customer feedback is essential to identify these friction points. To remove them effectively, you must first pinpoint precisely where they’re hiding. A multi-pronged approach is crucial for gathering a complete picture.

Step 1: Start with direct customer feedback.

Targeted surveys are more insightful than generic satisfaction scores. Ask customers to rate the ease of completing specific tasks and finding information within their customer journey. Most importantly, open-ended questions that invite customers to elaborate on their frustrations or suggest improvements should be included. This type of qualitative feedback is a treasure trove for revealing hidden “pebbles” that a multiple-choice survey might miss.

Step 2: Don't underestimate the power of indirect feedback.

Carefully analyze verbatim complaints in reviews, support transcripts, and social media mentions. These unfiltered channels contain customer frustrations expressed in their own words, pinpointing issues they might not mention directly. Pay attention to patterns in the customer's journey – are similar complaints popping up across multiple customers? Complaint patterns are a strong indicator of a recurring pain point.

Step 3: Voice of the Customer (VoC) analysis

Voice of the Customer tools exist to handle large volumes of feedback. Identifying customer friction points is crucial, and VoC tools exist to handle large volumes of feedback. Automatically detect and classify positive and negative sentiment, issues, requests and feedback themes.

Are these tied to specific points in the journey? Thematic analysis software goes further, uncovering recurring themes across vast amounts of feedback and across customer channels.

Quantify common issues, measure the impact on your metrics and pick up new issues you haven’t yet detected.

Are these tied to specific points in the journey? Feedback analytics, not topic modeling algorithms. (topic modeling algorithms have limited value, the results are generally not actionable). Uncovering recurring themes across vast amounts of text data, surfacing issues you might have yet to think to ask about directly.

Combining insights from direct, indirect, and VoC analysis gives you the most comprehensive view of where those experience “pebbles” are causing friction.

Thematic Expert tip:
In the analysis suite, use theme visualizations to identify the most common issues. Select 'issues' and 'negative sentiment' in filters, and scroll down to review the sentence clusters. You'll quickly get a strong understanding of what's upsetting customers, and can then get some quick wins on things that are easier to action. For more complex issues, analyze which customer segments are most affected, so you can determine the impact on the business. This will help your C-suite decide the level of resources they can allocate to address a problem.
Filter on negative issues in your feedback, and dive into the themes to understand what's causing friction for customers
Combining insights from direct, indirect, and VoC analysis gives you the most comprehensive view of where those experience “pebbles” are causing friction.

7 Strategies for Pebble Removal to Remove Friction and Improve Customer Experience

Once you know where the “pebbles” are, it’s time to strategically address them to reduce customer friction. Here are 7 strategies that you can use.

1. Map the Customer Journey

Visually chart your customer’s journey, step by step – website visit, purchase process, support inquiries, etc. Understanding different customer journeys helps identify where the points of friction are slowing them down or causing annoyance.

Prioritize these areas for immediate focus.

  • Consider touchpoints like onboarding, renewals, loyalty programs, etc., not just core transactions.
  • Do different customer groups experience unique “pebbles” within the same journey?
  • Journey mapping tools range from simple to complex. Choose what matches your needs, but mapping itself is crucial.


The widening gap between customer expectations and reality underscores the importance of listening to the Voice of the Customer. With only 15% of consumers feeling truly satisfied, brands urgently need to identify and address hidden frictions within the customer experience.

2. Root Cause Analysis

Don’t be satisfied with putting a bandage on a “pebble.” Is a confusing return process the symptom of a more complex internal system? Are slow response times due to outdated tech? Identify customer friction to understand these obstacles better.

Digging into the “why” behind the issue prevents it from recurring.

  • Root causes often span departments. Don’t just silo this within customer service.
  • Ask “why” multiple times to dig deeper (e.g., slow response time -> why? outdated tech -> why? budget constraints… etc.)
  • What points in the journey consistently delight customers? Analyze these to replicate success elsewhere.

3. Simplicity Wins

The solution to a customer experience “pebble” in online shopping doesn’t need to be complex. Can a confusing form be simplified? A multi-step process streamlined?  Often, the fixes with the biggest impact on customer perception are the easiest to implement.

  • Sometimes, what seems simple internally is confusing to customers. Usability testing is invaluable.
  • Use plain language in forms, instructions, etc. Avoid jargon or an overly formal tone.
  • Don’t let complexity delay a solution that’s 80% effective. Address pebbles iteratively.

4. Empower Your Frontline

Your service teams are on the front lines of the customer service experience. Give them the flexibility and tools to resolve those “pebble” issues on the spot. Autonomy will remove the customer’s frustration, build trust, and show that you’re responsive to their needs.

  • Give teams the autonomy to offer refunds, exceptions, etc., within guidelines to resolve issues on the spot.
  • Frontline staff are your pebble “sensors.” Ensure their insights are fed back into the wider improvement process.
  • Empathy and problem-solving skills, not just tools, empower teams to effectively address customer pain points.

5. Personalization Reduces Friction

Can you pre-populate customer data to anticipate and proactively solve “pebbles” to reduce customer friction? For example, repeat customers shouldn’t have to re-enter their information each time or receive unnecessary basic onboarding information.

  • Pre-filling forms and remembering preferences show you value their time and loyalty.
  • Be transparent about how their personal data is used. Personalization shouldn’t feel intrusive.
  • Automation is excellent, but ensure that real people remain available for complex “pebble” situations.


Customer experience analysis and Voice of the Customer pinpoint seemingly minor frictions that can have a massive impact. One company streamlined a single date-of-birth field, reducing friction by 20% and seeing a 40% drop in abandonment.

6. The Power of "Thank You for Your Feedback"

Acknowledge when feedback drives change. It shows customers their voice matters and builds a loop of continuous improvement, which is a key aspect of good customer service.

  • “We heard you, and here’s what changed…” is more powerful than a generic thank you.
  • Highlight fixes on a blog, in newsletters, or even in release notes if relevant.
  • Customers who helped spot a “pebble” are far more likely to become advocates when they see it addressed.
Customer giving feedback is a positive

7. Focus on Continuous Improvement for Reducing Customer Friction

Shift from reactive to proactive customer experience management to reduce customer friction points. “Pebble hunting” shouldn’t just happen when complaints roll in. By building ongoing analysis, focused metrics, and even preemptive outreach into your operations, you transform friction-removal into a cornerstone of your Customer Experience excellence.

  • Build regular analysis into your Customer Experience processes, not just as a reaction to issues.
  • Track things like the average resolution time for common “pebbles” or the percentage of complaints stemming from known pain points.
  • Can you spot “almost pebble” moments with surveys or analytics? (E.g., multiple page visits before task completion) and intervene before there’s frustration.


Customer experience data is key to unlocking loyalty, but raw numbers won't magically fix problems. Customer experience analytics transforms data into insight, illuminating the "pebbles"—the hidden frictions and frustrations customers encounter. Over 50% of consumers abandon a purchase if the experience isn't effortless. By proactively identifying and removing these "pebbles," you protect revenue and build lasting brand loyalty.

Proactive Pebble-Hunting Boosts Your Customer Experience

The best way to remove those costly experience “pebbles” and ensure a frictionless customer experience isn’t to wait for them to cause significant stumbles. (They’re more like a stinging wasp!) Proactive vigilance is critical. Here’s how to make it part of your Customer Experience strategy.

Conduct Regular CX Analysis

Don't just react to complaints. Actively look for trends in your customer experience analytics data. Are specific pain points mentioned more frequently? Are there gradual shifts in customer sentiment that need addressing?

Be Alert During Change

Even well-intentioned changes, such as website updates or policy shifts, can inadvertently introduce new "pebbles."  Closely monitor your CX analytics post-launch to catch any unintended side effects quickly.

Thematic Expert tip:
Review significant changes in the period after a CX initiative. Unusual movements in the volume or score for a theme will be detected and displayed.

(show emerging issue of booking process 2023 in Nova TV)

Use Thematic Answers to get more context on the emerging issue. "What is the emerging issue on booking process in 2023?"

Voice of the Customer as Your Early Warning System

Track the volume and impact of key themes and sentiment, to spot important shifts in customer experiences. Overall satisfaction scores are still good, but a spike in frustration about a certain topic is emerging. This lets you intervene before it escalates into widespread dissatisfaction.

Ready to start your pebble hunt?

Customer experience excellence isn't about grand gestures but the meticulous care of continuous improvement. Each "pebble" you remove today is an investment in future loyalty. It's the difference between satisfied customers and passionate brand advocates.

While competitors struggle to address frustrations, your customers experience effortlessness that builds unshakeable trust. Customer experience analysis isn't just about satisfaction scores; it's about forging a bond that makes switching unthinkable.

Analytics provides the roadmap, but true transformation requires intent. It's about using data to fuel the relentless pursuit of a frictionless experience – not just fixing problems but actively engineering delight.

Thematic is your strategic advantage in understanding and responding to the voice of the customer. Discover how our platform helps you pinpoint pain points, prioritize improvements, and outpace the competition. Book a demo to see how.

Ready to scale customer insights from feedback?

Our experts will show you how Thematic works, how to discover pain points and track the ROI of decisions. To access your free trial, book a personal demo today.

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