People like complexity ... when it's simple!

Simplifying processes, customer interactions, and technical devices has significant potential for most organizations. Most businesses I have encountered waste money and lose customers because of overly complex operations.

There are two ways to deal with complexity:

  • Preventive actions: Simplify the root causes. Eliminate unnecessary elements and steps, and streamline and standardize. Those measures are well-known and are addressed by many leaders (even if the overall potential for further simplification is still tremendous). The downside is that it takes a while before the results show up.
  • Contingent actions: Master complexity. Make it simple to deal with complexity. You can drive a car even without knowing at all how the machine works. You can work with an iPad without having any idea about the complex inner workings of the device. The upside is that you have faster and cheaper results that have an immediate effect on customers.

Many executives ignore the second way and miss out on great opportunities. Do it better.

Here is how to master complexity in customer relations:

  1. Look at all your products and services from a customer perspective (internal or external): Keep those features that they (not you!) want or need. Standardize or eliminate the rest.  
  2. Avoid fixed combinations. The “menu” would be too big. Instead, divide the features of your service or product into a maximum of three groups, each with a maximum of ten choices. Most people can deal with this amount of information, not more.
  3. Similarly communicate your simplified offeringexternally to your clients and internally to your staff.

Companies that have been good at mastering complexity include most fast food chains, Apple Computers (iPad, iPod, iPhone), and most car manufacturers.

Companies that have not mastered this technique include most telecom providers (which offer endless combinations of features instead of simple choices), most retail banks, and tax authorities.


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