Simplify Complexity: Mastering the Art of Simplicity

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about the hard work it takes to make something look easy. I quoted several people from sports, entertainment and business. The gist of the article was that we work hard to make doing business with us easy. Consider the quote I used from Steve Jobs of Apple, who said, “It takes a lot of hard work to make something look simple.”  

Notice that Jobs’ quote uses the word simple. Sometimes, people confuse simple with easy, and it’s important to recognize the difference between the two words. 

So, let’s take this concept to the next level. It’s not only about making something look easy. It’s about simplifying the complicated. 

When I’m asked to give a customer experience keynote speech, one of the points I like to make is the importance of simplifying the complicated. All of my books are easy to read. Some say the concepts are simple, but the reality is that they are often not. They are just presented in a way that simplifies the concepts for the reader. And we must do the same in business.  

Customers don’t want or like complication, confusion, or friction. They want a customer-friendly experience, but they also want the overall experience to be convenient. My annual customer service and CX research includes some very compelling findings that will make you want to simplify your customers’ experience. For example, 94% of the more than 1,000 consumers we surveyed said convenience is important, 87% of customers will recommend a convenient company or brand, and 70% will pay more for convenience. 

As important as convenience is to the customer experience, there is more to “de-complicating” the overall experience. For example, how clear are your marketing messages and product descriptions? I’ve been to websites where, after reading everything on the company’s home page, I still don’t know exactly what they do. They’ve complicated their message. 

The concept of simplicity is financially powerful. Siegel+Gale is a consulting firm that specializes in making brands simple. Its research shows an incredible financial benefit to creating simplicity. In 2009, if you invested in a group of companies recognized for simplicity, you would have dramatically outperformed the stock market by a whopping 1,600%, proving that simplicity delivers in ROI.  

It’s important to remember that simple does not always mean easy. You can have a very complicated and highly technical product. My sister used to work with companies to rewrite complicated software manuals so the average person could understand them. And that’s a perfect example of making the complicated simple.

Related: Customer Experience: The Maintenance of Your Business Engine