“Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple”-Richard Branson
Powerful lines, that ‘echo in simplicity’, from one of the world’s renowned business persons. In today’s world, where complexity rules, how do we ensure that we become a ‘simplification professional’ as we interact with our customers, and add value to their business? Today’s complex world may sustain, only through creating ‘WOWcomes’ for customers, instead of just ‘OUTcomes’. The simplicity and emotions in the customer-obsessed interactions are what will build connectivity and create the WOW moments. Companies like Amazon & Disney, consistently provide, engaging experiences for their customers. They really indulge in ‘mind reading’ the customers, anticipate their needs easily and intervene to thrill them. As business professionals, can we ensure, that the plethora of new technologies, that have hit our landscape, in the name of ‘digital’, empower customers rather than overwhelm them? Will transparent, clear and simple communication help towards that?
I visited a well-known restaurant recently, only to be drowned in indecisiveness and confusion, as I glanced at the menu. Though the options were many, categorization & simple guidance was missing. I felt confused at the maze of information staring at me. If only, the restaurant owner had understood the challenges, that their long-time customers, like me, faced, to process so much of information together, he would have had better insights into the customer’s needs. Decision making would also have been easier and faster unlike my experience.
Simplicity in communication, ideas & options presented to customers, seems to be the need of the hour. However, simplicity seems difficult to create, and quite often, complexity easy to achieve. Some experts say, ‘why not throw away the unwanted’ to achieve it?
Can we explore simplicity through subtraction? Though we may find addition & subtraction easy in mathematics, in life, it may be difficult to subtract. We keep adding things at home, more thoughts in our mind, new features to products and more services. This seems easy, and hence, we do it fast. Yet, when we try to eliminate what we have accumulated, it is difficult to do so. Subtraction could be at the heart of simplicity and can drive us towards effectiveness. Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher says it best-“To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, subtract things everyday”. Amidst the clutter in the business of today, how do we ensure simple yet effective wisdom for our customers?
Let us project simplicity, by staying prepared with the following questions & take action:
Is our communication crisp and compelling without confusing the customers?
In organizations that may be product-centric or service-centric, we communicate often with customers, using complicated ‘business speak’ or jargon for e.g.-‘top tier technology’, ’enterprise-wide capabilities’, ‘ROI’ etc. These may be understood by the business professionals easily, however, may not be comprehensible for the customer, and in many instances meaningless. Similarly, if we ask for too much information from customers, we may get none. Keeping the conversation simple, discussing benefits and methods that are practical will only make sense.
Do we have laser sharp focus on few strengths, to make a difference to our customers?
Good organizations can easily ensure wins for their customers at all times, if they identify & quickly focus on few strengths that make a difference to them. The brand- Lego did just that, and reaped success. It had tried to over expand in various areas of interest and stopped engaging with its current, existing set of customers, which led to the dilution of the brand. Instead, it focused on just few things which mattered to the customers, to turnaround the company from near bankruptcy. When Lego examined its capabilities ,of what differentiated it from its competitors, it came down to few key factors - the first, was the unique flexible material that the Lego bricks were made of ,which seemed glued, yet, easy to take apart. The 2nd focus that made a difference was, to nurture the community of customers carefully, which had built around the brand consistently. Such careful attention towards its customers, helped Lego, as an organization, to maintain a steady growth over the last decade.
How do we redesign customer touchpoints, to add value to customer journey experience?
Every organization should take care, to empower their touchpoints. Car insurance, is a key line of business, for every major insurance organization. Both established players and new entrants can be a potential headache, for any of such organizations. Adding to its worry would be the fragmented nature of their customer experience, through various individual touchpoints. For e.g. the broker, who manages any claim for the customer, or the car mechanic, who does the repair, after an accident. It is observed, that the insurance company, surprisingly, plays a very small role in the entire customer experience. One such insurance player, took up the responsibility, to improve the customer journey, by using personalized, end to end communication, through their touchpoints, for deeper engagement. Simple updates, via text or email, was sent, about the kind of repair done, and when the customer would receive their car back. The multitouch points were also reduced, to the meaningful single source of contacts, who would speak directly with the customers. The impact of this entire exercise, proved to be positive when delighted customers responded immediately. The quality of the individual touchpoint interactions also dramatically improved.
Does technology enhance the service experience for our customer?
Technology advancements should be seen, as enhancing the humanizing experience in customer service. We find technology, playing a great role, in every organization of today and occupying the customer’s mindshare. Disneyland is also no exception to this rule. It is very rare to see families, complain about technology intrusion, when they quickly adapt to the RFID wristbands, audience profiling etc. at Disneyland. Why do you think the acceptance is there? Though Disneyland is dependent upon the techno illusion, it communicates clearly & designs personalized and emotional experiences for the customer.
Can we subtract the obvious and add the meaningful?
Do customer service organizations, bombard customers, many a time, with repetitive calls & redundant communication? We as customers would also, have had, such meaningless interactions. All this only adding to our confusion, anxiety & dissatisfaction. Recently, a European energy retailer subtracted, simplified & redesigned the ‘home moving’ journey of its customers effectively & meaningfully. The company did away with outdated communication, and gave customers, the flexibility to inform about their move plans, when it suited them. They could use various communication modes, like the web, the phone or smart phone app to inform their decision. This was a big reduction, from the earlier process, where customers could only inform, 10 days before they moved. The implementation saw a 50% rise in customer satisfaction.
The 5 reflections, described above, would help organizations, connect with customers better. However, business professionals are not naturally wired to speak simple. It would definitely demand a cultural shift. Organizations and professionals, who master simplicity, would see higher customer satisfaction, revenue, cost improvements and enduring competitive advantage. While trying to solve a difficult puzzle, many of us would recall our puzzled expressions, which may be as confusing as the puzzle itself. Yet, when there would be somebody, to help us simplify it, and arrive at the big picture, a sense of awe, purpose & meaning sets in. If we as professionals & customer service organizations, aim for this awe & trust, from our loyal customers, we would need to simplify our interactions and create WOWcomes for them effortlessly.