A victory for simplicity

I’m a big believer in the idea that simplicity is facilitated by technology. And across the globe, ease of communications is considered technology’s greatest contribution to a more simplified life.

So when a company that specializes in bringing people together through smartphones and other state-of-the-art products and services does something that boggles the mind, I can’t help but take notice.

Verizon’s year-end announcement that it would be charging a $2 fee for one-time bill payments sparked a customer revolt. The so-called “convenience charge” would have applied to those consumers who make one-time bill payments using debit or credit cards, either online or by telephone.

Within barely 24 hours, Verizon reversed course, with lots of egg on its face.

It’s hard to imagine what Verizon was thinking. As the largest telecom carrier in the United States, Verizon has spent millions on technology to simplify communications. The company has also used technology to improve its processes, saving consumers time and money and making their lives more efficient.

The plain truth is that paying monthly bills online is simple and convenient for Verizon users and for Verizon itself. I have to believe that the company receives payments in a more timely fashion thanks to the online and over-the-phone system. And that it has been able to replace employees with computers due to the decrease in manual paper billing, helping the carrier save money.

According to Siegel+Gale’s 2011 Global Brand Simplicity Index™, cell phones (handsets and providers) ranked No. 3 globally in the field of 25 industries. In the U.S., this industry is ranked 9th. Clearly telecom providers—and technology companies in general—have done much right in providing customers with simpler and more effective experiences as they navigate their way through an increasingly complicated world.

What the Verizon uproar—and the company’s ensuing pullback—demonstrate is that consumers will continue to demand simplicity in all their interactions. Those firms that effectively employ simplicity through the smart use of technology will come out on top.

Alan Siegel is founder and chairman of Siegel+Gale.

1 comment(s)

  1. Nice post. I think the problem was rooted in simplistic thinking instead of true simplicity. I’m sure it went like this: (Number of customers)*(percentage of online bill pay utilization)*($2 per month) = LOTS OF FREE MONEY!

    It’s unfortunate that no one, from the most junior marketing manager to the CMO, said, “Um, wait just a minute. Let’s think this through.”

    Too often, companies are driven to generate every possible penny from any possible source, and the first place they look is brand loyalty.

    That’s just stupid, plain and simple.

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