Why simplicity matters

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Simplicity is the essence of the golden rule. It’s an indication of consideration: I’ve taken the time to move the complexity of something out of the way so that the recipient of a conversation, a deed, a gesture, a letter, understands what I mean.

Below are a few questions that I am frequently asked about simplicity, and why it’s critical for any business seeking growth and profitability.

How does simplicity benefit business?

Streamlining, consolidating and clarifying information offers cost benefits. Cost savings come from fewer unnecessary customer service inquiries, fewer goodwill credits issued because a company realizes that its customers probably didn’t understand a charge, and reduced postage and printing. Other cost benefits stem from greater customer satisfaction, which leads consumers to expand relationships with companies and recommend them to friends.

Why is simplicity a necessity?

Technology has increased the speed and volume of information. The availability of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook make it easy for consumers to express their dissatisfaction with complexity in the blink of an eye. Thousands of people can be alerted and called to action quickly and easily to complain and push back against companies that they feel are not operating in the best interest of consumers.

What is the biggest misconception that people have about simplicity?

That the people who complicated things in the first place are the same ones who can simplify them.

Why is simplicity so elusive?

It is easier to add and append than to rethink. The result is often information which supersedes or duplicates previously existing content. A perfect example is an insurance policy. Companies send updates to policies regularly over a period of years and expect customers to keep track of these additions and deletions. This puts the burden on the customer instead of issuing an entirely revised policy with the changes highlighted in context. Taking a blank slate approach requires commitment, vision and cooperation—traits that are often in short supply in corporate America.

Can we achieve simplicity in a world that is so complex?

This may seem like a paradox. But it’s important to recognize that simplifying the interaction with customers does not mean that the underlying product or service is simple. Most of our work involves customizing content, carefully timing information delivery, structuring content so that it is intuitive and writing in plain language.

What are the advantages for those companies that adopt simplicity?

Business leaders need to realize that simplicity is mutually beneficial to customers and companies. Clarity often engenders trust and trust influences customer loyalty. Achieving simplicity requires leadership. Since it is not the path of least resistance, top executives must make it clear that it is requirement, not a frill.

I hope that consumers will demand to understand what they are buying and that “fine print” will eventually be an anachronism.

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