Simplicity for the customer causes complexity for the organization.
When Manish Chandra was launching Poshmark, a shopping party app, one of the design decisions he faced related to the payment system. It was relatively easy to plug PayPal in. However, Chandra was focused on making everything really easy for the customer. So, instead of using PayPal, his developers spent two months developing a system where payments could be made in two clicks.
The result of Chandra's relentless pursuit of simplicity for the customer was a mobile app that has been a big hit.
Very few organizations have the tools to develop a business case for simplicity. There are no models that I've come across that articulate the return on investment on making something easy to do. This is a huge gap in management metrics.
We know the costs of making things simple; Two extra months of developer time. But we rarely know the value that will accrue. So, in most organizations the pressure is there not to spend those two months.
Making it simple for the customer causes many challenges for the organization.
Customer simplicity is internally disruptive. I once worked with a bank that had an online mortgage application form that requested 14 separate pieces of information from the potential customer. This application perfectly integrated with the bank's internal systems. The problem was that they were getting 2 enquiries a week through the form.
A new manager arrived and demanded improvements.
The web team radically simplified the form, requesting only three pieces of information. The organization was shocked. Internally, everyone hated the form. It's incomplete, they complained. It won't integrate with our systems, they complained. We'll keep getting stupid enquiries from Mickey Mouse, they complained.
The manager decided to give it a try.
In the first week they got 180 enquiries. And yes they did get stupid enquiries from Mickey Mouse and the likes. But in the first three months with the simple form they did 20 times more revenue than in the previous three months with the older, more complex form.
Making life easier for the customer makes life more complex for the organization. Staff who are customer-centric are often seen as troublesome by their colleagues because they are always putting the customers' needs first. There is a very strong internal force to make life as easy, as smooth, as possible.
Many organizations find it very hard to measure outcomes. It's a much simpler job to measure whether you have a payment system than to measure how easy it is to use your payment system.
I see the same organization-centric thinking around content. The focus becomes on producing the content itself because that's a relatively easy thing to do. To focus on what the content helps the customer to do is much harder. But that's where the value lies.
Measuring the content or the app is the old model. Because of the Web we can now measure much better how things are used. Let's focus less on what we produce and more on the use.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994. His latest book is titled The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online.
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