Back to the COPC Blog

Why Complexity Is Killing Your Customer Experience

Why Complexity Is Killing Your Customer Experience thumbnail Image

Written By:

Ian Aitchison

June 6, 2019

It is often said, the simple things in life are often the best. The reason that statement has held true for a long period of time is simply because the vast majority of people agree with it. Most of us embrace the theory that, with all other things being equal, simpler explanations are generally better than more complex ones.  Whether it is a home-cooked meal, a trip to the beach or sitting down to watch a movie, we all like something that is, hopefully, going to bring us satisfaction – and often not just to ourselves but to our family and friends. This is why we can get frustrated when this basic mantra is not transferred and applied into the world of business.

A simple transaction in business that results in us obtaining what we want generally brings instant pleasure -whether it is purchasing an item at a shop, putting petrol in our car, getting an answer to a question via a call centre or booking theatre tickets.

Ride-share companies such as Uber or Didi, for example, have simplified the experience of paying for a taxi ride. No longer do you need to get your wallet out and pay cash or spend time swiping your credit card. You just step out of the car, and the fare is deducted automatically. The transaction has been simplified and is, for all intents and purposes, “effortless”.  We get frustrated when a business makes a simple transaction complex by having barriers in place that impede resolution. The more complex a transaction, the more communication channels a customer must navigate; and the longer it takes to ‘seal the deal’, the more exasperated the consumer becomes.

How to Make the Simple Complex

If you walk into a supermarket looking for some washing detergent, being confronted with more than 10 brands almost brings on a sigh. A simple decision has become complex. A quick visit to the supermarket will now become an intermediate one, especially if you have no brand loyalty or you are looking for a niche product.  Having to read through the label information, analyse the differences between each product before deciding which to buy – hoping that it will suffice – is annoying and time-consuming.

On a larger scale, renegotiating your home loan or obtaining a fresh mortgage is another simple decision that has become enormously complex. You used to simply walk into your bank and speak to your bank manager. Now, there is a plethora of mortgage lenders all promising a better deal than their competitor, and there are many communication channels to go through before you complete the transaction.

“Customer-centricity that confuses and conflates self-service (systems design approach that lets people service themselves efficiently, effectively, and conveniently) with self-support (self-service when things go wrong) is bad design,” asserts Michael Schrage, Harvard Business Review.

Making the customer experience simple involves ensuring that all the processes involved – from the consumer searching for what they need/want to purchasing the required service/product or getting post-sales service – are functional, clear and offer a satisfactory outcome.  So, if your potential consumer needs to call your business, ensure that your contact centre operators are well trained, have all the potential answers at hand (preferably supported by decision-making AI or through a well-designed knowledge base), can clearly articulate the information, and don’t leave the customer confused.  What the customer wants is a quick and satisfactory outcome.

Also, make sure your technology works. There is nothing more frustrating for a customer who’s been waiting on the other end of the phone than to hear a contact centre operator say, “Sorry, my screen is taking a while to load”.

A Harvard Business Review study found that the best tool for measuring consumer-engagement efforts is the “decision simplicity index,” a gauge of how easy it is for consumers to gather and understand (or navigate) information about a brand, how much they can trust the information they find, and how readily they can weigh their options.  The easier a brand makes the purchase-decision journey, the higher its decision simplicity score. Brands that scored in the top quarter in the study were 86% more likely than those in the bottom quarter to see purchases by the consumers considering them. They were 9% more likely to be re-purchased and 115% more likely to be recommended to others.

KISS Principle

One of first lessons every new manager learns is that they must use the KISS principle. “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” It holds true today and should be applied to your customer experience management.

When developing your processes for handling customer interactions, you need to assess whether they are as simple as they could be. For instance, is every step necessary? Does every step add to the customer experience? Will some of the processes simply leave customers frustrated?  Every step in the process should push customers in the right direction – towards achieving their end goal.

According to Corporate Executive Board (CEB), a global consultancy, most customers encounter loyalty-eroding problems when they engage with customer service. For example:

  • 56% report having to re-explain an issue
  • 57% report having to switch from the web to the phone
  • 59% report expending moderate-to-high effort to resolve an issue
  • 59% report being transferred
  • 62% report having to repeatedly contact the company to resolve an issue

There are steps any organisation can take in the process of enhancing the customer experience that will align both your business goals and help the customer solve their problems.

  • Make the process easy to understand.
  • Don’t ask the customer to make an unnecessary decision.
  • Minimise waiting time.
  • Don’t ask the customer to repeat information.
  • Don’t make complexity the driver of dissatisfaction. Review your processes and make life as simple as possible for your customers.


Contact me at if you have any questions.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Please let us know why you provided the rating you did.