Beyond the Build

Customer Relationships

On the Road to Simplicity

This week, we were finalizing a contract with a new customer. The process of the last few days did not go as I had expected. Confusion from too many details had gotten in the way, and our customer did not understand the final proposal. In short, he was somewhat frustrated.

While all of the facts and figures had been presented over the last several months–in great detail, I believe–it didn’t matter because we failed to keep it simple and understandable. Thinking back, an ounce more of empathy would have been a good addition to our mix. We probably should have done a better job putting ourselves into “the other guys shoes.”

As I thought about it, it seems that many decisions we make are based upon more (and more) words, more details, more click through agreements and more back up. In our desire to serve our customer well, at times we over-serve him with too many unclear details.

There is nothing simple about trying to achieve simplicity. Taking a complex situation down to the basics to make it more digestible is just plain tough at times. This means getting to details sooner rather than later, and being more clear in the process. It requires being focused and achieving the “less is more” mentality. In the end, it’s more effort on our part, and less on the customer’s.

But why bother? I believe that companies that can achieve both the perception and reality of being straightforward and easy to deal with will be successful. Companies that provide an experience with fewer hassles and more empathy will have a competitive edge on the others, all things being equal.

Take Google, for example. One look at their website shows the corporate attitude toward ease of use and simple design. It’s taken them far.

At the end of the day, our team learned a valuable lesson this week. Simplicity goes a long way toward customer satisfaction, and ultimately loyalty. It’s a virtue we’re striving to improve daily.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.