Project Description

African American professional woman standing at whiteboard presenting to other professionals gathered around conference room tableSimplicity guided Steve Jobs in building one of the world’s best companies. But an ethos of effortlessness is not necessarily easy to achieve. Jobs said it best, “Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

Complexity tends to increase as companies grow. From organizational structure and cultural mindset to legacy systems and processes, complexity ultimately reaches into the experience of customers, employees and vendors.

The question becomes: Is simplicity worth the effort?

Simplicity makes customers stay

Research proves that simplicity makes customers stay with a brand. In its Global Brand Simplicity Index Siegel & Gale shows that 64% of consumers across all industries are willing to pay more for simpler experiences while 61% are more likely to recommend a brand because it provides simpler experiences and communications.1

The Index also tracks the financial performance of a portfolio of companies that rank high on simplicity criteria. By 2016 this stock portfolio had grown by 433% since the beginning of 2009 compared with 135% growth by the S&P.

Effort makes customers leave

Several trends have been major thrusts in shaping business strategy and the customer experience:

  • Choice. The promise that content and services are accessible anytime, anywhere and on any device;
  • Delight. The idea that exceeding expectations boosts customer loyalty;
  • Innovation. The introduction of change—a driving force in business for the past decade.

These can be detrimental unless they serve to make things easier for customers. For example, too many choices can create complexity. Think about it: you’re having trouble determining if your company received a payment. You can contact the remitter by email, phone or via a self-service portal. But what you really want is to answer your question with the least amount of effort.

In a massive study on the return on investment of delighting customers CEB, Inc. found that exceeding expectations has limited effect on loyalty and that investments in this area have limited returns. Related specifically to dimensions of loyalty the research showed that 96% of customers who left a company reported having an experience that required too much effort on their part.2

A meta-trend and useful lens

Research such as this supports the notion that simplicity is a meta-trend; a more highly organized concept that other trends could and should support. It’s likely to be at the forefront of shaping the customer experience. This makes simplicity a useful lens for any group looking to streamline. One way to get a greater return on effort is to reduce the effort.

Corporate treasury professionals should consider how the lens of simplicity can aid objectives to become more efficient and effective or serve other initiatives.

1. Global Brand Simplicity Index, 2017.
2. CEB – The Effortless Experience. Retrieved from