Service with a KISS

KISS:  Keep it simple stupid

This well-known term is attributed to an engineer at Lockheed during the sixties.  Over the years variations of the phrase have included “keep it short and simple”, “keep it straightforward and simple”, and “keep it small and simple”.


The KISS principle states that most systems work best if they are kept simple not complicated or complex and simplicity is a key goal in design.  I am neither brilliant or stupid but this principle makes a lot of sense to me and is in the forefront of my mind when designing processes and systems that affect the Customer’s experience.

As a consumer seeking a great Customer Experience I love the “S” words in KISS:  simple, small, short, straightforward.  And although as a child my mother didn’t allow the use of the word stupid I embrace that “S” word when used in the proper context.  Such as, “How could I have ever been so stupid to have done business with a merchant who doesn’t care about my experience?!”.  Or, “I know the executives in this company are not stupid so why would they have me wait on hold for 15 minutes after navigating a complicated phone system to only get a recording that they are now closed for the day?”

Even some of the ways in which companies measure their Customer’s satisfaction are highly complex, overworked, and over analyzed.  I recognize the value of data. Over the years I have leveraged data to help drive strategy and decisions.  I am a big fan of data… But, the greatest data point comes from speaking directly with a Customer and asking them “How did it go?  Did we do a good job for you and would you recommend us?  If not what could we have done better or different?”

The next best data point is asking those employees who are charged with delivering that Customer Experience how they feel.  Ask them, “Do you have the tools you need to deliver a great Customer Experience?”  Are you informed?  Do you feel  empowered?  Is there something else the company can do to help you be successful?”

Over the years I’ve had the privilege to work with some great companies helping to design and scale their commercial infrastructure in a way that delivers great Customer experiences.  Along the way I’ve identified three basic tenets that are the foundation for delivering a great Customer Experience.

  • People (Culture)
    • You can’t deliver a great customer experience without first delivering a sound employee experience.  Employees need to have sound tools.  They need robust and timely information whether it is about new products, pricing, policies, marketing programs, or branding.
    • Employees must be recognized for meeting the high standard the company has set.  It takes a lot of very hard work for even the best athletes to win a world championship.
    • Empower your employees, within reason, to take liberties with the policies and procedures necessary to meet customer specific needs and from time to time create a “wow” over and above experience.
    • When hiring consider attitude as much as aptitude (if not more).  The best service reps are those that chose that line of work because they get pleasure out of helping others.  Depending on the size of the team there is certainly room and purpose for transient employees but the best reps are those that enjoy being service reps and aren’t necessarily using the job as a stepping stone to a different function.
    • Management:  mid-level managers should go “hands-on” as often as necessary to support their employees and must be effective leaders as well as good managers.
  • Process Design  (process)
    • Good processes are simple and easy to understand by the service providers conducting them.
    • Policies should be easily explained by those having to communicate and adhere to them.
    • Processes that deliver the best Customer experience are designed backwards starting with the desired Customer Experience or outcome.
    • Good up to date documentation (desktop instructions, process workflows, forms and templates) are important for trouble-shooting, training, scaling and the ability to stay nimble and flexible.
  • Business Systems (systems)
    • Service reps live and die by the business systems they use to conduct their jobs.  If you or the executives in your company don’t understand this they should sit/stand in with the front line reps for an hour or two.  Better yet, have them do the job and use the systems to get the user experience first hand.
    • Systems must be highly responsive (information as well as response time), simple to navigate, user configurable, and pleasing to look at.
    • Let your business systems do the heavy lifting to keep it short for your Customers, simple for your Customer facing reps, and straightforward for your back office workers.
    • Service providers usually need to work in both back and front office systems.  When possible, integrate your ERP and CRM systems either through software or physical components.

It’s not so important that the engineer at Lockheed was building planes.  It’s doesn’t matter that 500 years earlier Leonardo da Vinci’s communicated the same concept when he said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

But what does matter is that your customers aren’t stupid which is why you need to keep it simple.


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