The Power of Customer Obsession

By

Sandy Clarke

15th May 2020

3 min read

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With a USD$1 trillion company and an estimated net worth of USD$135 billion, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos knows a thing or two about looking after his customers.

But did you know that Bezos – who founded the company in 1994 – continues to personally read customer complaint emails, then gets the relevant leaders to act on them?

In a time when business leaders obsess over big data and analytics, Jeff Bezos concerns himself with being obsessed over his customers. Data might provide insights into trends, but customers will tell you the full story.

Amazon, Jeff BesozImage credit: Facebook/ Amazon

In his 2017 annual letter to shareholders, Bezos talks about the importance of being customer-centric. He writes, “There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach, but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great.

“Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf. No customer ever asked Amazon to create the Prime membership program, but it sure turns out they wanted it, and I could give you many such examples.”

What does it mean to be customer-obsessed? At Amazon, leaders are guided by 14 stated principles that drive their roles, decisions and performance. Being customer-obsessed is number one on the list and described as follows:

Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Although the other 13 principles are clearly defined, they are standards that you’re likely to find at most organisations – but it’s the explicit focus on customer obsession that makes Amazon’s success what it is.

As Bezos puts it, “If there’s one reason we have done better than our peers in the Internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business. It certainly matters online, where word-of-mouth is so very, very powerful.”

Like all good business ideas, being customer-obsessed seems so obvious and yet, how many leaders can say they do it well, or even at all? As a leader, perhaps you might be focused on product development. If you have a great product, people are more likely to buy. But then again, is your product really so different, so much better than the multitude of options already out there?

Or maybe you’re focused on the bottom line: monetising, adding revenue streams, cutting costs, and so on. Time spent focusing on the bottom line seems like a great idea…but who is it that ultimately provides you with revenue and end-of-year-profits?

You might be interested in: Raise Your Game: Jeff Bezos, The Man Behind Amazon.com

For Jeff Bezos, a priority goal is for Amazon to become the most customer-centric company on earth. Judging by the revenue and profit trends enjoyed by Amazon, it seems a no-brainer that more leaders should follow suit by focusing on what really matters most to a company’s survival. Let’s take a look at some of the considerations that are key to being customer obsessed:

1. Put yourself in your customers shoes

What are you offering your customers that they can’t get elsewhere? If the answer is ‘nothing’, then how do you expect brand loyalty if you take a one-size-fits-all approach to customer experience? What are your customers’ needs and wants? Keep in mind that it doesn’t work to think you know your customers’ desires – what are you doing to truly get a sense of what they’re about, and how can you serve them better?

2. Make it everyone’s mission to deliver for the customer

Does your organisation have teams that work in silos? Is there poor communication between departments? How well does everyone know the values and objectives of the organisation? If these aspects are lacking, how can you expect to deliver real value to your customers?

By bringing people together and improving communication, employees can work together to make sure their every effort leads back to the customer. These aren’t just the people who provide your business with revenue, they’re the lifeblood of your organisation. When you see your customers in this way, it’s impossible not to become obsessed.

3. Everyone can be a leader, and they should be!

Gone are the days of rigid job descriptions and ‘it’s not part of my role’ attitudes. When organisations thrive, everyone wins. A culture where everyone is expected to act like a leader means there are fewer chances of miscommunication and higher chances of motivation and commitment.

What leadership qualities should your people have? Do they know your expectations? If not, then spend some time empowering people to act on initiative, guide them to inspire others, and show them what their presence in the organisation does and how it relates to the customer experience.

When people are handed responsibility and are made aware of their capabilities, more often than not they’ll step up to the plate and provide the kind of service that will keep customers coming back for more.

Read also: The Key Driver in Customer Experience

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