Are you seeking a deep understanding of your customers’ needs, preferences, and pain points? Are you committed to providing exceptional customer experiences at every touchpoint? This is a customer-obsessed mindset, and it is a good thing.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos popularized this concept in his 1997 letter to shareholders. He wrote: “Obsess over customers: From the beginning, our focus has been on offering our customers compelling value.” Reportedly, he attaches this original 1997 letter to each year’s new letter to shareholders to remind them of the company’s “Day 1” approach.
Bezos wrote in a 2016 letter to Amazon shareholders, “There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.”
Why does this matter for businesses today? Amazon is one of the top five largest companies in the world, and Bezos attributes its success to a customer-obsessed culture.
In this article, we focus on:
- Defining customer obsession
- Learning from Amazon’s customer-centric approach
- Strategies for building a customer-obsessed organization
- Your next steps to your shift company culture
What Is Customer Obsession About?
Customer obsession expresses the business strategy of aligning all company actions with the wishes and needs of its customers.
The customer is always the main focus. Not the product, the business leaders’ interests, or the competitors. This fundamental idea runs through the entire company: through all departments and from executives to interns.
Customer obsession involves designing products and services with the customer’s use case in mind, understanding the customer’s experience at every touchpoint, and using metrics such as customer satisfaction scores and customer lifetime value (CLV) to measure success.
This strategy requires a shift toward prioritizing current and potential customers while finding ways to keep business processes efficient. It starts with intentional employee training and incentives and leads to proactive customer service.
Let us take a closer look at Amazon’s approach to learn more about the practical outworking of customer obsession.
Amazon’s Blueprint For Customer-Obsessed Companies
Amazon is often cited as an example of a company with a strong, consistent customer obsession culture. Considering that the company’s founder coined the term, it makes sense. But Amazon’s innovative practices, business expansion, and marketplace success prove it.
Below we discuss specific examples of their customer-centric approach across various business areas.
- Culture Of Customer Obsession
- Empathetic Marketing And Sales Approaches
- Proactive Customer Service Approaches
- Customer-First Delivery Policies
- Innovation Led By Customer Intelligence
- Strong Customer Value Chain
Culture Of Customer Obsession
Amazon’s leadership principles are centered around the customer. It has a customer-first company culture, and its employees are encouraged to start with the customer and work backward in everything they do.
Their customer-centric culture is reflected in the company’s decision-making processes and its hiring and training practices. One real-world example of this is Amazon’s Leadership Principles, which are a set of guiding principles that the company uses to make hiring decisions and evaluate employee performance.
The first principle, “Customer Obsession,” states that “leaders start with the customer and work backwards… They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust.” By prioritizing customer obsession in their hiring and training practices, Amazon ensures that all employees are aligned with the company’s values and are committed to delivering exceptional customer experiences.
In terms of decision-making processes, Amazon is known for its “Working Backwards” approach. This involves starting with the customer, identifying the problem or opportunity, and then working backward to develop a solution. This approach ensures all decisions are made with the customer in mind, driving improvement and innovation.
By putting the customer first, Amazon built a strong brand reputation and achieved long-term success in the highly competitive ecommerce industry.
Empathetic Marketing And Sales Approaches
Besides investing in advertising and marketing to build brand awareness, the company focuses on creating a seamless buying experience. This includes offering competitive pricing, fast shipping options, and a wide selection of products.
In 2005, Amazon was looking for a way to beat its most prominent competitors at the time – Best Buy and eBay – and introduced Prime. Amazon Prime is a monthly subscription that provides extra benefits to customers, most notably two-day shipping.
Bezos knew his customers would be willing to pay a fee for more convenience and luxury. He also knew that it would increase customer satisfaction and sales. He was right.
Proactive Customer Service Approaches
In its mission to be the “Earth’s most customer-centric company,” Amazon employs comprehensive customer service training. To ensure the best possible customer experience, Amazon’s customer service staff are available 24/7 by phone, email, and live chat. They work at over 130 locations and offer services in 16 languages worldwide. In this way, Amazon ensures that its customer service teams are ready and equipped to help its diverse, global customer base.
The customer service department must work to prevent, solve, and report faults and outages. They are expected to keep high customer service levels and continuously look for ways to delight and retain customers.
Amazon further attempts to keep their customers happy by offering a suitable return policy, making it easier for customers to return products if unsatisfied.
Customer-First Delivery Policies
It is crucial to provide a pleasant product delivery experience. This is, after all, the point at which the customer receives the goods they bought online. Delivery directly answers the customer’s needs with the product they want, and it is often time- and budget-sensitive.
Besides the benefits of Prime, Amazon offers free shipping on eligible orders, even if the customer only purchases one item.
It also offers a “Subscribe & Save” program that incentivizes customers with discounted prices on products they regularly use, such as household essentials and baby products.
Innovation Led By Customer Intelligence
Amazon is constantly innovating to improve the customer experience. Over the years, the company has introduced a number of new products and services to meet customer needs. This includes Amazon Prime, Kindle, Amazon Publishing (formerly CreateSpace), Amazon Web Services (AWS), Alexa, Amazon Fresh, and Amazon Go.
These innovative products and services are designed to make it easier and more convenient for customers to shop, create, and sell online. Amazon also uses data and analytics to make targeted customer recommendations, improving the overall shopping experience.
Strong Customer Value Chain
Customer interactions happen on Amazon’s ecommerce store, which has a variety of website components. These components have been designed and put together with the customer in mind.
The website is designed to be easy to navigate, with intuitive search functionality, rich content with images, and a streamlined checkout process. Each product has its own page where the customer can learn more and opt to purchase immediately, add to the cart, or add to a list for later.
We have looked at Amazon’s customer-centric approach for inspiration. Customer obsession is reflected in all areas of the company, from its culture and policies to its marketing, customer service, and website navigation.
To achieve true customer obsession, businesses must take a customer-centric approach to their operations. This means always backing your business decisions with real data from customer interactions. Let us discuss the processes and methodologies you can employ to build a customer-obsessed business.
Processes And Methodologies To Foster Customer Obsession
When implemented well, customer obsession will lead to increased customer loyalty, higher revenue growth, and a stronger competitive advantage in the market.
This recent research also reveals that eight out of 10 customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. This means that your business must find ways to use and apply customer data to improve their experience and build loyalty.
Below are some key processes and methodologies that can help foster a culture of customer obsession at your company.
- Customer-Centric Design
- Customer Journey Mapping
- Voice Of Customer (VoC) Programs
- Customer Success Management
- Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- Customer Feedback Management
- Continuous Improvement
1. Customer-Centric Design
By incorporating customer feedback into the design process, businesses can create products and services tailored to their customers’ specific needs and expectations. This approach can also help businesses identify new opportunities for innovation and growth.
2. Customer Journey Mapping
Businesses must understand the customer’s experience at every touchpoint. This involves mapping out the customer’s journey from initial awareness of the brand to post-purchase follow-up.
By identifying pain points and friction areas along the customer journey, your business can improve the customer experience and build stronger relationships with them.
3. Voice Of Customer (VoC) Programs
As a set of processes and methodologies used to capture customer experience insights, Voice of Customer (VoC) research includes data garnered from reviews and other user-generated content (UGC).
You can also use surveys, focus groups, and customer interviews to conduct VoC. This can inform your brand’s product development, marketing strategies, and other business decisions.
4. Customer Success Management
A customer-obsessed business has a proactive approach to customer service. It focuses on customers achieving their desired outcomes.
Your business can build stronger customer relationships and increase customer loyalty by prioritizing customer success management.
5. Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Invented as a way to measure customer loyalty and satisfaction, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a popular business metric. It asks customers how likely they are to recommend your product or service to a friend or colleague.
Customers can respond on a scale of 0–10. High scorers are considered “promoters” of your brand, and low scorers are labeled “detractors.”
Many large companies measure customer satisfaction, and Apple is one of them. Apple is known for its nit-picky customer obsession, and the company uses NPS as one of its key metrics to gauge customer happiness and product success.
6. Customer Feedback Management
To maintain your business’ customer focus, it is recommended to continuously collect, analyze, and act on customer feedback. This can include feedback from surveys, customer support conversations, fault logs, social media interactions, zero-party data, and other data collected from other channels.
By gathering and analyzing negative feedback, businesses can better understand how to meet customer needs and preferences and improve their products and services.
For example, Airbnb uses customer feedback to make improvements to its platform, including adding new features and updating its search functionality.
Tailor your products, services, and marketing messages to individual customers based on their personal data, preferences, and behaviors.
Personalization entails addressing the customer by name in marketing and sales communications, conveniently saving their selections and other information, and providing product recommendations based on previous purchases. Amazon is known for its highly personalized recommendations based on customers’ browsing and purchasing history.
There are many other ways to improve customer experience using personalization. Using data and analytics to personalize the customer experience can build stronger customer relationships and increase customer loyalty.
8. Continuous Improvement
Customer obsession is an ongoing process. Your business should make incremental improvements to products, services, and processes based on customer feedback and other data.
Toyota provides an excellent example of a continuous improvement approach. The vehicle brand is known for its “Kaizen” core principle.
“Kaizen” translates to “change for the better.” It involves making small, incremental improvements to processes and products based on feedback from employees and customers. This approach has enabled Toyota to become one of the world’s most popular and trusted car brands.
Businesses can use many different processes and methodologies to build customer loyalty and achieve long-term success.
These eight processes and methodologies are proven to foster customer obsession at companies. They show that the key to staying focused on your customers is continuously analyzing their feedback and improving your products and services.
Your Next Steps
Customer obsession requires a fundamental shift in how a business operates. It means placing the customer at the center of everything your company does, from product development and marketing to customer service.
A customer obsession strategy can have a significant impact on your company culture. Whereas Amazon’s customers seem to be satisfied with the services they’re receiving, there are many reports of unhappy employees petitioning for better working conditions.
Amazon provides an admirable example of customer obsession, but it should also be acknowledged that its business practices have received negative press, including allegations of anti-competitive behavior and the unfavorable treatment of staff.
To run your company according to the motto “Customer First” without compromising on employee health and happiness, there are a few shifts to keep in mind.
Shifts To Make In Your Business Processes:
- Create Operational Conditions
- Managers Must Lead Customer Obsession
- Engage Employees To Motivate Others
- Know And Appreciate Customers
Create Operational Conditions
Adopting a “Customer First” approach can require restructuring the company. Customer obsession is not only for certain individual departments, such as customer service or marketing.
The principle only works if everyone in the company consistently pursues the objective and if the departments foster cross-collaboration. The impetus for customer obsession has to come from the management level.
Managers Must Lead Customer Obsession
Management must lead the way, exemplifying the corporate culture you want employees to live out. Create a work culture based on employee appreciation, autonomy, and team spirit.
Have you established a management level that understands how to get employees excited about putting the customer first?
Engage Employees To Motivate Others
Your company’s employees are the decisive factor for successfully implementing customer obsession. Actively engaged employees will take on customer problems with positivity, work as a team to find solutions, and develop innovative ideas.
Employees inspire each other, strive toward achieving the company’s goals, and create a pleasant working environment. In these conditions, customer acquisition and retention will not feel like a daily struggle. It will be part of the essence of your business. It will nurture a healthy company culture and produce revenue growth.
Know And Appreciate Customers
When Walt Disney noticed that people were carelessly throwing trash on the ground at his amusement parks, he did not simply install “no littering” signs. Instead, he assigned some employees to observe where and when people littered at the parks.
They found that littering was done about every 10 meters. Even today, Disney parks have trash cans installed 10 meters apart. Disney considered park visitors’ habits and found a solution entirely in their spirit – without using prohibition signs.
To understand your customers’ habits, you need to make contact with customers as often as possible using various channels. Observe their behaviors, and ask your customers questions about how they feel your team can help them better.
Update customers about offers, new services, and the status of their orders. Aim to make them feel that they are your most valuable customer.
Consider starting a customer loyalty program to reward them and incentivize repeat purchases. Your customers will be more open to giving feedback if they receive value from it. They will also be more forgiving when your team makes mistakes or if they are unhappy with a purchase.
Achieving customer obsession is not always easy. It requires a deep understanding of the customer’s needs and preferences and a commitment to continuous improvement. Business leaders must be willing to listen to feedback, adapt quickly to changing customer needs, and invest in the resources needed to provide exceptional customer experiences.
This can involve changes in employee training and how they are incentivized and evaluated. It requires proactive customer service teams that provide exemplary customer service.
Ultimately, fostering a customer obsession culture leads to increased customer loyalty, higher revenue growth, and a stronger competitive advantage in the market.