Why Customer Obsession Will Make Jeff Bezos a Trillionaire
Jeff Bezos’ success is due to a relentless focus on the customer
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That is one trillion. It’s also the estimation of what Jeff Bezos will be worth in 2023 as he tracks towards being the first-ever trillionaire.
Of course, this is due to the success of his company — Amazon. Created in 1994 behind lofty visions of being the “everything store”, one thing has always fuelled Bezos — an obsession with customers.
It is, perhaps the main reason he is so successful.
The Customer Obsession
Customer. Customer. Customer.
It’s a mantra oft-repeated — in every Bezos interview, in his annual letter to shareholders and in Amazon’s core values. Customer Service is embedded in the Amazon DNA and their mission statement —
Our mission is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.
Even Google — of which Bezos was one of the initial investors — recognizes his customer obsession. Typing in “Jeff Bezos customer” into the search engine will deliver thousands of results around customer service quotes, customer service focus, customer service obsession, customer service-centric, and more customer-related searches.
Picture courtesy author — Jeff Bezos Customer Google Suggestions
From the early days of Amazon, Bezos would wheel an empty chair into management meetings to represent the voice of the customer, “the most important person in the room.”
He even allows customers to email him. Yes, customers can contact the world's richest man if they have a problem with Amazon.
Customers can write to Bezos using the jeff (at) amazon.com email address. Bezos still personally reads customer-complaint emails sent to him. Even though he doesn’t reply to many of them, he will forward the email to the correct manager with just one addition —
Managers who receive these emails must then make the email a priority to investigate and resolve. Such escalations, as these emails are known, are Bezos’s way of ensuring that the customer’s voice is always heard inside the company.
There aren’t too many billionaires that are as easy to contact as Jeff Bezos, but there is no better example of the customer-first philosophy.
Innovation-driven by customer
“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.” Jeff Bezos
This attitude has led to several key innovations — that are now in place on most e-commerce sites but were revolutionary when Amazon first launched them.
Amazon has always been an innovative company, but three innovations — all driven by customer obsession stand out.
- Customer Reviews
From the outset, Bezos declared that Amazon would not merely sell stuff but “help customers make purchase decisions.”
An early key differentiator was allowing customers to post book reviews and, eventually, reviews of the entire range of products offered. Critics believed this was retail suicide and would lead to lots of long negative rants and bad reviews. Amazon stood by their decision to take a different approach with a focus on sharing the truth — good and bad.
Additionally, customers were able to rate the reviews themselves by selecting whether a review was helpful or unhelpful. Reviews with the most votes for being helpful move to the top of the list, so they are displayed first.
Twenty-five years later, customer reviews are standard, and a retail website that does not allow reviews and feedback is scarce.
2. One-Click Purchase
Image Courtesy Amazon
E-commerce was still new in the early Amazon days, and the transaction process unwieldy. Bezos wanted to make it easier for the customer to purchase. After two years of development, in 1999, Amazon rolled out its patented One-Click process. This process allowed customers to enter in their billing, shipping and payment information just once, and represented a breakthrough for the idea of easy online shopping.
On average, 26% of online shoppers will abandon an order if the checkout process is too long or complicated. The One-Click Process drastically reduced cart abandonment, while at the same time created a vast database of customer information.
The process not only increased transactions, but the patent prevented their main competitor at the time — Barnes and Noble from creating something similar. It was a win for Amazon — but more importantly, to Bezos — it was an improvement to the customer experience.
3. Free Shipping
“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.” Jeff Bezos
Amazon wanted to launch a premium delivery service — based on membership — to provide automatic next day delivery to the customer. In 2005, when the idea for what was to become Amazon Prime, was brainstormed many of the Amazon leadership teams were strongly opposed. They couldn’t justify the substantial financial losses this would generate.
Bezos was undeterred — he knew customers love free shipping, and he placed their needs above the need to make a profit. The service drew ire from the financial reporters upon launch, for being “too good to be true” and reinforced initial public perception that Amazon was never going to be profitable.
Of course, it was Bezos who was correct. The focus on pleasing customers, rather than looking at the short term bottom line was a winning move. Amazon Prime customers now spend an average of $US1,300 in a year, nearly twice that of non-members. More than 100 million people globally are Prime members.
“If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.”Jeff Bezos
Any business can write marketing copy on Customer Service, but the proof is backing this up and ensuring actual customer satisfaction. And the evidence for Amazon is in the statistics. Amazon has rated number one in the American Customer Service Index every year for the last twenty years. An impressive feat considering their exponential growth over that period.
“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.” Jeff Bezos
Positive word of mouth is perhaps the most effective marketing tool of all, and Amazon is aware of this. Marketers can produce the best campaigns in the world, but if the service or product isn’t backed up by customer service — its all for naught.
Bezos hasn’t limited his customer-centric mantra to Amazon. He bought the struggling The Washington Post in 2013. Within three years he managed to double the website traffic and make the publication profitable. By focusing on the reader experience and not just targeting advertising dollars.
“By the way, where do advertisers want to be? Advertisers want to be where there are readers. It’s not that complicated.” Jeff Bezos
The Amazon story is one of the all-time greatest business stories. And it comes from a simple philosophy — customer focus.
Too many companies focus on competitors. Or themselves. When the example to follow is very clear.
Be like Jeff. Be obsessed with your customers.
This article was originally published by Ash jerberg on medium.
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