Earth’s most Customer-Centric Company
When Amazon.com launched in 1995, it was with the mission “to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavors to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”
This goal continues today, but Amazon’s customers are worldwide now, and have grown to include millions of Consumers, Sellers, Content Creators, and Developers & Enterprises. Each of these groups has different needs, and they have endeavoured to always work to meet those needs, innovating new solutions to make things easier, faster, better, and more cost-effective.
Leadership principles for customer focus
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they focus on customers – with Customer Experience being a key aspect of their vision.
Bezos believes customers are always dissatisfied even when they believe they aren’t. They actually do want a better way even if they don’t know it yet. Customer focus is not just about listening or learning about customers but also inventing on their behalf because it’s not their job to invent for themselves.
Bezos makes a distinction between missionaries who are driven by the need to invent for customers i.e laser focused on improving their products and services and mercenaries who are focused on competitors & earning more money. Bezos believes that the paradox is missionaries end up making more money than mercenaries so customer centricity demands being a missionary.
The final step in customer centricity is personalising your invention for every customer.
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”
An example which illustrates this approach:
Bezos started a ‘Just Do It’ award within Amazon —an acknowledgment of an employee who did something notable on his own initiative, typically outside his primary job responsibilities. Even if the action turned out to be an egregious mistake, an employee could still earn the prize as long as he or she had taken risks and shown resourcefulness in the process.
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.
“Amazon will be experimenting at the right scale for a company of our size if we occasionally have multibillion-dollar failures” Bezos said in his annual shareholder letter.
Pets.com, Kozmo.com & Amazon Fire Phone ended up being massive failures. Bezos believes a few successes compensate for billions of dollars of failures. Had Kozmo not failed, Amazon Prime would not have happened. Had Amazon Fire Phone not failed, Alexa would not have been developed. Amazon Kindle and their third party seller business are other huge successes that happened due to bold bets taken by Amazon.
Customer experience, long term thinking and failures are necessary parts of the invention process for Bezos.
Leaders are right, a Lot
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.
Good decision making demands critical thinking that doesn’t fall prey to Self-selection Bias. Most humans work to confirm their beliefs but leaders spend a lot of time testing if their beliefs are aligned with reality. One is reminded of Charlie Munger (Warren Buffet’s long term business partner) who says each day not spent testing & letting go of your deeply cherished opinions is a day wasted.
Learn and be curious
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.
Hire and develop the best
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent Mechanisms for development like Career Choice.
Bezos would only hire exceptionally talented individuals and in the initial days to pick the same, he would ask them questions which demanded deep thinking or guesstimating such as why are manhole covers round?
These leadership principles enhancing Customer Experience have made Amazon the leader it is today.