Recently, Forbes published Jeff Bezos's Top 10 Leadership Lessons. I was pleasantly surprised that half of them were focused on customers. The other five still losely related back to customers (of course, they're your business afterall), but these were straight to the gut:
#2 Obsess over Customers
Early on Bezos brought an empty chair into meetings so lieutenants would be forced to think about the crucial participant who wasn’t in the room: the customer. Now that surrogate’s role is played by specially trained employees, dubbed “Customer Experience Bar Raisers.” When they frown, vice presidents tremble.
The fact that this is Bezos number two tip should tell you how customer focused they try to be. How would having a customer representative (whether it's an empty chare or a Customer Experience Bar Raiser) change the way decisions are made at your company? If it wouldn't change a thing, then you probobably find yourself on the Best Customer Experience lists for your industry. However, if we're brutally honest with ourselves, we know that there would be some changes. Try to make all of your decisions this week with the customer in mind.
#4 Keep Costs down so they can Charge Less
Lots of retailers talk about holding down costs and passing the savings to the consumer. Few do so as intently as Amazon, where “frugality” is one of eight official company values. The reward for putting up with cheap office furniture: a $90 billion stock market valuation and 35% revenue growth.
Seriously, these numbers should speak for themselves.
#5 Determine what your customers need, and work backwards
Specs for Amazon’s big new projects such as its Kindle tablets and e-book readers have been defined by customers’ desires rather than engineers’ tastes.
Of course you need to deeply understand customer needs. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to take you down. But a word of caution: Customers don't always know what they want. Get feedback from customers, ask them about their challenges, observe them, rinse and repeate with product iterations. But never take their feedback without a grain of salt. If Henry Ford had asked his target market what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.
#8 In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts
Bezos believes old-fashioned word-of-mouth has become even more important in the digital age—so he prefers low-key process improvements that are meant to get happy customers buzzing.
Customer service and customer experience is a new differentiator. It's hard to replicate—particularly if it's not part of your company culture, like Amazon's. Even if it's not currently a differentiator for your organization, there's still plenty of time left in 2012 to make it one. Start looking at all your customer touchpoints, how well do they meet customer needs? Could you change something about the touchpoint to improve it?
# 9 Everyone has to be able to work in a call center
Complaints can be devastating in the age of viral tweets and blogs. Bezos asks thousands of Amazon managers, including himself, to attend two days of call-center training each year. The payoff: humility and empathy for the customer.
I love this. I love when Zappos said they do it. It really helps all other employees better understand the customer when you force them to go through call center training. I've said it before, and it seems that Bezos's would agree with me: The Call Center should NOT be thought of as a cost center but as a VALUE center.
Speaking as a very loyal and satisfied Amazon customer, Bezos's 10 Tips are working. Do you have a Top 10 List your company operates under? How many of those are centered around customer happiness, satisfaction and experience? If you had to write a Top 10 List, would your customers say its working?
Photo Credit: etech (James Duncan Davidson)