Jeff Bezos is, by some distance, the richest man to ever live. His net wealth sits at around $175 billion. By the time you read this, the chances are that this figure will have risen. His company, Amazon, has a revenue of $280 billion in 2019 – before the coronavirus tilted the market in favour of online stores of this kind.
Amazon, of course, famously started from Bezos’s garage in 1994. So how is it that Bezos managed to achieve such a monstrous transformation? The answer is complicated, but when asked by interviewers, Bezos responds consistently:
“The first and by far the most important [of Amazon’s values] is customer obsession as opposed to competitor obsession. I have seen over and over again companies talk about being customer focused, but really when I pay close attention to them I believe they are competitor focused, and it’s a completely different mentality, by the way.”
So, if the world’s most successful businessperson tells you that the customer is central, it’s a good bet that it’s advice worth heeding. But exactly why does the customer matter so much?
Customers are easier kept than found
Most of us understand how difficult it can be to break old habits and form new ones. Shopping habits are the same – we tend to stick with what we know, until we’re given a good reason not to. It’s for this reason that customers are five times more expensive to gain than to retain and it’s for this reason that retailers place so much stock in mystery shopper reports. Any reason that a customer might have to change their habits is a leak that might eventually ship the sink – and to find out about it, you’ve got to plug it.
Bad News Spreads
Perhaps just as important as customer habits is word of mouth. A disgruntled customer won’t just mentally file away an unpleasant shopping experience; they might well tell their friends. When the experience is bad, in fact, they’re much likelier to do this then they are to talk about a great experience. Thanks to the internet, they’re able to do this via your social media channels, and via review aggregators like TripAdvisor.
Customer Focus matters at every level
Part of the genius of this philosophy is that it applies at every level. While you might experience growing pains and infrastructure friction as you grow your business from an SME to a multinational, your focus on customers should stay with you.
Customer data is critical
In order to predict what your customers want from you, and what actions might inspire them to part with their money, you need the insight that comes through data. Fortunately, the internet is swimming with customer data – every click is tracked and assessed. But not all your customers will spend all their time on the internet. If your business’s customers place their orders via telephone rather than online, call-tracking software can help you to link a given call with an online lead and thereby troubleshoot your sales funnel.
It’s an age-old adage, but one that’s stood the test of time remarkably well. Of course, things have changed slightly since then – we might object that the phrase excludes the customers who are queens, instead. Of course, when that’s the biggest objection to be raised against the motto, you can be sure that it has a fair bit of merit.