Recently Fortune Magazine named Amazon founder and current CEO — Jeff Bezos — Businessperson of the year for 2012. In doing so, Fortune profiled Mr Bezos and gave an insight into how he runs his multi billion-dollar company, how he keeps it profitable, innovative and most importantly … disruptive.
There are many lessons to draw from his success story; but perhaps, the two most important are: how he keeps his customers engaged and ‘happy’ in a fiercely competitive environment.
So, how does Amazon keep its customers engaged and what can we learn from it?
Lesson 1: Build a Customer-Centric Organisation.
According to Bezos, Amazon’s model of innovation begins with the customer and then works backwards. The real ‘meaning’ here is, building a customer centric organization. To most companies, this is not the case and quite often, this is confused with PR or marketing departments that are usually tasked to only gather feedback information about different services or products they offer, in order to find out how they can be improved — yet, they end up not learning anything about their customers.
What does it mean to build a customer centric organisation?
HBR argues that building a customer centric organisation is all about building a company “… through the lens of the customer rather than the producer…”. Although it may also be argued that, from time to time, some customers may not know exactly what they want, however, the underlying idea is, getting to learn and understand what challenges customers face in their lives and then “providing mutually advantageous solutions”.
Keeping customers happy?
Lesson 2: Provide Lowest Possible Prices.
Now days, regardless of the industry, keeping customers happy and sustaining it, are probably two of the most challenging tasks for any company to accomplish. Given that consumers have way too many choices and very little time — inevitably, this causes ‘pricing’ to become a very important factor. Customers are always hunting for bargains wherever and whenever the opportunity arises. But providing low prices simply does not automatically turn customers into happy species. Instead it’s sustaining it — in such a way that — customers/users will always have your company as their preferred destination for their needs.
To keep customers happy, Amazon is always looking to offer lower prices in comparison to its competitors. Obviously, in order to accomodate this, there are certain internal tradeoffs and sacrifices they have had to make — like cutting down on the free food for their employees. These sacrifices may translate (in one way or another) to cost cutting in order to provide cheaper prices for their customers.
Finally, To be successful at keeping the wheels of innovation turning for the long term, there are many factors companies have to take into consideration, and will usually be different with every organisation. Yet, in these ‘hard’ economic times, there seem to exist a common denominator with the most successful of companies like Amazon, Google and Apple — that is by doing two things well: (a) creating the best experience for the users/customers, (b) making sure users/customers are always happy (by all means necessary).