Customer Obsession Lessons From Amazon.com’s Bezos

Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos recently sent a letter to shareholders sharing his view on how Amazon would avoid what he calls “Day 2,” because…

Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.  

I’ve shared the full letter below, but want to share my thoughts on Bezos’ four themes he shares for avoiding Day 2:

  1. True Customer Obsession: Obviously this theme completely resonates with me. I love the line… “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.” My take: Companies need to look for the unchartered white space, and innovate at the intersection between customers’ latent needs and emerging capabilities.
  2. Resist Proxies: Bezos calls out “process” and “surveys” as proxies to watch out for. Process is an issue because it can reinforce compliance and complacency, instead of empowering individuals to drive innovation.  Surveys are an issue, because they can provide employees with a superficial understanding of customers. Deep insights into what people like, love, and dream about aren’t fully answered with percentage points. My take: You need to create deep customer empathy, not just statistically significant charts and metrics. Find ways to include more qualitative research.
  3. Embrace External Trends: Amazon will likely be more adept at grabbing the “tailwinds” of trends than most companies, but it’s critical for all leadership teams to keep an eye on how the world is changing. That’s why we issue our annual listing of CX trends. I was also very intrigued by Bezos’ discussion about easy access to Amazon’s “deep learning frameworks.” An API that taps into Amazon’s rich analytics backbone could be much more exciting than even IBM’s Watson. My take: Every organization should identify a set of key trends and ask the question: “How will these put us out of business or help us to create even more value to customers?”
  4. High-Velocity Decision Making. Bezos discusses three elements of his leadership philosophy. First of all, treat many decisions as reversible, so that you are creating an option — not just putting all your chips on a single approach. Second, is to get comfortable with making decisions without full information. Thirdly, he talks about “disagree and commit” which means that everyone needs to get in line when a decision has been made. Finally, he wants true misalignment to be identified and dealt with immediately. Nothing kills a culture more than lingering, unaddressed issues. My take: It’s smarter to get moving and learn along the way (see my post Modernize Leadership: Learn and Adjust).

The bottom line: Every leadership team should proactively avoid Day 2.

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Amazon and Apple Earn Top Customer Experience Ratings for Computers & Tablets

Temkin Experience RatingsWe recently released the 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings that ranks the customer experience of 331 companies across 20 industries based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers.

Amazon (Kindle) and Apple deliver the best customer experience across computer & tablet makers, according to the 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings, an annual customer experience ranking of companies based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers.

Amazon took the top spot out of the 12 computer and tablet makers included in this year’s ratings, earning a score of 74% and coming in 74th place overall out of 331 companies across 20 industries. Apple earned the second highest rating with a score of 68% and an overall rank of 189th.

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Amazon Makes Smart Move to Positive Employee Feedback

Last year the New York Times published an article describing Amazon as having a “bruising workplace,” a performance-based environment that often brings employees to tears. It seems that Amazon is changing its ways a bit. It recently announced that it was adjusting the way it evaluates employees. A spokesperson for Amazon described the change as follows:

We’re launching a new annual review process next year that is radically simplified and focuses on our employees’ strengths, not the absence of weaknesses. We will continue to iterate and build on the program based on what we learn from our employees.

My take: Great move. There’s a growing body of research showing that people perform better when they receive positive feedback. 1611_positivitymattersIn my post Positive Psychology Meets Customer Experience, I mention an approach called “appreciative inquiry,” which is a technique for motivating employees that focuses on their strengths.

To highlight the impact of this phenomena, I analyzed our data on more than 5,000 U.S. employees. As you can see below, when bosses give more positive feedback, employees are more likely to recommend the company’s products and services, to do something good for the company that is unexpected, and make improvement recommendations.

1611_employeerespondtopositivefeedback

The bottom line: Positivity is a strong human motivator.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Hewlett-Packard Earn Top Customer Experience Ratings for Computers and Tablets

Temkin Experience Ratings

We recently released the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings that ranks the customer experience of 294 companies across 20 industries based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers.

Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), and Hewlett Packard deliver the best customer experience in the computer and tablet industry, according to the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings, an annual ranking of companies based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers.

Amazon took the top spot for the second year in a row, earning a rating of 73% and placing 28th overall out of 294 companies across 20 industries. Barnes & Noble and Hewlett-Packard tied for the distant second spot out of 12 firms in the industry, each receiving a rating of 61% and an overall rank of 142nd.

At the other end of the spectrum, eMachines and Compaq tied for the lowest-rated computer and tablet maker, each with a rating of 44% and an overall ranking of 278th.

Overall, the computer and tablet industry averaged a 59% rating in the 2016 Temkin Experience Ratings and came in 9th place out of 20 industries. The average rating of the industry decreased by four percentage-points between 2015 and 2016, dropping from 63% to 59%.

1605_CompTab_Rank

Here are some additional findings from the computer and tablet industry: Read more of this post

Amazon Provides Best Technical Support

We examined the service and support delivered by the following technology providers:

  • Amazon (e.g., Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, Amazon Prime)
  • Apple (e.g., iPhone, iPad, iTunes, iCloud, MacBook)
  • Google (e.g., Search, Google Docs, Gmail, YouTube, Google Play, Google Drive)
  • Sony (e.g., PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4)
  • Microsoft (e.g., XBOX, WINDOWS, MSOffice, and Skype)
  • Nintendo (e.g., Wii, Wii U)
  • Samsung (e.g., Galaxy Phones, Galaxy Tablets, Galaxy Note)

We asked consumers who had recent service or support experience to rate those vendors in two areas:

  1. Thinking about your recent customer service or technical support experience from these companies, how would you rate the end-to-end experience from your first attempt to get help until your issue was resolved?
  2. How would you rate the overall quality of online resources provided by these companies for end user support (e.g., websites, chat, contact us, FAQs)?

As you can see in the graphic below, less than half of consumers rated any of the companies “excellent.” Some other tidbits:

  • Amazon.com is on top for end-to-end service as well as for its online resources.
  • Apple provides the second best end-to-end service, but the worst online resources.
  • Google is next to the bottom in both categories.
  • Microsoft is the lowest scoring for end-to-end service, but third from the bottom for its online resources.

1407_TechSupport1

The bottom line: Consumers could use better support for their technology.

Forrester’s 2008 Customer Experience Rankings

This is our second year publishing the CxPi. The 2008 CxPi ranks 114 firms across 12 industries: Airlines, Banks, Credit Card Providers, Health Plans, Hotels, Insurance Firms, Internet Service Providers, Investment Firms, PC Manufacturers, Retailers, TV Service Providers, and Wireless Phone Carriers.

The CxPi is based on consumer evaluations during October 2008 across three areas: 1) usefulness; 2) ease of use; and 3) enjoyability (see the methodology section below).

Here are the full 2008 CxPi rankings

Forrester's 2008 Customer Experience Rankings

Barnes & Noble took the top spot in the CxPi rankings, just barely beating out USAA’s credit card business. Borders, Amazon, and last year’s leader Costco round out the top five. At the other end of the spectrum, Charter Communications landed at the bottom of the CxPi rankings for the second year in a row. Here are some additional insights about the overall results:

  • Retailers take seven out of the top 10 spots. Last year, nine out of the top 10 firms were retailers. While retailers still dominate the top of the CxPi, three non retailers have cracked the top 10: USAA, Hampton Inn, and credit unions.
  • Healthcare and TVs dominate the bottom. The bottom 10 companies came from only four industries: four medical insurers (Medicaid, Blue Shield of California, Aetna, and Cigna), three TV service providers (Charter Communications, Time Warner, and Comcast), two ISPs (Charter Communications and Comcast), and one wireless carrier (Sprint). Charter Communications, Medicaid, Aetna, and Sprint were also on last year’s bottom 10 list.
  • Several banks made significant improvements. When we compared firms’ 2008 CxPi with last year’s results, we found that a number of companies that had improved. The three firms with double digit improvements were all banks (US Bancorp, SunTrust Bank, and Citibank) and six out of the top seven improvements were made by banks as well.

CxPi Results Across Industries

We also looked at the overall results for the 12 industries included in the CxPi.

Forrester's 2008 Customer Experience Index Results

The industry CxPi data shows that:

  • Retailers and hotels dominate. Two industries at the top of this year’s ratings, retailers and hotels, were the only industries to receive “good” average ratings. The two industries at the bottom of the list ended up with “very poor” CxPi ratings: health insurance plans and TV service providers.
  • Banks improved and TV service providers got worse. Comparing this year’s data with last year’s results, we found that four industries have improved while five had gotten worse. Banks made the largest improvement; increasing their average CxPi scores by 7%. The average CxPi scores for TV service providers, on the other hand, dropped by 7%.

The CxPi Methodology

This analysis was based on responses from 4,564 US consumers during October 2008. The Customer Experience Index (CxPi) was calculated as an average of the indices that came from consumer responses to the following three questions from an online survey:

  1. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how effective were they at meeting your needs? (“Usefulness” rating)
  2. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how easy was it to work with these firms? (“Ease Of Use” rating)
  3. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how enjoyable were the interactions? (“Enjoyability” rating)

Consumers selected responses along a five-point scale – ranging from a very negative experience (1) to a very positive one (5). The individual indexes were calculated by taking the percentage of consumers who selected one of the top two boxes (4 or 5) and subtracting the percentage of consumers who selected the bottom two boxes (1 or 2).

In order to limit consumer feedback to organizations that consumers are familiar with, we only asked consumers about organizations that they’ve interacted with during the previous 90 days.

While we received feedback on many firms, the CxPi  only includes the 114 organizations that had at least 100 consumer responses.

The bottom line: There’s plenty of room to improve customer experience which will increase customer loyalty.

Gen Y Brands Gain, Financial Brands Lose

Interbrand just published its annual ranking of the 100 best global brands. Here are the top 10 brands on the list:

  1. Coca Cola
  2. IBM
  3. Microsoft
  4. GE
  5. Nokia
  6. Totota
  7. Intel
  8. McDonald’s
  9. Disney
  10. Google

Here’s some of the other interesting details from the rankings:

  • Google is the only new entry to the top 10; it was 20th last year. Which company dropped out? Mercedes-Benz was 10th last year and is 11th this year.
  • The listing also provides the change in value of the brands since last year. Here are the biggest changes in brand value:
    • Top gainers: Google (+43%), Apple (+24%), Amazon (+19%), ZARA (+15%), SAP (+13%), and Nintendo (+13%)
    • Top losers: Merrill Lynch (-21%), Gap (-20%), Morgan Stanley (-16%), Citi (-15%), Ford (-12%), and UBS (-11%).
    • The top gainers are what I call “Gen Y brands,” they came to age during the early adulthood of 20 year-olds, while the losers are dominated by large financial institutions.
  • There were 7 new brands on the top 100 list this year: H&M (#22), Blackberry (#73), Ferrari (#93), Giorgio Armani (#94), Marriott (#96), FedEx (#99), and Visa (#100).
  • The highest ranked company on last year’s list that did not make this year’s top 100 was Kodak (#82 in 2007).
  • For fun, I went back and looked at the top 10 brands from 2001. Here they are:
    1. Coca Cola
    2. Microsoft
    3. IBM
    4. GE
    5. Nokia
    6. Intel
    7. Disney
    8. Ford
    9. McDonald’s
    10. AT&T

The bottom line: Just about everyone recognizes this: 

Lessons From Jay-Z, MySpace, And iTunes

A number of recent announcements in the music industry caught my attention:

My take: That’s quite a bit of news for one week. The music industry is clearly going through some significant changes. Here’s what I think we can learn from these moves:

  • Convenience matters. Why is iTunes so popular? It’s terribly convenient. Most people don’t have a desire to unwrap shrink-wrap, open a plastic case, and caress a metal CD. They want to hear music. iTunes provides the easiest way to fulfill that desire. Universal, Sony, and Warner are teaming up with MySpace because they recognize they they need to create an equally convenient option in order to dampen the growing power of Apple’s music retailing empire.
  • Money matters. MySpace may be a “Web 2.0” company that grew up fostering connectivity across its members, but it still lives in a “Finance 1.0” world where revenues and profits are really important. Especially when you are a part of a big conglomerate like News Corporation. And Jay-Z had no problem walking away from Def Jam (where he had been president) for some more, a LOT MORE, money.
  • Experience matters. Why on earth did Live Nation give Jay Z a $150 million deal when his record sales are declining? (His album from last year, “American Gangster,” sold one million copies in the US compared with “The Black Album” from 2003 that sold more than three million.) Because the concert industry is booming. While people may buy fewer CD’s, the concert industry grew 8% last year to nearly $4 billion. Digital distribution hasn’t dampen people’s desires to have a memorable concert experience. And this opens up even more revenue streams.
The bottom line: Music might become a loss leader in the music industry.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Is Obsessed

There was a very interesting article in this past Saturday’s New York Times called Put Buyers First? What a Concept.  The author, Joe Nocera, wrote about how Amazon sent him a free replacement Playstation 3 (even though Amazon wasn’t at all to blame for the problem). I’m not sure if all firms should be shipping $500 items to every customer with his problem, but it probably makes sense if the customer is a writer for the New York Times 🙂
[Take a look at “crowd mining” in the “required skills” section of my previous post: Trend Watch 2008 Wrap-Up]

In the article there was a great quote by Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos:

“And the reason I’m so obsessed with these drivers of the customer experience is that I believe that the success we have had over the past 12 years has been driven exclusively by that customer experience. We are not great advertisers. So we start with customers, figure out what they want, and figure out how to get it to them.”

My take: Well said! Bezos’ obsession with customer experience is what helped Amazon do so well in Forrester’s Customer Experience Rankings (they wound up 9th out of 112 firms).

The bottom line: I really like Jeff’s last sentence that paraphrases the mantra of Scenario Design: Who are your target customers? What are their goals? How can you help them accomplish those goals?

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