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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Podcast: Purposeful Leadership With Tom Feeney, Safelite CEO

As part of Temkin Group’s celebration of 2017 as The Year of Purpose, I interviewed Tom Feeney, President & CEO of Safelite Group.

Temkin Group defines purposeful leadership as operating consistently with a clear, well-articulated set of values. That also describes Tom. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Tom for many years, and believe that he is a great example of a purposeful leader.

While Safelite is by far the largest auto glass repair and replacement company in the U.S., the podcast does not focus on the company’s strong financial growth. Instead, Tom and I discuss Safelite’s purpose statement: Making a difference by bringing unexpected happiness to people’s everyday lives. Enjoy the podcast!

You can also download the podcast

Tom Feeney’s Bio:
Since joining Safelite Group in 1988, Tom Feeney has held several positions within the organization including senior vice president retail operations. In October 1991, Feeney was promoted to senior vice president, client sales and support and again in 2003 as executive vice president and chief client officer with responsibility for Safelite Solutions. Feeney became president and CEO of Safelite Group in 2008 and introduced a new vision for Safelite supported by two core principles: “People Powered, Customer Driven.”

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