Customer obsession always wins (2 minutes read).
Let's start with the Jeff Bezos quote which you can find in Amazon share-owners letter published in SEC digital library.
Quote: "From the beginning, our focus has been on offering our customers compelling value. (..) We brought customer much more selection than was possible in a physical store (our store would now occupy 6 football fields), and presented it in a useful, easy-to-search, and easy-to-browse format in a store open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. We maintained a dogged focus on improving the shopping experience, and in 1997 substantially enhanced our store. We now offer customers gift certificates, 1-Click shopping, and vastly more reviews, content, browsing options, and recommendation features"
You will not find their competition analysis. You will not find there any word of explanation of how Amazon is going to win over competitors. It is just purely customer obsessions from the beginning. The company thanks to the ability to digest huge amounts of data from customers is able to come up with AWS, Amazon Prime, AmazonGO, Amazon 1 Click Buy. People love the company, because the company listen and execute on customers expectations.
Because customers want it. Because customers say it. Because customers expect it.
Focusing on customers from the very begging is not new. In 1997 at Apple's Developer Conference, Steve Jobs highlighted customer experience as follows "You have to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology. You can not start with the technology and figure out. I have the following questions for the managers, CEOs and others:
- Why so many companies start with product first and then push the product to the market expecting high conversion rate?
- Why teams are expecting that blind date will turn into marriage?
The answer is, because this is easier. It is easier to raise money for the product development, shut the office doors and code, build, polish, prepare and make it shiny. Afterwards, it is easier to run the marketing campaign without listening actively what people say. P&G and Unilever missed their chance with Dollar Shave Club. Mattress Firms somehow missed their chance. People stopped entering stores and jump on mattresses. They started to read online reviews.
So do you listen actively your customers and make decision according to what you hear?
Please have a look at Figure 1. I created that framework to help companies start implementing innovation in the right spot.
Never start investing in the particular innovative project because your engineer or IT geek, or sales geek said so. As long as there is no customer trigger in the idea, the idea is worth nothing. Hunt for customers pain points. One of the best sources of great innovation pipeline is customer service department. Why? Because that is where people complain a lot. Spend there most of your time and you will find your next big thing.
Second step is to check which touchpoint with your company is the most critical one. Let's say you are consulting business. One of the most important moments in consulting process is first meeting when you ship value. This is first impression moment. You show the value you deliver, you start building trust, your most important asset. Look at touch points and ask customers how do they feel about them.
Step 1 and 2 are your safeguards. They keep you close to customers. Not engineers, board of directors or consultants. Best consultant is the customer and innovation is born at the edge. Where company touches the market.