To stay relevant in the digital landscape, organizations must develop an obsessive customer focus.
In the U.S., more stores are likely to close in 2017 than during the height of the great
recession in 2008. Those retailers who have committed to digital are not finding it easy
either. In 2016, Amazon accounted for 53% of all sales ecommerce growth, according
to EMarketer. Those are astonishing figures.
How is Amazon so much better than everybody else? Because it has a “true customer
obsession,” according to Jeff Bezos. Many organizations have a fake customer
obsession. They talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
Amazon truly believes in putting the customer first. “Good inventors and designers
deeply understand their customer,” Bezos stated. “They spend tremendous energy developing
that intuition. They study and understand many anecdotes rather than only the averages
you’ll find on surveys. They live with the design.”
The key to success is getting to know your customers better than they know
themselves. “There are many advantages to a customer-centric approach,” Bezos
explains, “but here’s the big one: customers are always beautifully, wonderfully
dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great. 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.”
An obsession with the customer experience is nothing new for the great brands. It’s how
Walmart, Starbucks and McDonald’s grew. Bezos believes that the decay and ultimate
demise of an organization begins when it starts to lose touch with its customers. To
grow, an organization must constantly renew its obsession with its customers.
Instead, many organizations become obsessed with their processes, procedures,
internal structure and culture. They lose touch with their customers. Instead of saying:
“How do I please my customer”, it becomes: “How do I please my manager.” Thus
organizations lose the feel for their customers, and can no longer properly interpret
whatever customer research or data they receive.
A primary objective of digital teams should be to keep the organization in touch with
their customers. To show the rest of the organization what it’s really like to be a
customer. Digital must also create an environment of continuous improvement founded
on the principle that the customer is forever dissatisfied. They will always respond well
to better value offers, to more convenience, to greater speed and simplicity.
The danger is that in many organizations, digital is doing the exact opposite. It is seen
as a way to remove contact with the customer, to get them to self-serve; not necessarily
because it’s better for the customer, but because it’s cheaper for the organization.
These are the organizations that are in the greatest danger. They use digital to reduce
costs, and as a result they reduce touch and contact with (as well as understanding of
and empathy for) their customers. In such environments, latent customer dissatisfaction
blossoms and competitors will pounce.
A customer obsession begins with constantly thinking about the customer, rather than
constantly thinking about the design, the content, the code, the process, or your boss.
Unfortunately, obsessing about your boss is how you progress in most organizations.