As it appeared in the Daily Nation on August 1st, 2017
In 2001, I signed up on Amazon.com to purchase used textbooks as I went through an MBA program in the USA. I do not quite remember how I learnt about Amazon. All that I recall is that I no longer needed to buy new expensive textbooks from bookstores. I could easily get the almost new textbooks at half price from amazon.com delivered to my doorstep. By that time, there was no mention of Amazon.com in business school textbooks or in case studies. Since then I have maintained an active account with Amazon and continued to make many more purchases. I find shopping at Amazon.com painless.
When I got into consultancy 8 years ago, I started studying a number of leading organizations and their founders more closely. Specifically, organizations such as Zappos, Disney land, Walmart, Virgin Atlantic, General Electric, Nordstrom, The Ritz-carlton Hotels, Southwest Airlines and Amazon started to fascinate me. In particular, I seem to have taken a keen interest on amazon.com and Jeff Bezos its CEO and founder. This is because of his well-known customer obsession and highly rated leadership ability. Soon, his quote “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better” became my all-time favourite. Anyone who has attended my customer experience training sessions can confirm that I like to share this quote plus my many Amazon experiences.
A few days ago, Jeff Bezos overtook Bill Gates briefly to become the richest person in the world. The news spread out like wild fire. At first when I saw Jeff Bezos trending, I wondered what had happened. Maybe the world was excited because Bill Gates had been at the helm for a little too long. I was excited because at the top was someone whose obsession with the customer I greatly admire. I believe that Jeff Bezos leadership skills and his obsession with the customer got him to where he is today. On Thursday morning, Bezos’s net worth was reported to have gone beyond the $90 billion mark.
Some of Jeff Bezos speech extracts reflect his outright obsession with customers. He has been quoted as saying “Do not be competitor obsessed, instead, be customer obsessed” “If we can keep our competitors focused on us while we stay focused on the customer, ultimately we’ll turn out all right” “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you” “It just work If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful”. These quotes and many others reveal his upbeat attitude towards customers. He recognize that customer experience is a leadership responsibility. The 18-year-old company has been relentless in its vision to be the earth’s most customer-centric company.
There are many lessons that CEOs and founders can learn from Jeff. The greatest lessons of all being that customer experience is a leadership responsibility, must be intentional and it is a great differentiator. Lately, I have been thinking that maybe Customer Experience needs to be declared the Eighth Wonder of the World so that it may capture the attention of many other CEOs!
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy