Working in the most customer-focused company in the world

In an Emergn Insight called Customer Obsessed, we asked:

What do you think the most customer-focused company on earth would feel like? How would it differ from your current environment? What would you do differently?

This was all on the back of this quote from Jeff Bezos and how he described how Amazon thought about customers. The quote was:

”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.”  – Jeff Bezos

A number of people from clients to colleagues, provided some interesting responses. Some were as simple as, ‘it wouldn’t feel like this’ or ‘about as far from what we do today’ or ‘I would change everything that we do’, to some more sophisticated answers around changing how the company is governed. The themes are outlined below.

Actually being with customers

One of the biggest areas of answer jives with one of my own major observations from my client work, and that’s in being able to be with customers. Most large enterprises have constructed such sophisticated processes that allow a small, select group of people to interact with customers to find out what they might want in the future, or to serve them directly. But these processes basically stop everyone else directly communicating with customers or even observing the impact of their work. At Emergn, and in our work, we have a simple principle: You need to get someone who wants something as close as possible to the people who can do something about it. That means developers should spend time with users and customers. It’s a simple principle. Unfortunately, I’ve seen lots of time and energy focused on stopping groups who need to be with customers, from spending time with them. To be customer focused, we have to spend time with the users we impact. In today’s digital world, who best represents front-line staff and can make the biggest impact on users lives? Is it beyond the realm of possibility that designers and developers could sit with users every day?

Being measured on the things that really help the customer

How much of your current bonus system is related to how happy a customer is? I bet it’s quite small – or non-existent. Knowing whether your work or service really helps a customer or not can sometimes be hard to measure at scale. And that’s normally the reason we have measures, goals and KPIs that aren’t helpful in understanding customer satisfaction and we end up with measures that are easier to collect. The overwhelming feeling from people responding was that they would feel like they’re valued and rewarded for solving the hard problems for customers. Think about your own measures. Do you have them because they’re easy to measure, are they all internally focused, or do they really represent the impact on users?

Removing some (or all) of the internal angst so focus can be maintained

A common theme from the responses was about removing internal bureaucracy and communication related to internal issues. The general feeling was that so much time was spent on these sorts of issues that there likely wasn’t enough time left to really focus on the customer. Most of the answers acknowledged that some time was required to do the internal stuff, but in the world’s most customer-focused company it was felt that this would be such a small part of the job that it would feel negligible. How might you remove the focus away from internal processes and bureaucracy? What change in working practice might result in more customer focus?

Leaders who actually talk about the things that really make a difference

Related to the previous point, if all the communications that came out of the company were about compliance and process matters, it’s hard to imagine that leaders would do the things that make a big difference to the lives of their customers. People feel that leaders should over-index on customer focus communication internally – this would be sharing stories, bringing customers in to talk with teams and really walking the talk. This is in favour of missives about expense policies, utilisation targets, timesheets and process compliance. How much of your internal communications is customer focused versus internal focus? How might you redress the balance?

Do you agree with these areas? Does it really go far enough? What else can you think of that would make your company truly customer-obsessed?


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