Stop focusing on the competition and start focusing on your customer

Leah Holzman Glass explains how we apply customer obsession, Amazon’s number one operation principal, across our decision-making here at Amazon Pay.

Originally posted 5/10/19

Imagine you’ve just sent your customers an email announcing a new product or service you’ve developed. The response is overwhelming—orders are flooding in, and fans are taking to social media to talk about how much they love it!

At Amazon, that’s a scenario we imagine before undertaking any significant project. We write a six-page memo including a press release announcing the product, complete with frequently asked questions. By beginning with the end point (the customer) in mind and working backwards from there, we stay true to our mission: to be the most customer-centric company in the world.

Amazon Pay is a great example of customer obsessed thinking - extending the trust and simplicity of Amazon’s checkout experience to merchants – so they can get back doing what they do best: selling great products and services that delight customers. Today, Amazon Pay is providing a convenient shopping experience for thousands of third-party websites across the globe.

One Amazon exercise our team at Amazon Pay uses to develop ideas is the “5 Customer Questions” process. This is an exercise of inquiry to ensure are we working on behalf of our customers, from ground breaking technologies to simple site updates.

There are endless ways to invent on behalf of our customers, but resources are limited--even at an established company like ours. The “5 Questions” help you vet ideas to make sure they will delight customers before you invest in building something or even a writing a six-page memo. They are:

  1. Who is the customer? While it’s tempting to start with problems or solutions, the first step is always to identify the end customer. Create a detailed picture of their wants, needs and motivations. Consider how these change in different contexts.
  2. What is the customer problem or opportunity? Describe current situations that might be frustrating this customer, and/or new experiences that might delight them. Base your hypothesis on what you know about your customer today; you can refine it later. Then, generate ideas for solutions.
  3. What is the most important customer benefit? This question challenges you to dive deep, differentiate between must-haves and nice-to-haves, and prioritize the best solution.
  4. How do you know what customers need or want? Now it’s time to validate your assumptions with data. You probably have lots of data, so ask yourself what is most relevant to the experience you are imaging. If you don’t have all the data you need to answer the question, keep it simple, go straight to the source and ask your customers.
  5. What does the customer experience look like? Once you have validated your idea, sketch it out with a simple drawing or a whiteboard. Then, describe the customer experience in words—how they discover the solution, how they use it, and how they feel at the end.

The five questions are simple, but that doesn’t make this exercise easy. Achieving clarity is not easy. Prioritizing is not easy. But the beauty of the 5-questions-working-backwards exercise is that any company can do it. The power of it lies in the discipline to do it until it becomes part of your DNA. Then it becomes the foundation on which a great company can be built.
Learn more about how Amazon Pay can help you build a better customer experience.