10in20: Obsessing over your customers

Here’s a brief overview of 10 Ways to keep the customer at the center of your business.

We recently hosted our monthly 10in20 thought leadership webinar series on customer obsession, highlighting 10 tactics to help you keep the customer at the center of your business.

What is 10in20?

It’s a monthly series where we cover one topic in 10 questions, points, or ideas, and we do it in 20-minutes or less. Why so short? We recognize your time is precious, we’ve condensed our thought leadership webinar series from the typical hour into 20 minutes.

It’s important to keep the customer at the center of your decision making process to ensure you’re driving customer experiences that also drive the bottom line. At Amazon, every idea starts by thinking about how we can delight customers. In fact, customer obsession is our guiding principle and part of our ‘secret sauce’ as a company. Why is customer centric thinking so important? We like how our founder Jeff Bezos puts it:

If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000 friends.

– Jeff Bezos

Tactics to keep customers at the center of your business

1. Work backwards from the customer
2. Find your why
3. Be transparent
4. Make it personal
5. Stay flexible
6. Make their lives easier
7. Adapt your approach to your customer’s moments
8. Optimize your efforts for the right shoppers
9. Let your customers tell your story
10. Stay customer obsessed, not competitor obsessed

As you’re thinking about opportunities to build your business, these tactics are a good place to start.


During the webinar we received a number of questions about Amazon Pay. We wanted to take the opportunity to share answers to a few of the most common questions:

The working backward process sounds great, but the exercise seems like a lot of work. Is the working backwards process optional?

It shouldn’t be optional unless you know a better way. At Amazon Pay, we believe you shouldn’t know a better way until you’ve tried the exercise a few times. If done correctly, the working backwards process is a huge amount of work, but it saves you even more work later by ensuring you are building the right solution.

This is something can be done by any one person – in fact it could be done by a startup of one. You don’t need a lot of resources, you just need to put in the time.

Can you provide a few scenarios that illustrate how customer obsession works in theory at Amazon?

Let’s use the idea of designing a product at Amazon as an example, showing the spectrum of customer obsession. Your under indexing on customer obsession by building a product with the thinking that customer will just buy it because the technology is amazing. You’re over indexing on customer obsession by trying to build the perfect product that meets all customer demands at once. The customer obsessed approach is to focus on the end user’s needs, working backwards from the optimal customer experience, delivering value in increments and regularly assessing how the product is meeting your customers’ needs.

If you are responding to a complaint from a customer about a product sold, you’re not taking a customer obsessed approach by ignoring the complaint because it is only coming from one customer, but you’re over indexing on customer obsession if you remove that product listing. A customer obsessed approach means investigating the complaint and making sure that the product sold is accurately described and does not have any defects. Taking necessary actions if it is found to be faulty. And finally, informing the customer about the finding, if it is found to be good. If the product is faulty, make sure you provide a replacement.

What’s one way customer obsession has come to life through Amazon for it’s customers?

At Amazon we have a lot of different types of customers, including shoppers, merchants and partners, to name a few. To show the extent at which Amazon puts the customer first, we’ll share an excerpt from Jeff Bezos 2018 shareholders letter where he speaks to how Amazon puts the independent sellers first –
“…by investing in and offering them [independent sellers] the very best selling tools we could imagine and build. There are many tools, including tools that help sellers manage inventory, process payments, track shipments, create reports, and sell across borders – and we’re inventing more every year.

Some of the tools of great importance are Fulfillment by Amazon and the Prime membership program. In combination, these two programs meaningfully improved the customer experience of buying from independent sellers. With the success of these two programs now so well established, it’s difficult for most people to fully appreciate today just how radical those two offerings were at the time we launched them.

We invested in both of these programs at significant financial risk and after much internal debate. We had to continue investing significantly over time as we experimented with different ideas and iterations. We could not foresee with certainty what those programs would eventually look like, let alone whether they would succeed, but they were pushed forward with intuition and heart, and nourished with optimism.”

Q: What’s one way Amazon has helped customers discover something they didn’t know they wanted?

We’ve seen how Amazon works hard to make the right bets, but not every bet pays out. Amazon has recognized that the development of the Fire phone is one example of that in the latest 2018 shareholders letter. The Echo was created around the same time. While the Fire phone was a failure, Jeff Bezos speaks to how the learnings from the failure of the Fire have accelerated the development of building Echo and Alexa. The internal Amazon team’s vision for Echo and Alexa was inspired by the Star Trek computer. Their idea also had origins in two other arenas where they’d been building and wandering for years: machine learning and the cloud. From Amazon’s early days, machine learning was an essential part of their product recommendations, and AWS gave everyone a front row seat to the capabilities of the cloud. After many years of development, Echo debuted in 2014, powered by Alexa, who lives in the AWS cloud.

No customer was asking for Echo. This was definitely us wandering. Market research doesn’t help. If you had gone to a customer in 2013 and said “Would you like a black, always-on cylinder in your kitchen about the size of a Pringles can that you can talk to and ask questions, that also turns on your lights and plays music?” They would have probably looked at you strangely and said “No, thank you.”

Since that first-generation Echo, customers have purchased more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices. Last year, Amazon improved Alexa’s ability to understand requests and answer questions by more than 20%, while adding billions of facts to make Alexa more knowledgeable than ever.

Q: Can you provide more insight on what the customer experience is like with Amazon Pay?

The customer experience with Amazon Pay is very straightforward and simple. The customer simply sees the Amazon Pay button at checkout or payment mark on the website. Once they click on it, they are given the option to login to their Amazon account. After logging in to their Amazon account they’ll immediately see their address book and payment options stored in their Amazon Account. Then they can simply move forward and pay that way. It’s not a different credit card or a new credit card, its simply the credit card information stored in their Amazon account.

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