How well do you know your customer experience?
Have any of your friends, family, neighbors, enemies or old middle school teachers ever tried to buy your product? Where were the sticking points?
If you don’t know, you should. If you want to be as successful as Amazon, you need a frictionless customer experience.
What makes Amazon so successful? They take risks!
Steve: Originally, I wanted to ask: “How is technology really affecting businesses?” And I became very convinced that the speed of technology development was actually the biggest risk businesses face.
But I also came up with this idea that not taking enough risk is the biggest risk.
So, I started researching companies who take risks well and those who don’t. Now, Amazon as a company has been very successful — and continues to be very successful — and I started asking why.
I came across the shareholder letters and read a few. I had seen articles when they came out, but I actually started reading them deeply and I realized there was a lot in them.
So, I sat down and read every one in order. That became a white paper and, after sharing it with my wife — and coauthor, by the way — and some other friends, they came back and said, this is a book.
Steve: In the book, I came up with 14 principles based on these letters. And we categorize those into 4 cycles:
Really, no matter where you are in business, you’re in one of these phases.
If you’re a brand new startup, you’re probably in the Test phase. You’re trying to figure out if you have a product and, if you do, how to get it to the marketplace.
If you’re a more mature company — if you’re in marketing, sales, or leading a company — frankly, your biggest risk is being successful because, if you’re not careful, that success will bring you to point of protecting what got you there. Not expanding, testing or experimenting with what’s next.
Businesses of all sizes and types go through these 4 cycles all the time. You could have one department in a test phase while another is in the Build or Accelerate phase.
People think 14 principles and go “Wow, how can I do all of those?”
Well, you probably can’t all at one time, but where are you now? Where do you need help to move forward? Which of the principles can resonate with your thinking or what you need to do?
Making complexity simple
Steve: Why do you shop on Amazon?
Because it’s easy?
That’s the number one response: it’s easy. What Amazon has done for 25 years is continually focused on making things easier. The way I phrase it is “taking the friction out of the customer’s interaction with you.”
Let me give you an example: The Kindle.
In that letter, Bezos says: We had the audacious goal of trying to reinvent the book — something that’s been around for 500 years. To do that, we had to think differently about the book and what the experience was with the book. We realized, with a good book, the book actually disappears.
So they needed to make the experience of reading a book on an electronic device such that the device goes into the background.
What about highlights or going to the last place you read? Across multiple devices?
The Kindle is an example of extremely complex technology that is invisible to the user.
So, what can you do to make it so easy there is no other option?
It’s all about the customer experience
Steve: Do you really understand what your customer experiences?
Get secret shoppers. Hire people. Get friends, neighbors, people who don’t know anything about what you do and have them call up and get a quote for whatever it is you sell.
What happens? Where are the sticking points?
Companies like Amazon are setting the bar very high in terms of customer experience and interaction.
We need to continue to work on taking that friction out of our interactions with our customers.