Top Lesson From Amazon: Customers First

Amazon-LogoPut your customers at the center of everything you do–that’s Amazon’s manifesto and, by all accounts, it’s working.

Amazon’s own explanation for how it has survived the evolution of the Internet and been profitable in the Great Recession is CEO Jeff Bezos’s #1 goal: Exceptional Customer Service.* He is so passionate about this that he reportedly always leaves one seat empty at every meeting to remind those present to consider the customer’s point of view in the discussion.

This customer-centric focus has been considered and baked into every level of
the business, from the way the website works, to the speed at which products are
shipped, to the suggestions of similar items, to the free or discounted options.

Amazon even uses the Loss-Leader concept in its customer service strategy, willingly
losing money to offer something that creates die-hard Amazon fans, such as in 2005 when it delivered the first Harry Potter book to all those who ordered it on the same
day it appeared in bookstores. The resulting customer loyalty has paid for itself many
times over, to the point where Amazon’s customers will sometimes pay more for the
same item at Amazon than they would elsewhere.

Ken Blanchard, author of the book Raving Fans, states that “If you really want to ‘own’
a customer, if you want a booming business, you have to go beyond satisfied customers and create Raving Fans.” Raving Fans will essentially become salespeople for you.

Beyond that, the cost of gaining new customers is higher than the cost of retaining
current ones. According to Bain and Company, a global management consulting firm,
“companies can boost profits as much as 255% by retaining merely 5% more of their
existing customers.” Think of the strong companies you know that have Raving Fans—
Apple, Zappos, Google, Southwest Airlines—and you’ll find that they are all fanatically
customer-focused.*

Takeaways for Event Directors:
1. Having a customer-first focus gives you a competitive edge
Today’s participants have higher demands than ever, right from the beginning of their
relationship with you. Being “nice” and believing that “the participant is always right” are
not solid, customer-focused strategies. To stand out, you need to know what people
want before they ask and find your own unique way to offer it. Think of what “Raving
Fans” look like for your event. What differentiates them from your other, less engaged participants?

2. You’ve got to listen
The best way to show your participants that they’re important to you and offer them what they value is to listen to them. Post-race surveys aren’t the only place to listen:

  • Pay attention to repetitive themes that come up in informal conversations
  • Create focus groups to crowdsource new ideas
  • ‘Listen’ to your social media channels

Listen to silence, as well. When participants don’t come back the following year and their absence isn’t noticed, it can confirm to them that they were not a valued customer. Consider sending a “We miss you” email to former participants who haven’t registered for an upcoming event. You can even offer an incentive to return.

*Source: Businessweek: Ebay vs. Amazon