“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” – Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon

Jeff Bezos has built one of the largest and most successful brands in the world by building his company around one singular focus: its customers.  Amazon did not become a giant because of its selection, its prices, or its accessibility.  Many other large retailers can boast similar offerings.  But no other retailer can compare to the extreme value that Amazon places on its customers.

The Empty Chair

Even in the early days of Amazon, Jeff Bezos knew that the customer’s opinion of everything that Amazon does is the most telling metric.  Thus, Bezos would drag an empty chair into his meetings and tell his executives to consider that chair to be occupied by a customer, “the most important person in the room”.  To this day, he still periodically places an empty chair at the conference table to keep everything in perspective.  It’s difficult to forget how decisions affect the customer when the customer is always a part of the process.
The Call Center Assignment

Knowing that the customer’s interactions with the call center not only drive customer opinions about Amazon but also reveal where Amazon has room for improvement or opportunities for innovation is not lost on Bezos.  Thousands of Amazon’s managers from all levels – even Bezos himself – participate in call center training for a few days each year and personally reach out to customers on a routine basis.  Staying in touch helps Amazon stay on top.

The Prime Expense

Originally selling for $79 annually and recently increasing to $99 annually, Amazon Prime is an all you can order buffet of 2-day shipping and instant videos.  On a ledger, Prime never pencils out to be a financial win for Amazon.  So why is Bezos so committed to offering it?  First and foremost, Prime makes sense for the customer.  It also builds brand loyalty as those customers think of Amazon first whenever they have a new purchase to make.  Lastly, the expense Amazon incurs in running Prime is perceived not as a loss, but as a marketing expense for the company.  Amazon does not traditionally market itself (it once tried TV commercials but decided they were inefficient given the expense), but it has very cleverly found a way to wow its customers while simultaneously marketing itself.

Bezos’ approach to running Amazon has blazed a new trail in what it means to be successful as a company.  His zealous commitment to starting with what the customer wants and working backwards through the levels of the company to arrive at the right decisions on their behalf gives credence to the age old saying “The customer is always right.”