Amazon: Customer Focus is Bezos’s Obsession

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Everything Store" by Brad Stone. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why is Jeff Bezos so obsessed with Amazon’s customer focus? To what length does Amazon go to ensure it appears trustworthy?

Jeff Bezos believes that Amazon’s success is due to the ability to help customers make purchase decisions, not solely because of sales. That’s why Bezos is obsessed with the customer experience and will go to any lengths to make customers happy.

Continue on to learn about Amazon’s customer focus.

Amazon’s Customer Obsession

Jeff Bezos is known for his relentless focus on Amazon’s customer focus. 

Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

  • Early in Amazon’s life, a publisher executive is angry at Amazon customer reviews, suggesting Bezos doesn’t understand his business is to sell books, not trash them. Bezos disagrees: “we don’t make money when we sell things. We make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.
  • Bezos edits press releases, speeches, and shareholder letters to remove anything that does not speak simply and positively to customers.
  • In 1996, on sharing customer data: “Mr. Bezos knows his customers will erupt in outrage if he turns over their files to other marketers. The Web, he notes, is the ultimate word-of-mouth medium: ‘If someone thinks they are being mistreated by us, they won’t tell five people — they’ll tell 5,000.’ “ WSJ
  • In 1998, Amazon rolled out a comparison-shopping feature so customers could search for any product, even if Amazon didn’t carry it.
    • This was eventually axed since executives disliked having customers leave, but today Amazon still allows ads for outside retailers, wanting to build a reputation as a trustworthy resource for giving customers the best deal.
  • Early on, Barnes & Noble was the giant that promised to quash them. Bezos told staff: “You should wake up worried, terrified every morning. But don’t be worried about our competitors because they’re never going to send us any money anyway. Let’s be worried about our customers and stay heads-down focused.”
  • In negotiation meetings with Toys R Us in 2000 to become Amazon’s exclusive toy supplier, Bezos made a show of keeping one chair open at the table, “for the customer.”
  • New product ideas need to be written in the form of a mock press release, starting with what the customer would see and hear about, and working backward.
  • When a user gets an embarrassing email about sex lubricant, Bezos is willing to shut down the entire profitable email channel. “We can build a $100 billion company without sending out a single fucking e-mail.”
  • Amazon uses its massive power to cut better deals with suppliers, hurting those businesses but in the belief that low prices make products more affordable to Americans.
    • “Amazon isn’t happening to the book business. The future is happening to the book business.”

Dogfooding Services

Amazon has a history of spinning out services that were initially used only internally, or by dogfooding products that are sold to the public. It believes that if it can build a service that is good enough to satisfy internal Amazon demands, it’ll be good enough for the outside public.

  • In 2006, Amazon launches Fulfillment by Amazon: “we had built such a good service that people were willing to pay us to use it.”
  • Amazon teams use Mechanical Turk internally to review customer uploaded photos and check Block View images.
  • Engineering groups were told to use AWS while the services were still immature.
Amazon: Customer Focus is Bezos’s Obsession

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Brad Stone's "The Everything Store" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full The Everything Store summary :

  • How Amazon went from an online bookstore to the largest internet retailer in the world
  • What Jeff Bezos did to compete with companies like eBay, Zappos, and
  • What it was like to work for Jeff Bezos

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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