Amazon's popularity is something of a mystery to me. To me it just seems like a high-tech version of Walmart, creating low prices by exploiting workers and suppliers. I don't deny that Walmart has made life better for millions, and I know that Amazon relieves stress for its customers. For those of us trying to consume less and more thoughtfully, Amazon and Walmart seem like companies to avoid.
However, I have to respect Amazon since it ranks so highly in customer loyalty studies from Brand Keys and Temkin Group. A recent Harvard Business Review article does a good job of explaining why. It's not that the prices are so low and the convenience are so great; it's that the business operates with fearsome consistency and dependability. When everyone in the company understands and commits to provide what customers expect, we have a brand promise delivered, the most important step of our loyalty pledge.
Harvard Business Review: Your Company Culture Can't Be Disconnected from Your Customers, 2016-Mar-18 by Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank
To create a winning culture, it is not enough to have or recognize cultural artifacts... or to shape how people feel, think, and act based on internal criteria.... Rather, a winning culture ensures that people feel, think, and act consistently with promises made to customers and other key stakeholders.... [emphasis added]
Ulrich and Brockbank call this the "the outside-in approach to culture."
Step 1: Define the right culture. Leaders should begin to define the firm’s ideal culture by asking, “What is the shortlist of what we want to be known for by our best customers?”...
Step 2: Translate the ideal customer-centered identity into behaviors for employees. Employees think and behave so that the company’s brand is reinforced in the perceptions of customers and shareholders....
For Amazon, the focus on disciplined customer-centered innovation sends a clear message to potential and current employees. As their website puts it, “If you love to build, to invent, to pioneer on a high-performance team that’s passionate about operational excellence — you’ll love it here.” This agenda signals to employees what customers expect from Amazon. In a recent workshop, all 350 participants had purchased something from Amazon but none really cared about their emotional experience as much as the timely execution of their order. These customer expectations (brand promises) shape employee behavior around operational excellence.
Step 3: Design the right processes, practices, and structures for supporting and encouraging those behaviors. ... [Use] processes, practices, and structures include staffing, training, promotions, measurement, rewards, organization structure, work design, information management, physical arrangements, and leadership development [reinforcing the] employee actions that align with customer expectations....
Min Hsuan Lo photo by Sage Ross from Flickr