I read with great interest Jeff Bezos’s 2017 letter to Amazon shareholders. I believe we can learn a great deal from a man whose company annually ranks number one on several distinguished surveys of customer and employee satisfaction.
Bezos’s theories and suggestions – which he confesses he has gained not only through Amazon’s successes, but also through “billions of dollars worth of failures” – are relevant (and timely) not only in the retail industry, but also to those of us who are working to offer professional services to highly demanding clients.
Furthermore, what he has to say about running a company is of value not only at the scale at which he works (Amazon employed 560,000 people in 2017!), but also to those looking to improve the smallest enterprise on the planet.
Let me pique your interest with a couple of quotes from Bezos’s letter:
- “One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static – they go up. It’s human nature.”
- “You cannot rest on your laurels in this world. Customers won’t have it.”
Bezos believes that customer satisfaction requires a multi-faceted approach, of which a key element is the creation of a culture of high standards (“widely deployed and at all levels of detail,” he says). He then explores the question of whether high standards are “intrinsic or teachable” and whether they are “general or domain-specific,” and discusses other factors that need to be considered in their creation and deployment.
Along the way, Bezos poses such intriguing questions as “How long does it take to learn to do a perfect free-standing handstand?” and “How can a six-page memo be more effective than a PowerPoint presentation?” The answers to these questions will likely surprise you, as may one of his conclusions:
- “.. [H]igh standards are fun! Once you’ve tasted high standards, there’s no going back.” – Jeff Bezos