Amazon’s Day 1 mentality & the customer obsession

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death.” — Jeff Bezos

In his recent letter to shareholders Amazon Chief Jeff Bezos stated how he has, and will always, have a ‘Day 1’ mentality. A start-up mentality of excitement and ambition which fights challenges, embraces change, employs quick decision making and most importantly, has an obsession with its customer.

When you fall into a ‘Day 2’ mentality there is a tendency to rely on imperfect ‘proxies’. External influences such as technological advancement are feared, and customer needs are replaced by business needs, product features or what competitors may be doing.

At The Customer Experience Company, we firmly believe that focus on the customer is essential to business success and longevity. Here we discuss some of the key points that Jeff Bezos expressed in his letter.

“As companies get larger and more complex, there’s a tendency to manage to proxies. This comes in many shapes and sizes, and it’s dangerous, subtle, and very Day 2”.

Proxies — i.e. something with the authority to represent something else — tend to creep into company ideology. One of the most prevalent issues we find is the mistaking of numbers for customer behaviour.

“Market research and customer surveys can become proxies for customers”

Looking at numbers is necessary in guiding your assumptions and unearthing blind spots. However, relying solely on these numbers is dangerous territory. It’s essential to take a look behind the numbers by being empathetic to your customers. Asking, listening, watching and testing can unearth a raft of insights, behaviours and nuances which bring levels of understanding that can never be achieved through focusing on numbers alone.

“There are many ways to centre a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.”

Being customer-focussed is having the mentality of customer outcomes over product features. Change your thinking from ‘the business wants our customers to be able to do this’ or ‘our competitors are doing this’, to ‘our customers want to be able to achieve this’.

“Customers are always beautifully, wonderfully dissatisfied, even when they report being happy and business is great”

Customers have evolving expectations — they look for more, something better, something easier, something greater. Being customer obsessed and having the innate desire to serve and delight them will prove the most effective way to invent and innovate on their behalf and ultimately stay in ‘Day 1’ and ahead of the game.

“The outside world can push you into Day 2 if you won’t or can’t embrace powerful trends quickly. If you fight them, you’re probably fighting the future. Embrace them and you have a tailwind”

The world is changing. Technology is advancing faster than at any point in history. Our customers are ‘in the future’ and our view should be too. In order to survive in this era organisations need to be able to adapt and innovate with changing technologies.

“These big trends are not that hard to spot (they get talked and written about a lot), but they can be strangely hard for large organisations to embrace”

Unfortunately, for large organisations riddled with bureaucracy, egos, paperwork and Day 2 thinking, this can verge on impossible. By spotting trends as they approach, staying lean and being open to change, we can keep up with our customers’ ever-growing list of needs and desires, and allow us to remain relevant and in Day 1.

So how can an organisation stay in Day 1?

Experiment, learn, adapt, try, fail, grow, listen, talk, delight, nurture and be obsessed with your customer. To echo the sentiment of Bruce Temkin in his recent response to Jeff Bezos’s letter — customer-centric organisations do not just happen, they are purposefully built.


Written by

Different Thinking. Different Outcomes. Using design thinking to solve business problems.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade