A Culture of Customer-Facing Metrics

A couple of months ago, I wrote about a post by Eric Hellman that claimed “Amazon is a company fundamentally about scale.” He went on the predict that Amazon’s focus “will ruthlessly bring efficiency to every process in publishing.”

Around the same time, an article appeared in Forbes that described the firm’s relentless use of customer-facing metrics. Written by George Anders, the piece claims that 80% of Amazon’s 500 measurable goals relate to customers.

Founder Jeff Bezos sometimes represents the customer at meetings by keeping an empty chair, bringing to life the kinds of things that matter at Amazon:

  • Eliminating delays, defects and out-of-stock products
  • Reducing waste, so that the company can offer lower prices
  • Meeting every delivery commitment (not “most”)

As Julia Kirby and Thomas Stewart covered for Harvard Business Review in 2007, these customer-centric measures have been Amazon hallmarks since its inception.

Yesterday, I was unusually direct in criticizing Forbes.com and its use of traffic-driven strategies to pay contributors. With hindsight, I should have toned it down and added information that described what an Amazon retail store might truly provide:

  • Seamless access to information about any book: scan the bar code and get all the reviews
  • Equally seamless access to comparable purchases
  • Integration of your physical and online purchase histories
  • On-demand printing, providing access to more print books than any one store could offer
  • A price guarantee … and more

If Amazon does launch a physical bookstore, it is likely to stick with what made it a $48 billion business: a focus on the customer. On many levels, that’s what good independent bookstores do now. The question, raised by Eric Hellman, is whether they can compete against scale.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.