Updated: Jan 26
Hello, my name is Elizabeth, and I love convenience.
Clothes, cleaning products, makeup, household items, toys, books, medicine, shoes—if I need it (and even sometimes when I don’t!), I buy it online to be delivered to my doorstep. For me, it’s all about convenience. The ease with which I can find an item, the affordable price options, and the quick turnaround in shipping makes brands like Walmart, Target, and Amazon the perfect platforms for a busy working mom like myself. It’s almost as if the creators of these convenient companies anticipated my needs as a customer—almost as if they knew me or something!
Let’s take Amazon for example here. The Amazon we know and love today isn’t the Amazon that founder Jeff Bezos launched in 1994 when he started the company. Amazon functioned primarily as a bookseller, initially expanding to include videos and music. But only a few years in, Bezos knew there was more he could do with the brand; he just wasn’t exactly certain what! Instead of trying to go his own way, Bezos made a decision that changed the course of his company for the better.
He asked his customers what they wanted.
This one’s important so I’m going to say it one more time.
He asked his customers what they wanted.
“I emailed 1,000 randomly selected customers and asked them, ‘Besides the things we sell today, what would you like to see us sell?’” Bezos recalls.
Their reply? “Basically, the way they answered the question was with whatever they were looking for at the moment.”
Rather than brush off their response as too big of an undertaking or choose to take on a more specific niche, Bezos leaned in favor of the customer’s voice. And as all of you fellow Amazon lovers know, it paid off. It changed the trajectory of his business in a way I doubt he could’ve even anticipated. And it grew the company to be what it is today: the place to find whatever it is you’re looking for at the moment.
Bezos wasn’t pursuing the short-term bottom line above all. He was pursuing the customer. And I think he probably knew that in pursuing the customer and delivering what they really wanted, he would ultimately see growth in his business and his bottom line, too.
Knowing Your Customer
From Bezos, I think we can learn this: There’s value in knowing your customer.
There’s value in discovering who they are.
There’s value in asking what they want.
There’s value in being able to do your part to deliver.
And knowing your customer is essential to giving them an exceptional experience with you and with the brand you represent.
Think for a second about the person who knows you best. Maybe it’s your spouse, your best friend, a sibling, or a parent. Who in your life knows you really, really, really well?
They know what you’re thinking before you have to say it.
They bring your favorite snacks for a road trip without having to ask what you like.
They text you when they hear your favorite song or watch your favorite movie.
They know your coffee order.
They bring over all the things that comfort you when you’re sick or down.
They buy you things they think you’ll love or know you might need.
And they’re able to do all of this because they know you—they really, really, really know you!
One of these people for me is my best friend and husband, John. Sometimes I think he knows what I need before I do! He knows my tendency to want to take on too much, so he helps me exercise the use of the word “no” for new commitments and create margin in our life that is good for my health and our family. He also knows the things that will bring a smile to my face. On a recent family adventure, we made a quick stop by the grocery store. You see, when it comes to coffee, I am one of those people who likes a little coffee with my cream. Because of this, I’m willing to admit that I can be a bit particular about the flavor and ingredients list of my creamer. That day, the store was out of most options I liked for creamer. I think John saw the disappointment on my face as I silently moved on to other items on our list. It was the slightest reaction that not even the best grocery store employee would’ve noticed, but John saw it. He saw it because he knows me. And by the time we got to the checkout line, he’d found one of my favorite brands of bottled iced lattes and added it to the cart. That’s just what a best friend–someone who knows you well–does!
Maybe you’ve heard the adage: To be known is to be loved. Isn’t that how it feels when someone really knows you? It makes the relationship better. The same is true when it comes to your customer. The more known they feel, the more valued they feel. And the more valued they feel, the more likely they are to stick with your brand for the long run.
That’s why knowing your customer is key to the overall experience you’re providing! Because it’s hard to serve someone you don’t know, right? When you intentionally know who you are serving, you will be able to serve them intentionally!
Customer Obsessed Companies
The companies who win in their industries—the ones who find themselves surrounded by customers who are passionate about them—are the ones who know their customers. They’ve taken time to discover who their customers are, what their customers want, what their customers value, and the role they play as a company in their customers’ lives. In other words, they’re obsessed with their customers!
And that’s important because customer obsessed companies create company obsessed customers.
Maybe your company is great at this! You work for a brand or business that strives to understand what your customer wants and what they value most from you as a business. For you, it’s easy to shift your thinking to know your customer because your company sets that standard.
But for others of you, this feels more challenging. Maybe your company is driven by the bottom line, the standards and practices they’ve always followed, or the goals they have for themselves. In other words, their focus is everywhere but the customer!
Here’s the good news: You can still create the kind of experience you want customers to have there. You can become a customer obsessed employee even if you’re not working for a customer obsessed company. You can make the decision to know the customers you’re serving on a daily basis. You can try to see their needs, understand their pain points, and come up with solutions that benefit them. You can choose to think about decisions at work through the lens of your customer. You can be the one to make a difference in the way customers experience both you and the brand you represent.
And this all starts with knowing your customer.
What are they saying?
What are they thinking?
What are they feeling?
What are they telling others about?
What do they want you to do differently?
What do they love that you do?
What do they get irritated by in their experience with your business?
What do they really want from you and how can you deliver it?
Asking questions like that will improve your interactions with the customers you encounter on the frontlines. The better their experience is with you, the more loyal they’ll become to your company. And the more loyal they become to the company, the healthier your company will be.