Know your customers better than they know themselves

Zaheer Gilani 23rd March 2021

Whenever I am beginning to investigate a CX process or strategy for my clients, I remind myself of two famous sayings:

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology.” Steve Jobs, 1997

“It doesn’t matter to me whether we are pure internet players, what matters to me is that we provide the best customer experience, internet schmitternet!” Jeff Bezos, 1999

Today, the combined market cap of both Apple and Amazon is in excess of $3.5 trillion. They rank in the top five brands of the world and are known for their great product (goods and services) and customer experience.

All popular brands and successful organisations around the world have one thing in common; they are customer-obsessed and strive to know their customers better than they know themselves. Reed Hastings, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Netflix says “if the Starbucks secret is a smile when you get your latte, [Netflix’s secret] is that the Web site adapts to the individual’s taste.”

But, what does this customer obsession mean and how do the world’s most valuable brands translate that into a sustainable competitive advantage for their businesses?

It’s about focusing on three strategic pillars:

1. Customer Obsessed Leadership and Culture

It all starts with the leadership and culture. it’s the leaders of these great organisations that define the purpose, walk the talk, and set the tempo for change. For instance, Jeff Bezos is famously known for keeping one empty chair in the board room for the customer. Netflix recognises the importance of its employees, adopting a culture manifesto that states “Our core philosophy is people over process.” The late Steve Jobs, who once famously called up Google’s Vic Gundotra on a Sunday to say that the second “o” in the Google iPhone app didn’t have the right yellow gradient.

These examples represent the phenomenon that becomes the core strength of the customer-obsessed organisations. Essentially, it is the relentless and uncompromisable laser-like focus and pursuit of producing customer delight and loyalty.

As Peter Drucker famously said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. Once the culture of the organisation becomes infused with real customer obsessions and not just words, that organisation becomes destined for greatness.

One of the key competencies that leading organisations excel in today’s hyper-competitive digitally connected world is an unrivalled understanding about their customers, which leads them to predict the needs of their customers before they knew they had them and invent products and experiences they cannot imagine living without.

2. Leveraging Actionable CX Analytics

The second most important competency that the world’s leading organisations master is about their ability to capture, analyse, and synthesise their customer’s 720˚view. These organisations put themselves in their customer’s shoes – they empathise with, listen to, and observe their customers behaviour. They also leverage the power of ML and AI over cloud-based agile technologies to hypothesise and test the customer needs on a regular basis.

Airbnb is a great example of this. They are known to run thousands of online experiments concurrently on its platform every week. These experiments allow Airbnb to measure the impact of potential product changes, monitoring approximately tens of metrics per experiment.

Each unique customer perspective enables customer-obsessed brands to prescribe recommendations that empower their executives to make people, process, product, and technological investments that drive a balanced and sustainable customer agenda – an agenda that represents game-changing innovations and tangible strategies that deliver sustainable results for their businesses.

Disney is known to deliver a magical customer experience to its guests and has an impressive 70% return rate for its first-time visitors. They credit this remarkable achievement to their founder’s focus on CX design processes.

Walt Disney viewed his theme parks almost as “factories” that produced delight and entertainment and laid the foundation for obsession over perfectly executed CX design processes. Each CX process is fuelled with omni customer data, capturing thousands of data points to improve customer experience in real-time.

Robert Iger, former CEO of, Disney shared the benefits of their Data and Analytics programmes by saying “I really believe the company should look at technology as a friend.” He also noted that “analytics helped improve Disney’s accuracy in managing labour resources at its parks by 20%.” According to Iger, Disney’s call centre analytics project paid for itself 10 times over within the first year of operation.

Today, we are living in the digital age, where brands, the ecosystems they operate in and their customers are undergoing a digital transformation – regardless of their size or industry. The impact is that our lives are being digitised faster than ever before. An ability to understand your customers so that you can analyse and predict their needs, want, desires, and behaviour effectively is a non negotiable competency that no business can do without.

3. Intelligent Omni CX Execution

The third most important competency that the world’s leading organisations command is their ability to seamlessly and consistently deliver highly personalised branded marketing, sales and service experiences intelligently across customer’s lifecycle.

We’ve all heard the stories of companies going above and beyond to provide their customers with incredible experiences. However, what sets apart the world’s leading brands from the rest of the pack is their ability to deliver emotionally engaging branded experiences consistently on an omnichannel scale.

These brands are in it for the long haul and less interested in creating short-term media hype or PR craze. To quote Bezos again, “Obsessing over customer experience is the only long-term defensible competitive advantage.”

To achieve a truly intelligent CX execution at an omni-scale, world leading brands:

  1. Develop CX data lakes
  2. Use ML to discover rather than map out customer personas, strategic segments, journeys and predict customer behaviour, needs, wants, and preferences
  3. Employ intelligent orchestration capabilities to present the prescribed actions and suggestions across brands channels and touchpoints
  4. Continue to experiment, learn, improve and innovate

The above practices form part of their strategic operating model and are executed consistently, passionately, and flawlessly – enabling them to deliver to their target customers the experience that is relevant, delightful, and worth treasuring.

At ECS we help our clients execute just that.

In future blog posts, I will elaborate on the above practices and share our business consulting assessment approach and recommendations. If you want to access this insight faster, or perhaps you’re interested in seeing how we are helping our clients harness and leverage the power of customer insights and deliver great experiences using the Amazon Connect ecosystem, get in touch with me at


More about the author:

Zaheer Gilani leads the ECS CX Business Consulting proposition – he is an experienced Customer Service and CX industry veteran with over 20-year experience working and consulting for FTSE 100 brands globally.  Zaheer is the author of Customer Journey Mapping Workbooks and has developed and launched CX Industry’s first Customer Experience Casual 3D Mobile game.




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