The Idea: The American Customer Satisfaction Index recently ranked Amazon #1 for the eighth straight year. The prestigious Harris Poll shared their annual Reputation Quotient which listed Amazon as #1 for the third consecutive year. Amazon’s CEO and founder Jeff Bezos runs a unique shop with daunting standards. What’s getting in the way of you elevating your own standards?

Amazon lives in a constant state of discontent.

Bezos’s doctrine is that the consumer is always unhappy, in a state of discontent. He believes today’s consumer expectations are never met and they always expect more: simpler, easier, and better solutions to everything. In Amazon’s 2018 Shareholder letter, Bezos states, “People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary’.” Believing and addressing the consumer’s constant state of discontent is what differentiates Amazon from the rest. The model fits the customer.

So how do we elevate our standards?

Setting higher standards is the ultimate growth strategy and it’s the only way to meet the consumer’s changing needs. Bezos lays out a thoughtful playbook for us all. Speaking on developing new ventures, he says, “First, you have to be able to recognize what good looks like in that domain. Second, you must have realistic expectations for how hard it should be (how much work it will take) to achieve that result – the scope.”

Bezos continues “Perhaps a little less obvious: people are drawn to higher standards – they help with recruiting and retention. More subtle: a culture of high standards is protective of all the ‘invisible’ but crucial work that goes on in every company.”

Higher standards pay off, driving teachable, domain specific, and realistic virtues throughout the organization. Amazon lives in a start-up mentality: testing, experimenting and monitoring results like a firm that has yet to make it. Just a brief reminder of Amazon’s progress last year:

  • Amazon Prime – There are now more than 100 million Amazon Prime members, shipping more than five billion items annually and spending more than the GDPs of the majority of countries.
  • Amazon Marketplace – Over 300,000 small and midsize companies are now part of Amazon Marketplace and make up over half of all unit sales on the platform.
  • Alexa – Alexa is now enabled on more than 4,000 smart home devices across 1,200 brands. Alexa is your new running mate.
  • Amazon Devices – Consumers purchased more Amazon devices – Echo Dots, Amazon Fire TV Sticks, and Alexa Voice Remotes – than any product on Amazon during the 2017 holiday season.
  • Amazon Music – Amazon Music now serves millions of consumers in a large group of countries and sales have doubled in the last six months.

In each domain, superb logistical understanding is applied to a product line modeled off best-in-class strategies. Domain analysis combined with lofty standards drives innovation. So how do we set lofty standards within our organizations? Let’s learn from Bezos:

  1. Declare, model, teach and embrace a teachable customer-obsessed culture.
  2. Co-create crystal-clear, specific standards, customized to each work area.
  3. Explicitly define the scope of the standards in a tangible and touchable way.
  4. The newest innovation quickly becomes boring. Product lines are never done innovating.

How would you show up differently if you operated under higher standards?