Digital Transformation (DT) in the Era of Customer-Centric Organizations (CCO) pt.1

What makes a Customer-Centric Organization & how to further this type of thinking?

“Wouldn’t it be great if customers just gave us a chunk of change at the beginning of the year and we calculated zero for their shipping charges the rest of that year?” – Charlie Ward (former Amazon principal engineer; current Amazon VP, technology)

And we kind of had a small pause, a moment where we all looked at it as like, “Is Charlie crazy?

“But the idea came with huge risks, and it spurred real tension inside Amazon. Some managers resented that their projects appeared to be deprioritized for a secret program they knew little about. Others feared that Amazon’s top customers were going to abuse the program and ultimately bankrupt the company with soaring shipping costs.”

The making of Amazon Prime, the internet’s most successful and devastating membership program.



The most significant retail innovation, the story of Amazon Prime – boasting over 100 million paying members – all started with a customer pain point. Instantly, it became the polarizing project within the organization (ORG). You loved it because it sounded crazy and impossible at that time (Hello 2004!) or hated it because of the level of uncomfortable operational change required “from how managers were evaluated by superiors to how the company fulfilled orders and moved goods from point A to point B.”

Amazon has been and still is the leading ORG in defining convenience in online shopping. The company achieved that by tirelessly asking this question over and over again: How do we make it easier for our customers to shop online? A simple yet crucial question.

Digital Transformation (DT) sounds excellent when you say it, but is not easily implementable regardless of how many keynotes are held in your ORG. DT requires a top-bottom redefinition of the decision making flow and bottom-top liberation of risk-taking. I’m referring to the pyramidal archetype within which most ORGs are trapped. They rely on pharaohs at the top to come up with grand ideas, whereas most of the actionable insights lie within the employees close to / in touch with the customers.

I don’t deny the credibility of those at the top. I do value their essential role. However, an agile ORG allows everyone to play with ideas. Everyone is a leader! Much of minuscule ideas that can be initiated at the bottom of the hierarchy by the field operation teams, if implemented, would inspire those who are less familiar with the day-to-day operations. The bouncing back and forth between different teams creates a vibrant playfield that spurs innovation and critical thinking.



1. Are you a long-term thinker? Are you worried about the following quarterly revenue?
2. Do you get boiled up quickly with incorrect details?
3. Does your ORG produce more meeting slots than explicit materials such as one-pagers and Customer Journey Maps?
4. Do you decide to guarantee your survival or to elevate your customers’ experiences?
5. Are you leading an ORG where choices are more valued in terms of higher Revenue per Cost or higher customer satisfaction?


– IF you’re leading a CCO, you recognize the necessity of catching-up on ideas from your customers continuously, hence, redesigning the organizational hierarchy becomes an irrefutable mandate. Having many hierarchical levels in the way of making decisions slows the ORG in the testing of new ideas.


– IF you’re leading a CCO, you want to interact with your customers as much as possible because that’s where you can draw insights that could move the needle for your business. This means less internal meetings and more external interactions in the form of 1:1 interview, surveys, focus groups, etc.


– IF you’re leading a CCO, you drive forward based on factual evidence rather than subjective biases and wanna-be-steve-jobs hunches. You often update your User Personas and Customer Journey Map to reflect the ever-changing reality of your business.


– IF you’re leading a CCO, you’re here to serve your customers. You have developed such a strong sense of empathy towards them that, by default, you’d veto any strategy that threatens the relationship you’ve established with your customers over time.



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Customer-Centric Strategy – Workshops – Berlin