Amazon & Southwest Airlines Both Falling from the "Circle of the Customer-Centric"

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Many companies that intend to become or stay customer-centric lose their way – and in similar fashion. First they attain customer-centric status with customers. Then they pursue growth opportunities at the cost of diluting their previous standards for customer care. And they wind up disappointing once loyal customers, while falsely claiming they remain customer-centric to the core.

Two once customer-centric stalwarts are both headed down this path: Amazon.com and Southwest Airlines. Amazon now allows drop shippers to list their merchandise on Amazon’s website, with customers initially unaware they’re not buying from Amazon. And when something screws up, they force buyers to work it out with these third-party sellers. Amazon claims to stand behind these transactions, but “behind” means way, way behind, leaving many customers in the lurch.

Southwest Airlines until recently owned the best OTA (on-time arrival) stats in the airline biz. They maintained that status in large part by flying out of “secondary” metro airports less likely to get jammed up from excess traffic. Then, in 2011 SWA bought Air-Tran, which used primary airports. At that point, SWA put growth over customers, and now they have the worst OTA record of any major airline, and they’re angering customers.

Is the pressure to grow so intense customer-centric companies eventually succumb, with customers the losers? 

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