Amazon: Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company

I was presented with a rather audacious statement from Customer Service the other day, which really made me think about them as a brand, and my experience with Amazon over the years:

Amazon feedback

Wow.  “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.”

That is big, it’s bold, and it’s risky for a brand to make the promise to fulfill on that 24/7 every week of the year.

Service recovery design pays off

Of course the shopping and purchasing experience on Amazon has been exceptional for years. But what if a customer has a post-purchase problem? A big part of customer experience design is a focus on “service recovery,” or designing and refining the process when something goes wrong for the customer. Beloved brands like Zipcar know this is a critical opportunity for delivering moments of delight.

Micah Solomon offers great insight in his recent service recovery post on Solomon smartly concludes the article reinforcing the ultimate KPI for most businesses in today’s Age of the Customer: that of lifetime value. A great, real-world example of the potential result is Zappos. As a result of their stand-out service recovery design, a customer is 3-4x more likely to purchase again if their first purchase involved a return.

Revolutionizing the “Contact Us” experience

Last week, there was a snafu with an on-demand video I’d downloaded from Amazon to my TiVo. I was able to watch “Monsters University” (yes, it’s awesome) just fine, but the bonus feature, a making-of-the-movie / behind-the-scenes at Pixar, had no audio.  I called Amazon to find out if it there was something wrong with the video, or if it was just user error.

When I found the contact page on the site, I was happily surprised to see not only email, call, and chat, but something I haven’t seen before: “Call Me” buttons to save customers the time and pain of the typical IVR experience. If there’s any kind of wait time to talk with someone, you can opt for an Amazon customer support rep to call you when you’re at the front of the queue. They will call you when there’s no wait. Plus, they know who you are and you can actually talk with a human being when you pick up the phone.

Amazon call button

Well played, Amazon.

Accountability as a pillar of experience

The customer service rep was congenial, helpful, and apologetic about the inconvenience to me.  This gentleman knew who I was, and had access to my long history with Amazon; I’ve been an Amazon Prime member for years now, so there was plenty of data on me there. I was impressed that he was able to diagnose the problem so quickly, even though the “Monsters University” download was just made available earlier that day.

It turns out the digital file supplied to Amazon was the problem.  Meanwhile, Amazon took full responsibility for my “inconvenience” (even when I admitted I didn’t know I would get bonus features when I made the purchase – silly me). The gentleman still apologized many times on behalf of Amazon, said he would send me an email when the replacement file became available, and gave me a credit on my next video download.

Even though the credit will likely have little direct impact on my future purchase patterns (I’ve always been an avid Amazon shopper,) his actions and words really made me feel like the loyal, valued Amazon customer that I believe I am.

My part in helping build “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company”

One of the big buzz phrases these days is “brand engagement.”  I think Amazon may be one of the only brands that I truly engage with. I really like Amazon. I like buying from them… and I don’t even like shopping.

I like giving Amazon my money. I like writing this article about them, and I like telling friends and family why they should buy from Amazon too.  So when I received the email follow-up from Customer Service, documenting the resolution and asking for my feedback, and more importantly, telling me the reason why I should give feedback, it made me think.  Why am I so engaged with Amazon?

Amazon has taken the mundane (for me) activity of shopping, and eliminated the hassles. I’ve opted (and paid for the subscription) to get my purchases two days later with no shipping charges. Their product reviews almost always influence my purchase decisions. The recommendations Amazon offers are almost always spot on. And now I know that when I have a problem, I know they’re going to have my back, and I won’t have to stay on hold waiting to talk with someone in Customer Service.

They make the bold statement that they are “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company,” and this kind of vision, this kind of North Star, is clearly what drives day-to-day decisions at every level of the company. The massive technology ecosystem they’ve put in place enables that vision.  And what I’ve now seen from Customer Service, the culture and process seem to revolve around that brand promise as well.

Again, Amazon; well played.

Amazon rating

Do you think Amazon is the “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company”?  If not, who is?

  • Pingback: Factoring Authenticity into Experience | Delight()

  • Russ Lowe

    agreed… was recently talking to co-workers about my first week as a ‘prime’ subscriber, and how when i received my first delivery of some stuff i ordered the day before, for FREE, my knee-jerk response was to feel guilty somehow, as if i’d skimped out on someone’s gratuity, or someone on the other end was paying the price for my gluttony.
    this is most certainly a multi-faceted conversation with many perspectives, but on the customer care and service quality front– i know of no one who’s doing it any better, and to me, that seems like a pretty smart foundation.

    • Agreed — there are SO many facets to their impressive experience design and customer service approach. But at the end of the day they really ARE the standard of excellence.

      I wonder if they’d ever go the route of Bow & Drape or others who like to throw in “little extras”…while Amazon rocks at exceptional service by way of eliminating friction, we have yet to see them do stuff that other brands consider delight by way of surprise (here’s more on the B&D rings – ). At what point is there free shipping, etc. just an expected bonus (or is it there already)?

  • well here’s one interesting way Amazon’s delivering delight…. 🙂

  • “This gentleman knew who I was, and had access to my long history with Amazon” is a pretty frightening and powerful thing. It means they know your exact ratio of purchases vs. returns, and the number of minutes or hours they have spent responding to your issues and complaints. When your good-to-bad ratio gets too high…your account is suddenly closed without warning. Buh-bye. “Earth’s most consumer-centric company” indeed.

    Here is a look at how Amazon Customer Service works for any inquiry other than a typical purchase or return. Amazon will send you a form letter email, which may or may not relate to your issue. You can reply telling them they did not understand or solve your issue. They will not read your response, and will simply send you the next form email. They will refer you to their policies and guidelines, which obviously support your complaint and which directly contradict what they just told you in the previous sentence of their form letter, but they will never acknowledge this. Ever. They are trying to break your sanity and your resilience. You can do a few rounds of this, and then they will eventually tell you that the matter is settled and they will not address it any further. Period. (This is because someone with unresolved parenting issues wrote that last form email.) You can try the chat route, but they will take the same approach in chat form.

    After many attempts at this you will finally get the message, which is: Do not email Amazon with your issues. They do not care. It will not be addressed. They do not wish to read your comments and actually resolve your issue. In their attempts to be the “most consumer centric company on earth,” they would be extremely pleased if you the customer would simply shut up and leave them alone. If you persist, they can and will ban you for life from ever purchasing from Amazon again. They cannot continue to sustain their narrow margins if they have to deal with your issues, returns, or complaints.

    The best advice is to get in your car and to go support your local stores. However few of them may remain. You both need each other more than ever.