Amazon Customer Service: 6 Things That Make It An Effortless Experience
Amazon is among the most talked-about companies in the world, and for good reason. The e-commerce giant has literally reinvented multiple industries, including:
· Virtually every other retail category
· Third-party selling
· Subscription services
· On-demand audio and video
· Independent publishing
· Package delivery
· Voice assistants
· Cloud services
· And many more
What’s remarkable is that throughout Amazon’s growth story, it has never lost sight of its customers, repeatedly developing seamless user experiences and continuing to add value to its flagship Prime program.
We often use the word “remarkable” on the Experience This! Show because it means “worthy of talking about,” and when other people are talking about a company it is far more credible than the company talking about itself. On the show, we’ve talked about our experiences with Prime Video, Alexa, Amazon Go and 4-Star Stores, to name a few.
What’s talked about less often is Amazon’s customer service, which can be attributed to at least two things:
1) For many years Amazon more or less hid its toll-free phone number from the website, encouraging users to self-serve instead.
2) The need for customer service is so rare because the experience is consistently so good.
Amazon’s six “Customer Service Tenets” – posted throughout its offices — explain a lot about why Amazon is so easy and pleasurable to do business with, and can be used as inspiration for any company looking to improve its customer service.
The six tenets are (with my commentary):
1. “Relentlessly advocate for customers.” This is a truly amazing sentence because it demonstrates that Amazon clearly understands that many companies do not: Customers are not the enemy; they are the very reason a company exists. Without them, there is no business. To “advocate” means to be on one’s side, and the fact that Amazon “relentlessly” tries to be on the customer’s side is indicative of why so many people love the company. In fact, by relentlessly advocating for its customers, Amazon has inspired millions of customers to advocate for Amazon!
2. “Trust our customers and rely on associates to use good judgement.” When you trust your customers, they trust you back. Yes, a small minority of customers will try to take advantage of this trust, but most will not. This trust is why my “easiest return ever” was able to occur. What’s also implied but not explicitly stated in this tenet is that Amazon trusts its associates, too. By giving them the freedom to “use good judgement,” the company frees its associates from rigid scripts and empowers them to help solve customer problems. And since happy employees equal happy customers, the effect of this trust is felt beyond just the individual associate.
3. “Anticipate customer needs and treat their time and attention as sacred.” This tenet can be broken down into two pieces. Anticipating customer needs in customer service means taking an educated guess as to why someone is calling – a question about when a recent order will be delivered, for example – or even solving problems before a customer calls. For example, Amazon has been known to proactively issue refunds for video purchases if it notices that the download speed was too slow. Similarly, Duke Energy uses social media to alert customers of potential outages due to severe weather – before they happen.
Too many companies act like they don’t treat a customer’s “time and attention as sacred.” Examples include long hold times on the telephone or in a checkout line, not answering emails or social media posts, and forcing customers to jump through all sorts of hoops to make a claim, get a refund, or cancel an account. But Amazon knows that by treating their customers well and valuing their time, it will gain even more advocacy from raving fans.
4. “Deliver personalized, peculiar experiences that customers love.” Did that word “peculiar” surprise you too? Everyone is trying to be “personalized” these days, but Amazon has proven time and time again that it is not “everyone.” By being just a little bit peculiar – try asking Alexa to beat box, for example – Amazon and its products become so much more memorable to customers. You might have also noticed the word “love” and might be thinking that no one could “love” your business. That’s what I though when I started working at Discover Card, until I saw countless pieces of cardmember feedback using that very word. If someone can “love” their credit card, then someone can probably love your business too.
5. “Make it simple to detect and systematically escalate problems.” This one is more operational in nature, but still contains several key words: making it “simple” means making the Customer Service agent’s job easier and it links back to valuing a customer’s time. Being able to easily “escalate” problems is critical to early identification of potential outages or major public relations issues, and links back to trusting its associates to escalate when necessary. And doing so “systematically” means that Amazon is practicing continuous improvement, so that it is constantly identifying and fixing issues to improve the overall customer experience.
6. “Eliminate customer effort through this sequential and systematic approach: defect elimination, self-service, automation, and support from an expert associate.” Amazon doesn’t just want to reduce customer effort, it wants to “eliminate” it! This is the real reason why Amazon is winning in so many different industries – because it creates an effortless experience for its customers. And the “sequential and systematic approach” makes so much sense: The fewer problems exist, and the more customers are able to solve those problems themselves (or have them automatically solved for them), the less the company is going to spend on traditional Customer Service.
Many people lament Amazon’s success because of the impact on local businesses. But if those local businesses had a set of Customer Service Tenets like Amazon’s, they’d be far less likely to lose customers just because a product is a few dollars cheaper online. Amazon is so great at what it does because it focuses on the customer experience at every touchpoint, fixes problems immediately and permanently, empowers its associates to do the right thing, and continuously improves on itself.