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Customer Service: Never Settle for 99% - Jeff Bezos

Customer Service: Never Settle for 99% - Jeff Bezos

Amazon has been in business for over two decades. And in these past 20 years it has revolutionized the way Americans buy their ware. In 2015, it replaced Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the country with a market valuation of $250 billion. Along the way, it has turned how business is done on its head. Amazon has redefined how customers interact with a business, what they expect from a business, and how providing an enhanced shopping experience is engrained into every tool, feature and person, before, during and after a shopper’s purchase on the site.

In case you’re wondering how Amazon became such a big and beloved company in such a short time, let me present to you the following… Brad Stone of Bloomberg BusinessWeek, who wrote an extensive cover story on Amazon, starts his article with a bit about it’s CEO Jeff Bezos’ email style, and shows how important customer service is to him.

“Within there’s a certain type of e-mail that elicits waves of panic. It usually originates with an annoyed customer who complains to the company’s founder and chief executive officer. Jeff Bezos has a public e-mail address, Not only does he read many customer complaints, he forwards them to the relevant Amazon employees, with a one-character addition: a question mark.”

“When Amazon employees get a Bezos question mark e-mail, they react as though they’ve discovered a ticking bomb. They’ve typically got a few hours to solve whatever issue the CEO has flagged and prepare a thorough explanation for how it occurred, a response that will be reviewed by a succession of managers before the answer is presented to Bezos himself. Such escalations, as these e-mails are known, are Bezos’s way of ensuring that the customer’s voice is constantly heard inside the company.”

This, my friends, is the secret to Amazon’s success. When the CEO of the company personally gets involved in resolving a customer complaint, you know that as a company, they are serious about customer service. In addition to the above example, let me present to you a blog post written by Kevin Baldacci for titled “Seven Lessons you can learn from Jeff Bezos about Serving the Customer.” In this post, Kevin reveals the secret to Amazon’s reign at the top of American Customer Satisfaction Index, year after year, in Internet retailing. He singles out Jeff Bezos for creating, nurturing and implementing a culture at Amazon that revolves around customer service.

As evidence, he presents the following 7 principles developed by Mr. Bezos that are implemented in letter and spirit each day at Amazon:

Don’t Just Listen to your Customers, Understand them: Borrowing an exercise out of the U.S. Marines – where all the marines irrespective of their rank undergo the training to be a rifleman first – Mr. Bezos, includes himself, when he asks thousands of his managers to attend the annual call-center training. This exercise puts the managers on the front lines of customers’ first interaction with the company. The takeaway from this exercise is: Listening, and more importantly, understanding the needs of the customers in order to make the company more nimble to adapt to its customers’ ever changing needs.

Serve the needs of the Customer: “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money… It is the customer who pays the wages.” – Henry Ford. It seems, Mr. Bezos runs his company based on the above quote. That’s why he says, “We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with the customer needs and we work backwards.” It was this philosophy that lead to the development of the Kindle tablet – customers’ desire and not the engineers’ preference.

We’re allowed a peek into the Mr. Bezos’ thought process – when a finance executive, frustrated by the long delay in brining the Kindle to the market, asks the CEO, how much he was prepared to spend on the project, he gets a quick reply, “How much do we have?”

The empty chair - The most important person in the room: From day one, Mr. Bezos obsessed about customer service and established a top down culture where all the attention was directed at the customer. The story goes: Mr. Bezos brought an empty chair into his meetings and informed his executive team that the empty chair was occupied by their customer – the most important person in the room. It is no wonder, then, that the decisions that emerged out of those meetings had a clear tilt towards an enhanced customer experience.    

Never settle for 99%: “We’re not satisfied until its 100%” – Jeff Bezos. This was the CEO’s response in December 2011, upon hearing that Amazon was able to deliver 99.9% of its packages to its customers before Christmas. Imagine delivering millions of packages worldwide and missing on only a few deliveries… during the busiest time of the year. Great customer service is always striving for excellence.

Respect Today’s Customer: “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.” – Jeff Bezos. As a pioneer of ecommerce, Mr. Bezos realized early on, the power of today’s customer to influence a large number of people - family, friends and acquaintances - through the Internet, and more recently, through social media. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when he implores his rank and file to never take the customer for granted, but instead, to strive every day through research and personal interaction to understand the customer. He warns of the pitfalls of big companies not treating their customers well and in the process losing them forever. Mr. Bezos advises his staff to exercise patience when dealing with an unhappy customer venting on the Internet, and urges them to engage that customer by responding to them and thanking them for bringing their grievance to their attention.

Strive to create a customer-centric company: “If we can arrange things in such a way that our interests are aligned with our customers, then in the long term that will work out really well for customers and it will work out really well for Amazon.” – Jeff Bezos. Despite being bigger in footprint, being in business longer, and proving excellent service, companies like Target and Costco’s combined market valuation is less than half of Amazon’s. Why is that?  According to Kevin, the blogger, it is because of Mr. Bezos’ ability to create a customer-centric company. All of Mr. Bezos’ departments throughout Amazon are completely data-driven, based upon the success and failures of the customer experience. This data allows Mr. Bezos to take risks to innovate and make difficult decisions because he has the concrete evidence to decide what is best for the customer and ultimately, what is best for the company.

Don’t be afraid to apologize: “We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.” – Jeff Bezos. The CEO made this preceding heartfelt apology in 2009 in response to copies of illegally sold novels being remotely deleted from users’ Kindles. Despite being in business for almost twenty years and basking in positive publicity for its customer service, this particular incident threatened to tarnish the stellar reputation of the company in the eyes of its users, and undermine Mr. Bezoz’s carefully built image of Amazon as a customer centric company and not that of the “Big Brother.” With his quick apology, Mr. Bezos endeared himself and Amazon to their loyal customers, and this incident was quickly forgotten and even met with praise for Mr. Bezos for personally taking responsibility for the screw up.

We at, created a company that is rooted in customers service similar to Amazon. And just like Amazon, we don’ worry about our competitors; instead, we focus our efforts everyday on listening to and understanding our customers’ needs and addressing those needs.

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Last Updated: 2017-10-26 19:56:22


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