Amazon does not ‘deliver customer service’, they build powerful partnerships.

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Yet another customer satisfaction survey has rated Amazon as #1 among all online retailers.

Amazon’s customer service has always been recognized and applauded as world-class. This is remarkable, especially since it is a purely online retailer. Amazon has hardly any ‘human’ interactions – often considered crucial perception points for increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty – in the value delivery chain.

Many companies try to emulate Amazon and cost-effectively provide higher levels of service through leveraging technology. But Amazon does not only ‘deliver customer service’ – they build powerful partnerships with their customers.

Every service cycle is a series of interconnected conversations: Explore, Agree, Deliver and Assure.

1. EXPLORE: find out what is important to the other person.
2. AGREE: make a promise to do something on their behalf.
3. DELIVER: do what you promised.
4. ASSURE: check and make sure they are satisfied.
5. EXPLORE to start a new cycle again

To build powerful partnerships with ever growing levels of trust, a service provider must become excellent in all four stages. Most companies are chronically weak in at least one, which jeopardizes this accumulation of trust.

How does Amazon do it?

How does Amazon help you EXPLORE?

  • Search by any topic or title. View related titles, other titles by the same author, and titles of books purchased by people who also purchased this book.
  • Amazon provides book reviews from other readers as well as the publisher and author.
  • If you are a member of a specific community, company or affinity group, Amazon tells you what books people in that group are buying now.

How does Amazon AGREE?

  • You can have products sent to multiple locations, request individual giftwrapping, pay either by credit card, wire transfer or check.
  • You can choose standard, express or overnight delivery and see the costs of each before deciding. If a product is not in stock, you can have each item sent as it becomes available, or hold and ship all your items at once. If you choose the first option, Amazon guarantees shipping costs will be no more than if you chose the second.

How does Amazon DELIVER?

  • As soon as you place an order, you receive an e-mail confirming all the details. You can change it if you reply right away.
  • When your order is filled, you get another confirmation by e-mail. Your credit card is charged only when the order is actually shipped.
  • Products are packed in strong boxes with extra padding to ensure they reach you in good condition.
  • You can track your orders in process and see your complete order history at any time.
  • Inside each box is a complete description of the order and an attractive bookmark, useful information or gift.

How does Amazon ASSURE?

  • Amazon is committed to your complete satisfaction. If you have a problem, they will reply to you quickly by e-mail and take remedial actions right away.
  • If you have any suggestions to help improve the service, Amazon enthusiastically welcomes your ideas.

By continuously Stepping UP! in all four stages, Amazon earns high levels of customer satisfaction with every purchase, builds extraordinary levels of loyalty and converts ‘one-shot’ deals into powerful partnerships.

How can you do the same? In the next blog post, we will highlight the key questions and action steps for you.

Categories: Service Improvement Process
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12 Responses

  1. Eugene says:

    I once purchased a rare book from them. The book was not available, but they promised to update me. After 1 month, when I forgot about the book, I was pleasantly surprised when I got a notification that the book had been shipped to me. When the parcel arrived, I had a free bookmark, and a note saying that they were very sorry about the long delay and they even included a gift voucher for my next purchase. Wow! I am impressed that they really deliver.

  2. Cullum Francis says:

    Hi Ron,
    A very succinct summary of the key customer service points delivered by Amazon. As a customer of theirs, i can attest to their high standards. As you say, a remarkable achievement for a purely web-based, “low touch, high tech” service and fulfillment business model. The challenge for most businesses is getting their mindset right, with a true commitment to their customers, combined with the need to have a holistic view of their business. Commitment, understanding each necessary step, integration of processes (effective processes!) and an understanding of your market are the critical elements. Most businesses are not even close on some or all of these. We have a long way to go!! Cheers, Cullum

  3. Evangelia Vioni says:

    Dear Ron,
    Allow me to add two more bullets to your points regarding Amazon’s superior service that creates that special, unique bond with their customers.

    Under ASSURE:
    • In one of my many orders, one of the items (a book) was missing. I reported it to Amazon, even though I knew that it was my word against theirs and anyway, that perhaps it was not an Amazon mistake and that the book could have gone missing in customs or any other place. Honestly, I was expecting to hear an “Uhm, we are sorry, but…”. Not only did I not hear that, but I received an apologetic reply and an all-charges-free replacement of my missing book. Wow effect on me!

    Under EXPLORE/AGREE:
    • In three different occasions I happened to be browsing some items and added them to my basket, only to find out during check-out that they could not be shipped to my country. Sure I was mildly disappointed, but hey, there are rules and we must abide by them. Sometime later after each unsuccessful attempt, I received a notification that “Amazon now delivers so-and-so product category also to your country”. At first I thought it was a coincidence and that I was lucky. But guess what: after the third time I started seeing a “benign conspiracy” on Amazon’s part (eyeing up my money for sure!) and decided that it was not a mere chance. Somebody is paying attention to me, seeing what adds value to me, taking action to deliver what I want even by changing their rules. I do not know and will never find out if this is really the case or just my imagination, because of the so-far amazing Amazon experiences. In any case I am happy and consider myself one of those powerful partnerships that you mentioned.

    Regards

  4. Robin Langdale says:

    Ron Kaufman hits the button as usual. Like most good thinking, it all looks easy and obvious after it has been produced.

  5. sani says:

    A “deficit approach” to customer relationship building

    We need to analyze the customer’s background fabric and use it in real time, be inferred from the background noise harness the power of these social data, turn it to smart service strategy, the payoffs are tremendous.
    All this will not be possible if bosses dare not let go and allow experienced ground staff the liberty to apply their common sense to situation. I called it deficit to social capital approach, resulted you are not able to take on the fast train in this dynamic environment. As such, How it can continue these social relationships with customers, partners, and employees to transform their companies ?.

    sani

  6. Mohamed Thomson says:

    While I really admire what Amazon had acheived through applying the basic rules and principals for a positive customer experience, I find that their practices work very well for profit making and commercial organizations with a particular focus on sales and revenue growth, this model is harder to apply for non profit making organizations and especially in government organizations but this does not mean that we should give up on those, rather, continue the struggle for championing the customer cause.

  7. Wu Sherry says:

    I think that’s the customer feeling with Amazon’s service. But behind that, Amazon should have a sophisticate management system to support it. How they select millions of product from so many vendors, how they upload those product information onto their website yet make sure no mistake, how they make search easier, how they handle product deterioration, etc. Can we know that?

  8. Caroline says:

    Amazon really are amazing in this respect. I ordered headphone before Christmas but they never arrived. Last week I checked from the post office here and they said that had not seen them so I complained to Amazon who without any question sent me another lot of headphones (which arrived in 2 days) and apologised.

    I suspect that the package went missing somewhere in the postal service between, so this was not Amazon’s fault but I really liked that they thought about what was best for me as customer and did not start some huge investigation before sorting me out

  9. Richard Whiteley says:

    When opening my workshops on service quality I often ask the participants, “Who serves you best?” It is a rare session that Amazon is not one of the first companies mentioned. Ron has very nicely provided the reasons why.

  10. Rama Subramanyam says:

    I always like to go to shop to purchase any item. However Amazon has changed my perception about online purchase. I found out that purchase experience is much better on online. Now I am a regular customer to Amazon.

    Amazon has used the technology very well to ensure that customer gets better experience at each and every transaction point of the service cycle.

    The easy of purchase, reviews, options for delivery, providing alternatives products are all really amazing. The key points are user-friendly of application, speed of server and better price compared to regular shops.

    Amazon proved that better customer experience can be provided by using technology. Not only humans even machines can provide good service if designed.

  11. stacey_lester says:

    Amazon’s customer service is really good. It became better.

  12. hatebadservice@aol.com says:

    @stacey_lester
    That is total nonsense! I’ve spent literally HOURS on the phone with Amazon Customer service — they don’t listen, they talk over, they condescend, keep me on hold for 15 minutes or more, tell me they’ll do something and then don’t do it and don’t update me, they lie, and act as if they are the customer and I’m working for them. It’s customer torture, not customer service!



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