8 Ways Amazon's Customer Service Beats the Competition
Named America’s most trusted company by a 2014 Harris Poll, Amazon continually reinvests its profits to improve communication with customers, speed up service, and find innovative delivery methods. By focusing on long-term growth over immediate profitability, Amazon has gained an extremely loyal customer base.
Here are eight ways the U.S. eCommerce giant puts service first:
1. Non-Stop Support
Amazon's customer service is everywhere. From an easy on-site customer service center, to chat rooms, blogs, and threads, the company comes to you. I've even found a CS representative on Reddit, solving problems and answering questions about early access codes for videogames. Amazon's team has the freedom to actively solve problems, not just redirect the customer.
2. Coming to a City Near You
Amazon has 78 fulfillment locations in 19 U.S. states and two provinces of Canada. The company has spent almost $14 billion on fulfillment services this decade alone. Amazon is often criticized for its low profitability, but its investments are in infrastructure that positions the company for future growth. While that money could've been easily saved, along with maintenance costs, hiring, renting, and inventory with a few centralized warehouses, nothing can compare to the lightning fast service. The vast number of fulfillment centers allows Amazon to provide faster and cheaper delivery – two huge perks for customers.
3. Flying Delivery Robots
Unless you've been living under an Internet-free rock, you've heard about Amazon's potential drone delivery service. Dubbed Prime Air, the fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles would air drop packages within 30 minutes of a customer order. Many have speculated that this announcement just before Black Friday was nothing more than a publicity stunt. Whether or not it comes to fruition or crashes and burns (not literally I hope), it has gotten customers talking about the company's futuristic ideas, advanced services and its all-around cool factor.
4. Intense Personalization
You know those emails you get that say, "Hey, Mary, look at these products!” That’s kids' stuff. Amazon is constantly perfecting a genuinely tailored shopping experience with relevant and interesting products directed to each individual. This includes personalized emails, site zones, and shipping items closer to you before you order them. That's right. Products that are viewed more frequently and for longer periods of time are sometimes preemptively shipped to warehouses closer to your location so if and when you order, they’ll get to you that much faster.
5. Easy Reordering
One-Click orders and reorders take the hassle out of getting essentials. And for items that are often ordered repeatedly (diapers, toiletries, foodstuff) Amazon lets you subscribe for a discounted price. Combining this with One-Click ordering makes the process a positive experience for retailers and customers.
6. Lenient Returns Policy
Amazon's lax return policy means customers don't have to worry about being a little too fast and loose with the One-Click shopping. Amazon makes sure items purchased from them are accepted within 30 days of receipt. On a personal note, I once ordered a product, submitted the return form, and was informed by Amazon that I would receive the refund but returning the product wasn’t necessary. And in disputes between the customer and other merchants, Amazon's willingness to put the customer first has been largely responsible for creating the most trusted brand in the country.
7. Encourages (Controlled) Competition
Customers at Amazon can either purchase an Amazon-fulfilled product or choose from another retailer who stocks it. Amazon also allows merchants to sell goods as "new" which is a rarity on selling platforms. While it’s big of the powerhouse to give competitors a shot, the company puts a lot of pressure on them to offer quality products as well as stellar service. If they don't maintain their ratings level, which is largely a reflection of their service, they can be kicked off the site. The “buy box” algorithm uses total landed price (item plus shipping), fulfillment by Amazon, company rating, and shipping time to control a user's experience.
8. Always Learning
In 2009 Amazon purchased the online shoe retailer Zappos. Admired for their stellar customer service (including a 365 day return policy), the brand clearly shared values with its new parent. But while Amazon could have enforced its own policies and regulations on the smaller company, it didn't. It allowed Zappos to continue building its brand. And what's more, Amazon adopted one of Zappos' policies. Starting this year, it offers from $2000 to $5000 to any employee who wants to quit, maintaining a dedicated staff that truly wants to be part of the team. Amazon's merge with the smaller, innovative company shows that the eCommerce giant still believes there is always more to learn.
While there is definitely a method to Amazon's madness, it is one that takes time, staff, and money to pull off. Though many of these actions aren't feasible for a small or mid-size business, they do illustrate the importance of customer service. Amazon's investment has given it a good lead on competitors, and has unsurprisingly attracted hundreds of millions of loyal shoppers along the way.
David Rekuc is marketing director at Ripen eCommerce, a full-service digital agency that specializes in delivering custom eCommerce solutions. Rekuc has contributed to the Moz blog, Entrepreneur, Internet Retailer, and MarketingLand.com, among others. For more information, visit www.ripenecommerce.com.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.