Amazon.com has built a reputation for customer service. In fact, the American Customer Satisfaction Index ranks Amazon the reigning customer service champ on the retail and e-commerce front. Amazon scores 85 on the ACSI Index, ahead of Nordstrom, Target and Kohl's, among others.
Yes, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has built a customer service-focused machine by looking at e-tailing through customer-colored glasses. Recognizing his success, Desk.com, a customer-service branch of CRM leader Salesforce.com, recently compiled a great collection of advice for service managers as well as C-suite execs, entitled, "7 Lessons You Can Learn from Jeff Bezos About Serving the Customer."
"Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos perhaps more than any business leader has taken the philosophy of truly caring for the customer and ushered it into the digital era," writes Kevin Baldacci on the Desk.com blog. "Bezos has built a company from the ground up purely based off of the unbending, unyielding philosophy of serving the customer across all departments. With 164 million Amazon customers, few would argue Bezos is the key architect of building an authentic, customer-centric company."
Listen To -- And Understand -- Your Customers
Bezos has said, "Everyone has to be able to work in a call center." Baldacci points out that Bezos asks thousands of Amazon managers to attend two days of call center training a year and he does the same himself. Baldacci writes, "It's easy to listen to customers. However the first step of every employee must be to understand [the customers] and their needs in order to successfully better the organization."
Meet Customer Needs
"We're not competitor obsessed," Bezos has said. "We start with what the customer needs and we work backward." Baldacci points to the Kindle tablet as a good example of that truth. He writes, "During the next evaluation of a product or service team, stop thinking about how you can make the product or organization better and start thinking about how you can make your customers more successful."
The Empty Chair Philosophy
"Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient," Bezos has said. Baldacci points out that in the early days of Amazon, the CEO used to set out an empty chair. He told his execs that they should pretend a customer occupied that seat and that they were "the most important person in the room." That allowed for the customer to stay top of mind.
Never Settle for 99 Percent
"We're not satisfied until it's 100 percent," Bezos has said in relation to Amazon hitting the goal of getting 99.9 percent of packages to customers before Christmas. Ninety-nine percent just wasn't good enough -- and it shouldn't be good enough for your team, either.
Respect Today's Customer
"If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends," Bezos has said. "If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000." Above all else, Baldacci writes, no matter how frustrated you may be with a customer who takes a complaint to the Internet, never fail to respond and always say thank you.
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," Bezos has said. That, Baldacci suggested, is the secret sauce to Amazon's success: Bezos' ability to create a customer-centric company.
"All of his departments throughout Amazon are completely data-driven based upon the success and failures of the customer experience," he writes. "It allows him 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 Say 'Sorry'
"We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission," Bezos has said. He has had to say sorry in the past and knows that he may again. And he's not afraid to do it.
"Apologizing is embarrassing and frustrating -- it's an open surrender that you screwed up once out of the thousands of positive contributions you have made to your customers," Baldacci writes. "However, a solid, heartfelt apology is true representation that your organization cares about the needs of the customer. That itself speaks louder than any multimillion-dollar advertising message."