Sunday, June 24, 2012

Amazon-Like Customer Service

Amazon is known not for its books, nor for its now thousands of electronics, furniture, clothing, and the other 20 million products it sells, but for its extraordinary obsession with providing great customer service. This obsession was instilled into the company at its earliest phase.

Every employee knows that customer service is the top priority at Amazon because CEO Jeff Bezos makes sure that they know. At every meeting of his top executives, Bezos places an empty chair at the table and explains that the chair is for the customer. If he is sitting in that chair, what would that customer want to tell us. Bezos has been bringing in the empty chair sense he started the company in 1995. The company now has over 56,000 employees and all of them come second, which is unusual in today's world of free Google and Mircrosoft meals, haircuts, and babysitting. Amazon provides cheap furniture for employees in order to spend more on efficient customer service.

While there is a direct correlation between how employees are treated and how customer service is perceived, these four customer services nuggets can still be applied to your business.

1.) Obsess over customers- Use the empty chair example or even bring customers into your employee meetings for constructive feedback, but do whatever it takes to create a culture of extreme addiction to great customer service.

2.) Use customers to define what they want or need- Don't rely on in-house engineers or creative employee experiments to determine what your company will provide for customers. Listen--- really listen to your customer's needs and wants. They will tell you if you'll only listen.

3.) Put every team member on the phone- This is a good practice to implement periodically. Your salespeople, your COO, CFO, and top team leaders need to be in your call center or receptionist desk to here what your customers are saying; to feel what your customers are feeling. This is also a good exercise to discover what those employees that normally do this work are experiencing.

4.) Commit to spending 70% of your day on customer service issues- This is not what normally happens. Most business leaders spend 30% of their time on customer service thinking that their time is more valuable in other areas. If a business leader were to take just the next 90 days spending 70% of their day on customer service issues--- improving response time, correcting billing issues, making on-site employees more presentable-- as well as preventing future customer service issues, they will see a dramatic increase in repeat business as well as positive word-of-mouth marketing.

Be like Bezos and go crazy over customer service!

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