You don't get to be an enormous e-commerce empire without knowing how to please the people. Amazon customer service is incredibly adept at resolving buyer and seller disputes. But how do they do it? Today's post is a picture perfect snapshot of the best customer relations practices that helped Amazon rise to the top of the online sales heap. Follow these procedures to keep your customers smiling too!
Amazon customer service is a practice that starts from the top down. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos went out of his way at the company's inception to illustrate the importance of acknowledging the customer at any and every possible opportunity. He even went so far as to bring an empty chair into the room whenever he held meetings with top executives in the company.
He told them to think of the empty chair as the "customer's seat." The imposing force of empty space made Amazon's creative team consider the customer early on, and it's paid big dividends down the line. The conclusions they came to can be applied to the way you serve your customers today.
First things first, you have to acknowledge the customer, and whatever complaints they may bring to the table. Imagine how difficult it must be to deal with a company unwilling to even admit that a mistake was ever made. This first, basic, and immensely important step allows the customers to feel at ease, like you're on their side.
Often, many consumer complaints go unheard for nothing but the fear of the hassle that calling up to resolve an issue will cause. Extended holds, less-than-prompt correspondences and rude or inflexible customer service representatives have become an annoying reality to deal with in today's business environments.
Because this is the case, many dissatisfied customers never give a company a second chance at all. They just abandon ship without looking back. They hold a grudge and spread negative feedback about you and your brand — and you miss out on the chance to convert a one-time purchase into a loyal return buyer.
Amazon customer service handles all their complaints with velvet gloves. They address their customers by name (and introduce themselves as well), apologize for the inconvenience, and listen attentively to the issue at hand. Not only do they listen, they work hard to understand the nature of the complaint, and the distress the issue has caused the customer.
The ability to feel sympathetic, and the sincere drive to resolve a problem to a consumer's complete satisfaction is what sets Amazon customer service apart.
The reasons you work so hard at understanding customers at the beginning are two fold. First, you alleviate tension by being sympathetic to customer needs. Second, you make a plan of action based upon the most comprehensive data you can gather.
Once you've got a plan you put it into action — and the first step of any plan put into play by Amazon customer service representatives is to let the customer know what the plan is. Keeping the customer informed is, in fact, a staple of what sets Amazon apart from its competition.
Even when there are no troubles, Amazon sends confirmation emails after receiving orders, and almost immediately thereafter sends another email with tracking information. The customer is allowed to keep up with their incoming purchases throughout every step of the journey.
It would be wise for you to emulate these actions, by outlining the steps that you are planning to take in order to solve any consumer trouble. Give them a list of actions that you'll take, and ask them if the end result will satisfy their complaint. This last part is vitally important. If you aren't working toward customer satisfaction with your customer service, then you are in the wrong business.
One thing Amazon does very well is connect with its clientele. One of Amazon's latest offerings, the Kindle Fire HDX, comes with built-in tech support. This support is known as the "Mayday Button," one push and you're automatically connected with a real live human being designated to help you resolve any technical issues with your Kindle.
The customer-first mentality goes so far at Amazon, that these folks will actually help you with most any issue, if given the opportunity. To be clear though, I'm not recommending you go through the Mayday Button for anything other than technical issues.
The point is, Amazon goes out of its way. A lot. It went out of the way to give customers a face-to-face interaction with technical support. This humanizes the company and helps employees relate to customers. The fact that the employees go out of their way to solve an issue that's not strictly within their job description really speaks to the mentality the company must have.
Now before you start complaining that you don't have the staff or resources to offer 24-hour Skype calls for your customers, that's not what I'm suggesting. Instead, I recommend you copy that attitude. Do what you can, and do your best to do more than you're expected to whenever possible.
Though you can't meet every customer face to face when handling their complaints, you can write them personalized emails that respond to their concerns. You may not be able to offer a customer a full refund, for whatever reason, but maybe give them store credit in excess of the amount that they spent. If you go out of your way for customers, they will surely remember it, and reward it in kind. The basic human impulse of reciprocity demands that such politeness be treated with equal grace.
While Amazon customer service representatives make an effort to understand and communicate, they don't waste time. They let you know exactly what to expect and when to expect it, in terms of a resolution to your problem. Running the plan by the customer in a way that clearly covers their complaints, and lets them know exactly what to expect eliminates any room for misinterpretations.
Miscommunication leads to misunderstandings and unmet expectations lead to disapproval. In a world where a single customer can reach millions with a well-written and devastatingly scathing blog post, you can't afford a single hateful customer.
It can be hard to admit it when you're wrong, but in the world of customer service, there's seldom a day when you're doing everything right. The old maxim holds true: You can't please all the people all the time. So when mistakes inevitably happen, it's important to lay your ego aside and apologize.
An important example of this idea came, again, straight from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. When Amazon found out that it had been selling illegal copies of George Orwell's two seminal novels, "Animal Farm" and "1984," back in 2009, they decided to handle it in one of the most Orwellian fashions imaginable. They remotely deleted the books from their customer's Kindles.
Needless to say, it didn't go over well.
Bezos decided to respond by bearing the cross himself.
Plain as day for anyone to see, one of the biggest e-commerce magnates in the world figuratively threw himself on the mercy of the court of public opinion. People responded in kind.
Sincerity, self deprecation, and conciliation. There is no better recipe for a virtual group hug. Nobody likes to see an overtly awkward show of affection and supplication in real life, it's just too uncomfortable. You start cringing and grinning at the same time and pick the repentant itinerant off their knees and offer absolution. The online community is thankfully inured to the awkwardness involved, but they still recognize contrition when they see it.
So if you make an error, don't pass the blame onto your delivery service, or put it down to bad luck, just own up to your responsibilities and offer your customers a sincere apology. They deserve one, and will usually offer you their forgiveness pretty quickly.
Amazon.com is a powerful force in the world of online retail, and it got that way by adhering to a customer-centric philosophy. If you emulate such a philosophy in your own online business, you can be assured of a measure of success in the customer relations you build.
Do you have any customer service stories you'd like to share? Let us hear them in the comments.