Examining Amazon.Com’s Relentless Customer Advocacy

Last week I attended the Arizona State University, Center for Services Leadership (CSL) Compete Through Service Symposium. It was an excellent event. I was impressed by what the CSL is doing to equip future customer service/experience leaders.

One of the speakers was Mike Gathright, Director Americas Customer Services at Amazon.com. He describe Amazon.com as “The Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company,” or just EMC3. It’s no accident that Amazon.com scores so consistently high in the Temkin Experience Ratings and Temkin Customer Service Ratings. The company works on it.

I really love one of the company’s tenets, Relentlessly advocate for customers. It sounds like something that all companies should strive to do.

Gathright explained that Amazon.com has three key priorities:

  • Empower your people
  • Listen to customers
  • Invent for customers

To deliver on those priorities, the company uses a number of internal quality processes including Kaizen (continuous improvement) and Genba walk (seeing and observing the actual process or activity).

One of the quality efforts that I really like is the use of an Andon Cord. This is a concept where any employee can identify a quality problem and halt manufacturing. The implementation at Amazon.com is that any phone agent can pull the Andon cord (not a real cord), which will remove the buy button from all of its sites, immediately stopping the sale of a product. This step kicks off a process for the product team to find and solve the root cause of the problem.

To get the Andon cord going, Amazon.com celebrates its use and analyzes the savings from avoiding quality issues with products sent to customers. The company also built a tool to help associates decide if the situation they are seeing warrants them pulling the Andon cord.

Gathright also discussed the notion of one-way doors and two-way doors in the context of innovation. One-way doors are changes that you can’t undo, while two-way doors are changes that can be undone if they don’t work. He said that Amazon.com goes big and bold through two-way doors.

The company taps into its employees with a Twitter-like tool internally to crowd-source ideas. Employees submit ideas and they get voted up or down based on the likes and dislikes from associates. Gathright also said that the company believes in “hiring the right people and getting out of their way.”

To measure the effectiveness of Amazon.com’s customer service, the company asks a simple question: “Did we solve your problem?” The answer to that question is the only key metric.

When asked about the trade-off between CX and bottom line results, Gathright explained that it’s not “either/or,” it’s more like “both/and.”

The bottom line: Amazon.com is purposeful about delivering great CX.

Written by 

I am an experience management transformist, helping organizations improve business results by engaging the hearts and minds of their customers, employees, and partners. My "job" is Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute. The Institute is still being established, but our goal is to help organizations around the world thrive by mastering Experience Management (XM). As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. Prior to joining Qualtrics, I was managing partner of Temkin Group (leading CX research, advisory, and training firm), co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), and a VP at Forrester Research. I'm a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Check out my LinkedIn profile: www.linkedin.com/in/brucetemkin

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