In honor of Cyber Monday, here’s a tribute to the best of the best when it comes to Customer Success and e-commerce. Even if you’re not in the e-commerce space, we can all learn something from Amazon’s top tier approach to serving their customers.
A Sample Customer Journey
Since very few of us are completely new customers to Amazon, let’s start in the middle of our customer journey to see how they meet and exceed their customer success efforts. I am a current customer who patronizes Amazon a few times each month for things such as free movies through my Amazon Prime membership, refills on vitamins and household goods, textbooks and gifts.
Last week I received three e-mails from Amazon. One was alerting me to features of my Amazon Prime membership that I wasn’t fully using (prime reading, unlimited music, audible channels, photo storage and free game content), and the other two were auto-confirmations of orders I had placed (a Spanish workbook for my daughter and an RFID-blocking billford for my brother-in-law for his birthday.) The two e-mails regarding orders included links to the order, the single click ability to track the orders, and reminders about other things I have ordered in the past that I may be interested in re-ordering at this time. I could see all of the necessary information for each of these e-mails on a single screen without having to scroll. Yesterday I received both orders well within the shipping range I agreed to when placing the orders. Upon further examination of the billfold, I have determined it’s not quite what I wanted, so I have placed a return request through the Amazon site, and now have a QR code in an e-mail that allows me to take the billfold to the local UPS store to return for a full refund without paying shipping charges. Next week I will likely re-order some vitamin supplements and send my college kids a care package through Amazon. I am a loyal customer.
Maintaining Loyalty through Customer Success
Customer Success is all about nurturing and maintaining loyal customers by knowing what delights them, and working proactively to assist them in reaching their goals, and Amazon is doing it right. Here are some areas of Customer Success that Amazon can teach the rest of us:
- Making their customers feel known. Amazon does personalization right. Through their advanced analytics, they are able to remind me which RFID-blocking wallets I looked at, so that when I go to exchange the one I ordered, I know my options. They are able to suggest alternatives (or augmentations) to my order, and even recognize when I am shopping for a gift. Do I want to shop for a backpack or “murse” to go along with the billfold? Creepy as it may feel at times, Amazon fulfills the roll of a personal shopper for me. Some people may not feel comfortable with this much “on-line intimacy”, but they’re also the ones who probably prefer brick-and-mortar shopping, too.
- Enabling their customers’ independence. Online shopping is for those who want the ability to shop whenever they are available, and to do so efficiently and expeditiously. Without any additional assistance, I was able to not just purchase what I wanted, but manage my return. I also had return options, which included getting an e-mail with a QR code in it that I was able to scan at the UPS store and just drop the package for return and nearly immediate refund.
- Exceeding their customers’ expectations. Have you ever wanted to reach Customer Service for Amazon? You can e-mail them, or chat on-line with a representative, but the coolest feature is that you can have THEM call YOU. You just enter your phone number and then your phone rings with a representative. I’ve also just recently learned that some companies will process your order through Amazon. That’s right – find something on another site, and then have Amazon process payment and fulfillment. In other words, even if Amazon doesn’t have what you’re looking for, they can handle the efficient fulfillment of your order.
- Knowing what their customer wants before they do. While Amazon hasn’t gotten to the point of shipping items they know you want before you actually order them, (they do have a patent for a method and system for anticipatory package shipping) they do seem to know my needs almost better than I do. Remember my e-mail confirmation of my daughter’s Spanish book? After the shipping information was a list of consumable items I’ve ordered in the past that I may want to re-order. And, let’s not forget the suggested selling that takes place while I’m shopping (items I may want to consider) and the reminders of items I’ve looked at without buying. The algorithms for this type of selling are proprietary and finely tuned such that we no longer consider it creepy, but expect it.
- Having a fast, efficient and reliable platform. When was the last time Amazon’s site was down? Or you couldn’t find what you were looking for? Personally, I have yet to experience either. The site did go down for about 30 minutes in 2013, costing the company about $66,000/minute. Other than that, it hasn’t happened on their end since. I’ve even had the experience of shopping for something on another site, and then wondering if I can find a better deal or closer to what I’m looking for on Amazon. They simply seem to have more of what I’m shopping for, and make it easier for me to find it, purchase it, and get it delivered in a timely fashion.
- Doing all of this without being too annoying. This is the real balancing act. Amazon doesn’t annoy me. I don’t get too many unwanted e-mails. They don’t send me any snail mail marketing. I know they’re there for me, but they don’t hound me. They’ve earned my loyalty by conducting their business well, keeping me aware of their presence through broad marketing, and exceeding my expectations.
Even if retail isn’t your game, we can all learn something about Customer Success and how to delight our customers from Amazon. In a way, it all boils down to knowing your customer, and helping them along their path to their goals – without driving them crazy in the process.