Doing it the Amazon way: A customer success story | Blue Sky
Sean Spurgin - Director of Learning Design

Doing it the Amazon way: A customer success story

Happy Amazon Prime Day!

Held just once a year, Amazon Prime Day offers exclusive discounts to Amazon Prime members around the world.

Amazon Prime Day is a summer sales event purely on Amazon websites. This year’s event, on July 15th and 16th is set to be the biggest ever – a 48-hour extravaganza.

Look at it as their very own personal Black Friday where Amazon doesn’t even have to compete with other retailers for their share of the pie – and at a time of year which isn’t competing for the money that many consumers have put aside for Christmas.

Some might say it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Offered as a ‘thank you’ for its paying members, Amazon Prime Day is a ‘thank you’ that involves giving Amazon more money. We’re full of admiration.

 

What makes Amazon so amazing at Customer Service?

In our experience, working with sales and customer service operations across industries, from utilities to banking to business services, there’s always something to learn from Amazon and their focus on the customer.

And in a week where it has been announced that we’ll soon be able to ‘Ask Alexa’ for medical advice, it seems Amazon is the one to watch.

So, what makes Amazon such a valuable case study? Here are our key takeaways.

 

The big picture: A downward turn for UK customer satisfaction.

The Institute of Customer Service has just revealed the results of the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index. It makes interesting reading. UK Customer Satisfaction scores have slipped for the fourth year in a row, and the number of customers who cited an “organisation not keeping its promise or commitment” as a key cause of their problem is at an all-time high of 18%. We’re facing a crisis of trust.

Against this backdrop, each month, more than 197 million people around the world get on their devices and visit Amazon.com. That’s more than the entire population of Russia.

And in 2018, Amazon’s share of the US ecommerce market hit 49%. That’s 5% of all retail spent across the entire country. To put things in perspective, it is more than Amazon’s top three competitors combined, with eBay coming in at 6.6%, Apple at 3.9% and Walmart at 3.7%.

There’s no denying Amazon has driven standards across the globe, raised the bar and stretched our expectations of what great customer experience looks like. We’re looking at the new normal.

And yet. What if what we’re buying becomes a little more complex, or the need is little more ‘emotive’? Think of the burst water main, the unexpected bill, the emergency insurance claim. Imagine taking everything that Amazon has to offer and making it a little more… human.

Changing customer behaviour: 9 out of 10 consumers price-check a product on Amazon.

It’s clear, particularly in the fast-paced world of e-commerce, that what customers wanted 25 years ago is very different to what they want today. Just think about how different online shopping is now than it was when Amazon launched back in 1994!

Today’s customers are time-pressed, have more choice, power and knowledge than ever before. They exist in a digital universe where they can, at the click of a mouse, become an expert in your product or service before they ever make contact with you.

Word of mouth has been replaced by word of mouse (clever). In just a few clicks you can find out what’s in, what’s out, who’s hot, who’s not and get the download on pretty much anything.

And it’s exactly what we do: 77% of us now check Trip Advisor before booking a holiday and 9 out of 10 consumers price check a product on Amazon. (source)

Even after finding a product on a competitor’s website, 90% of people will head to Amazon and search for the same product. If consumers, especially those who are Amazon Prime members, can find the product they are looking for on Amazon, they are much more likely to make a purchase there than with other online retailers.

However, this also means that, although technically better informed, customers are potentially overwhelmed by an ocean of information. It can mean they need more, not less, from the person they interact with.

 

DX meets CX: Introducing Customer Obsession.

Continually top of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Amazon has made no secret of it’s laser-focus on customer needs.

As Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said in the 2018 Amazon annual report:

“There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most important. Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.”

You don’t need to be a global brand to succeed in this respect.

There is an increased desire and expectation for 24/7 online or on-device convenience (at scale), self-service, virtual assistants and AI and they will continue to trend upwards. When it comes to digital experience (DX) Amazon sets the standard.

You can see why some might say that ‘DX is the new CX’. You have to nail your digital offering if you have any chance to compete with the likes of Amazon.

With omni-channel access providing multiple points of contact from telephone to email, web chat and social media, your customers can also choose how they want to interact with you driven by their preference.

Forrester Research shows a growing preference for online self-service. However, it also shows that assisted channels still lead when it comes to satisfaction, with satisfaction ratings for phone at 69%, while web self-service trails behind at 58%.  AI has not yet cracked how to handle an angry customer facing a power cut on a boiling hot day, or someone spitting feathers because their outfit for their sister’s wedding did not arrive in time.

The human touch still has its place and customer experience (CX) is alive and kicking. Ignore it at your peril.

 

What does this mean for your business?

So what, I hear you cry! Isn’t that just how it is? Don’t we need to move with the times and head down the technology route? Well yes…and no. Technology (DX) and communication will continue to change exponentially, yet there will still ultimately be a person at the consumer end.

In a recent landmark study from Korn Ferry on the future of work, 67% of CEOs believe technology will create greater value in 2023 than people – yet economic data shows that human capital (people, skills, knowledge) is in fact worth 2.33x more. Upshot being? The organisations that are going to thrive over the next decade are the ones that understand and invest in making the most of their most precious resource.

At Blue Sky we feel passionately that the difference, the secret sauce, is to improve your digital offering AND make conversations feel easy and human, hand in hand.

Because we know the one thing that hasn’t changed in all this is the person; the undeniable need for the human element.

Think back to that memorable experience where all of your needs were met, you were listened to, it was easy and you had confidence in the person you were speaking to; in fact, you liked them. How do you feel about that brand?

We did a quick straw poll here at Blue Sky HQ on our own experiences of Amazon. Granted, it wasn’t a particularly scientific study, but the anecdotes seemed genuinely reflective of much of the qualitative feedback that Amazon receives.

Our view? That Amazon is overall ‘functional’ and ‘efficient’, yet at times ‘impersonal’. But what really stood out were the stories of an emotional connection:

Make it more human.

Dr Thomas de Zengotita, a media anthropologist and author of Mediated, believes that acknowledgement – our need for validation and empathy from others – is one of our most vital needs. All mammals want attention. Only human beings need acknowledgment, and this is fundamental to making us human.

The word human means so many things.  Every day we talk about the ‘human face’ of something, the risk of ‘human error’, it’s only ‘human nature’. The BBC recently did a radio feature around what makes us human which explored all sorts of ideas including beliefs, values, creativity, purpose, kindness, empathy and collaboration. When we talk about it in the sales and service context it means all of these things and more.

It’s in the way we think, the operational climate we create as leaders, the way we engage and inspire our teams as managers, the quality of conversations we have with our customers and how much we care about and want to do the right thing for them. It is the essence of what happens in the moment and everything that we do behind the scenes to make that moment successful.

In the past, regulators forced companies to ‘do the right thing’ for customers which has often led to the creation of rigid processes, set up in the best interest of the customer, but these processes have dehumanised the experience.

At Blue Sky, our experience of working with a hugely diverse range of organisations tell us that this is shifting; there is now a genuine intent to do the right thing and it feels as though we are all finally viewing the customer through the same lens. The time is right for a movement to make it human and we are calling on you to be a part of that movement.

What would ‘make it human’ for you? What about your partner, friend, colleague? How can we create a sales and service culture where that question is at the heart of everything we do from infrastructure, to culture, to skills and motivation?

Defining ‘human’ can feel a bit like nailing jelly to a wall because it is such an inherently subjective, personal thing, but if we really think about it, we all have stories of role models and mentors who have shaped our view and expectations of customer experience. It’s not about how a customer thinks or a process, it’s about how the customer feels.

A recent American Express Service study found that, “when 1,620 consumers were tested under laboratory conditions, 63% said they felt their heart rate increase when they thought about receiving great customer service. For 53% of those tested, receiving great service triggered the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved”.

It strikes me that this is the whole point; it is all about feeling. It’s the human connection.

 

Is your brand next? 3 steps to Customer Success.

Amazon offers a great template for getting the digital journey right, but you need to get both DX and CX journeys aligned. You can have the best digital offering ever, but if you have to break out and speak to a human, you expect a great human experience. Simple.

At Blue Sky, we look for those moments of brilliance in an organisation. We take time to forensically analyse where those ‘positive deviant behaviours’ (as we call them) come from, and we work with you to replicate them across your organisation.

Here’s what you need to do to make that happen:

Clarity: Craft the right story to create a clear, compelling sense of purpose for your organisation.

Think of Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s ‘customer obsession’. Create clear narratives that carry values and spread the behaviours you want to see. Understand how to make positive, persuasive storytelling an everyday behaviour. It isn’t easy, but it’s the most powerful performance tool you have.

Climate: Connect people to create the climate where people change can thrive.

No learning programme is an island, nor does change happen in isolation. By harnessing human instincts, you can enable an agile, creative, trust-based climate ready to handle anything the future might bring. Because that’s something no-one can control.

Conversation: Capture the behaviours that get results and spread them through great conversation.

Understand how to capture the performance of your over-achievers and replicate them across the organisation. That might mean aligning your DX and CX journeys so that they sit hand in hand. Spend time recognising what drives the right connection and it will transform your ability to get the right outcomes.

After all, you don’t have to be a global brand to achieve customer success.

Take a look at the Blue Sky Approach for more information.

 

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