What Would Amazon Do?

Last week, my son ordered something from Amazon and was expecting two-day shipping; but when he looked at the receipt, the shipping date given was about three weeks from now. He called customer service and to his surprise, a live person answered. When he explained the situation, she said, “Well, we can change that to one-day shipping at no extra charge. Would that be okay?” Obviously, he was very impressed! The next day, as promised, the order arrived.

Compare that to an experience I had at a national chain restaurant just a few weeks ago. I met a friend for breakfast and ordered two eggs over easy and three strips of bacon. In a moment, the server came back and said, “Our computer says that you can have four strips of bacon or two strips, but not three.” Well, you know what they say, “The customer isno, make that THE COMPUTERis always right!”

I can’t help but wonder, “What would Amazon do?” Somehow, I just doubt that Amazon would say, “The computer says…”

My question for you is: “Does the customer service in your organization look more like Amazon or the breakfast-monitoring computer?” One represents a “knock your socks off” experience. The other is uninspiring and forgettable. One fosters irrational loyalty. The other elicits indifference.

In working with local governments, I am often extremely impressed with how hard many cities work at customer service. Certainly there are exceptions and there are breakdowns, but I think most cities value giving great customer service. Taking customer service to the “Amazon” level may not be possible for your organization, but to move it in that direction, here are some things that must permeate your culture.

  1. Pursuit of Excellence.
    Some might say that the key word is “pursuit,” but I would suggest that the key word is “excellence.” You will pursue what you are focused on, so as a leader, you have to constantly remind your team to pursue excellencenot settle for mediocrity.
  2. Employees Empowered to Use Judgment.
    Our society doesn’t really like the word judgment. No one wants to appear “judgmental.” However, you cannot write enough policies to cover every single situation. Employees have to be empowered and trusted to use good judgment. The difference between average and great customer service is always going to be a matter of good judgment.
  3. The Golden Rule.
    One of the mottos at SGR is: always protect the relationship. That governs both external and internal relationships. We all have situations that are beyond our control, but if you simply try to treat others the way you would want to be treated, it has a way of lifting customer service to the level of excellence.

Incidentally, given the parameters that the computer dictated about my breakfast, I decided to practice the golden rule. I ordered 4 strips of bacon, and gave two of them to my friend. Not surprisingly, he wants to meet at the same place next time!

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Chief Operations Officer, Strategic Government Resources

2 responses

  1. Wisdom, and bacon. What more could you want?

    Every employee works within structures, conditions that are hardwired and not easily adjusted. It may be a law, or a policy, or a computer that can only order bacon in even numbers. A mark of a great employee is being able to make those fixed conditions work for the customer. Leaders must empower employees to use them for the customer’s benefit. When the customer feels the business is on their side, that earns their loyalty, and repeat business.

    1. Wisdom and bacon do seem like the perfect package. HAHA!

      Great insight, Joseph. Customer service does require flexibility. And employees need to be empowered to make those types of decisions.

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