3 Ways Amazon Has Raised the Bar on Customer Experience

When Jeff Bezos explains why Amazon has become one of the most successful companies on the planet, it’s not his own genius he touts or any innovative technology. It comes down to one basic principle: outstanding customer service. This is echoed in his brand promise: to become “Earth’s most customer-centric company.”

Its annual letter to shareholders highlights how its dedication to customers has not only played a huge role in Amazon’s meteoric rise, but has also transformed the retail game.

Not long ago, I was visiting my parents, and my mom happened to be shopping online. “This company wants me to pay for shipping,” she said, frustrated.

This is something you would have never heard 10 years ago. Back then, everyone expected to pay the infamous “shipping and handling” charges. Amazon realized customers were frustrated with navigating a complicated checkout process, paying for shipping, and waiting weeks for delivery, so it created Amazon One Click and Prime. Now, Amazon’s processes are considered the benchmark for online shopping. Its deliveries are faster than expected, and other online retailers are scrambling to keep up.

Amazon is also taking its customer-first strategy to other markets. Its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods has the company poised to conquer the grocery industry, and I predict that in the next five years, Amazon will consider buying the U.S. Postal Service, as it is already showing a desire to revolutionize shipping services (provocative tweets from Washington D.C. notwithstanding).

Customers across industries now expect an enhanced level of service thanks to Amazon. Here are three ways for your business to keep up.

1. Make doing business with you easy. Not long ago, I ordered batteries on Amazon that ended up being the wrong size. I jumped online to return them, and a customer support specialist immediately prompted me to "chat" in real time. I explained that I had purchased AA batteries when I needed AAA and was planning on exchanging them.

The employee told me to keep the ones I ordered and they would send me AAA batteries immediately—at no additional charge. Amazon realized that for the time and money it would take to process the return, restock the batteries, and resell them, it was easier and more cost-efficient to simply give me the batteries and turn me into a customer for life.

You might not be able to create this level of extreme ease in your own company, but you can remove a lot of friction. Make it easy to search your website, add items to your cart, and return them if necessary. Have customer support specialists ready to chat with customers who need help to make the experience as seamless as possible.

2. Anticipate where your customer is going. One of the coolest and most customer-centric functionalities of the Amazon experience is the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature.

I recently bought Ray Dalio's book Principles, and Amazon suggested I might also like a book by Tony Robbins. This made sense to me because I know Dalio and Robbins are friends, and the front cover of Principles has a testimonial blurb from Robbins. What didn’t make so much sense was that Amazon also recommended the OXO avocado slicer. But you know what, I actually bought the avocado slicer because, well, I needed an avocado slicer!

While this is arguably a little creepy that Amazon knew I needed this seemingly unrelated product, consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with creepy as long as brands are anticipating their needs and offering products they really want. And—surprise, surprise—I loved the avocado slicer almost as much as Dalio's book!

3. Let your customers explain their behavior. I regularly purchase items on Amazon that are meant to be given as gifts. In the past, after making these purchases, Amazon would add these product categories to my profile and begin recommending similar items. Needless to say, this filled my emails with promotions that weren't at all targeted to me.

Not too long ago, Amazon added the ability to tag any purchase as "being given as a gift"—even if I didn't use their gift wrapping/blind receipt service. This functionality allows me to provide detailed feedback to Amazon about my purchases, which makes sure future recommendations are on point.

To improve your service, think about your customers as much as Amazon thinks about its own customers. What causes them pain? What obstructs them at checkout? What might they need that they don't even realize they need? How can you make it easy for them to "explain" their behaviors and improve your understanding in the process? Find unique ways to answer these questions, and you’ll start to be like Amazon and create customer relationships that last a lifetime.

For over a decade, Joey Coleman has helped organizations retain their best customers and turn them into raving fans. He’s an award-winning speaker who has worked with companies ranging from small startups to major brands such as Whirlpool, NASA, and Zappos, and his First 100 Days® methodology helps fuel successful customer experience endeavors at companies and organizations around the world. His upcoming book, Never Lose a Customer Again (available this month), helps businesses learn how to turn any sale into a lifelong customer.

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