No less an authority than Eric Schmidt of Google has said ‘There are four horsemen of technology now: Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.’ In other words, Bezos has taken a company that started with online book sales and turned it into something dramatically more significant.
More from the gospel of Jeff: ‘There are two ways to build a successful company. One is to work very, very hard to convince customers to pay high margins. The other is to work very, very hard to be able to offer customers low margins. They both work. We’re firmly in the second camp.’ The first alternative means you have a smaller group of more affluent customers. The second requires building a very large customer base, and constantly defending that based on pricing and service. Which category is your business in?
Here’s another quote, that strikes as somewhat old-fashioned for someone as visionary as Jeff: ‘Our version of a perfect customer experience is one in which our customer doesn’t want to talk to us. Every time a customer contacts us, we see it as a defect. People should talk to their friends, not their merchants.’
It’s an interesting idea – but it looks a little less than credible when you discover that Amazon has nearly two million ‘likes’ on their Facebook page, and 154,000 followers on Twitter. Aren’t those both places where customers want to ‘talk to Amazon’? And there appears to be a ton of feedback from customers on the Amazon Facebook wall, too.
We would say that no matter which business model you’ve chosen: a) high margins and smaller customer base, or b) low margins and huge customer base – you still have to give people a voice. You have to let your evangelists have a say. That principle holds today no matter what you’re selling.
Perhaps Bezos was thinking about another time when people calling with problems represented an expense to be minimized. Today customers more often turn to Facebook and Twitter for customer service. And that’s why you have to be there to skillfully handle their requests, seven days a week.
Here’s something else we’re finding to be true on social media: Some brands are much better at posting and responding than others. Ultimately, that means they’re better at customer service. And if there are two places I can go to buy a product, but one has already treated me kindly, guess where I’m going to go?
Today’s black Friday, and on the Amazon Facebook page, there’s a surprisingly long string of complaints about problems with online checkout. We suspect that a number of those customers have already found another place to shop.