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05 - 08 October, 2020 | Amsterdam

What can we learn from Amazon’s 3,000 vacancy customer service hiring spree?

On the 4th of March, e-commerce giant Amazon announced their plans to hire 3,000 remote workers in 18 US states. The job listing for customer service associates shows that the company is seeking thousands of individuals to fill a part-time work-from-home role that will consist an average of 20-29 hours per week, “with the expectations to work up to 60 hours a week if there is a customer need". As the world’s most successful companies, it is no reach to say that much can be learnt from its approach to business and customer service. Below, we explore what Amazon’s move to create these opportunities can tell us about customer service in 2019

1. Customer Obsession is Key

Those familiar with Amazon’s work culture will be aware it’s 14 Leadership Principles. Ranging from ‘insisting on the highest standards’ to being ‘vocally self critical’, each of Amazon’s 600,000 existing employees, and the business as a whole, is encouraged to think as leaders do by executing these principles throughout their work. The first and most emphasised of these principles is ‘customer obsession’, summarised in its description as an understanding that:

“Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

Breaking this principle down into its components, the mass hire of a role that undoubtedly has the greatest interaction with Amazon’s end-customer implies that, despite the company’s success, the need to obsess with the customer is ongoing:

Start with the customer and work backwards

This is a reference to a belief at Amazon that by identifying a customer need you can build the right solution, which is always better than trying to tout an existing product/solution upon a market that doesn’t always necessarily know what it should be looking for. The insight and data gathered by those within the customer service function can prove critical in providing those throughout the business with a clear understanding of how they can cater to their audience and innovate new offerings. 

Earn and keep customer trust

Customers must believe that the business they are patrons to is legitimate in its offering, especially if the desire if for them to return in the future. Trust, in Amazon’s case is gained by adhering to its mission statement as seeking to be ‘the earth’s most customer-centric company’. This of course requires the delivery of an unbeatable standard of customer service and introducing a high influx of employees to provide this specific this function will likely allow the company to deliver on this promise.

Customers > Competitors

While “customer success” has always been a business buzzterm, but it is becoming more so as businesses realise  its necessity in an increasingly saturated environment. This means doing essentially everything possible as a business to ensure your customers are successful in their endeavours with your products. Amazon achieves this by focus on them to the point of obsession, eliminating time or need to focus on their competitors because doing so allows them to capture and retain their customers by giving them what they need. A boost in customer service personnel will only make this more easier to act on.


2. The Future is Flexible

As indicated in the job description, Amazon’s 3,000 customer service associates are expected to work remotely from home. Perhaps this is simply due to a lack of space in the existing facilities, however we can also tie this to the increasing trend in flexible working. More and more companies are recognising the proven advantages of providing employees with the ability to work outside of the office. From a reduction in employee stress levels to an increase in morale, productivity and efficiency, the customer service function has much to gain from non-traditional working arrangements. 


3. Customer Contact Still Demands a Human Touch

This is the last, but possibly most telling takeaway from Amazon’s hiring announcement. Over the past few years there has been a surge in the conversation surrounding the introduction of technology to meet businesses’ customer service needs. Developments in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are making digital solutions such as chat bots more and more capable of providing a humanistic level of service to customers, and Amazon has been big adopters of this technology. But, with the on boarding of 3,000 employees despite the existence of this technology, we can see that there is still an ongoing place for the inimitable emotional and cognitive abilities of the human workforce.