Customer-Centricity with Amazon: An Interview with Bill Price, Former Global VP of Customer Service

Bill Price

Creating goodwill with the customer is a subtle art. As one of the first companies to create a tailored and authentic online shopping customer experience, Amazon is a master of this concept. Former and first Global VP of Customer Service, Bill Price, discusses with Call Center IQ the process of creating goodwill with the customer and what makes Amazon different from other online retailers.

What was it like to be a part of the creative process that allowed Amazon to create its specific online customer experience?

[It was] wild, like a roller coaster ride but with a steep slope; empowering, since all of us contributed to the success, from my customer service reps to the warehouse employees to Jeff Bezos himself, of course; exhausting, especially during the Holiday season when we emphasized customer experience while growing so incredibly fast; rewarding, to see the results.

There’s been a lot of buzz generated by Kindle. Do you see more companies digitizing books and print material?

Yes, I do. The key parts, all in Kindle are a) an engaging device; b) embedded, fast download; c) convenience; and d) portability–who really wants to cart around armloads of magazines or stacks of books?

Today creating relevant products is critical—marketing them well even more so. Part of this is leveraging customer feedback. What is an example of a successful data collection process that improved the product and the customer engagement around the product?

Amazon pioneered listening to the customer in so many ways that it was part of Jeff’s oft-mentioned, "Be Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company"listen to the customer and invent for the customer. For example: a) We created WOCAS, or "what our customers are saying" to deliver customer service rep-collected insights directly to department leaders; b) we developed the "bcc" program to send blind copies of e-mail messages (3x phone volumes) to those same leaders but also to anyone who wanted to subscribe via key words; and c) we examined closely all customer comments by product in our weekly meetings.

Do companies rely too much on data to improve their products and services?

They can certainly rely too much on obscure or irrelevant data and reports that no longer hold any meaning. It’s far more important to listen to what the customer is saying, asking and complaining about with as much verbatim as possible.

Amazon is known for the online tools used to create goodwill with the customer. How does the pursuit of creating a pleasant shopping experience factor into the business model and the Web site?

It’s absolutely critical to create a pleasant shopping experience. Jeff would exhort each of us to remember our best-ever shopping experience (most of them offline, of course, since Amazon was only then creating the online versions), and then encourage us to eclipse the sum total of those experiences as Amazon continued to evolve.

Bill Price was interviewed via podcast by Blake Landau, editor

Listen to the podcast with Bill Price.