As long-time readers know, I am a fierce advocate of studying what others do and then "stealing smart."
The true Internet pioneer—the guy absolutely worth stealing from—is Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. I became a customer early in the game and discovered s-m-o-o-t-h customer service. Or what I call CRM—customer relationship magic.
Bezos makes it easy to find products, makes it easy to order and treats customers as though we are gold (which we are!). When I first ordered a book from Amazon.com, I got an instant acknowledgment of the order. Soon after, Bezos would send me a disposition message—either the thing had been shipped (and here's how to track it) or there was an expected shipping date if it was not in stock and on order.
Back in 1997, Bezos introduced 1-Click order. See a book you like, click once and it's on its way to you. Wow!
However, this idea is not for stealing. On Sept. 28, 1999, Amazon.com received a business method patent for 1-Click; whereupon, it sued BarnesandNoble.com for patent infringement for its "Express Lane" one-click system. The courts upheld Bezos' claim on Dec. 13 of that year, totally screwing B&N out of a lot of Christmas business.
The 1-Click order system also set the table for Bezos' e-reader, the Kindle. I bought an early model and I love it!
In the June 18, 2009, issue of my Business Common Sense e-newsletter, I wrote up my experience as a Kindle owner and called Bezos the most important figure in book publishing since Gutenberg. I'll stand by that assessment. The rest—Nook, iPad, Sony Reader and others—are all knock-offs. "Imitation is the sincerest form of collective stupidity," said my late friend Bill Munro.
My Kindle Misbehaves
In June of this year I ordered "The First Tycoon," a biography of the great transportation gazillionaire, Commodore Vanderbilt. Without warning, my treasured Kindle went on the fritz. I would be reading along when suddenly the text would disappear and I would find myself in the contents page. This happened repeatedly. After resetting the system, this still occurred, so I contacted Amazon.com and discovered an incredible customer support system: the instant call-back.
Normally I am a "see guy" rather than a "hear guy," and like to resolve situations via e-mail vs. the phone. However Amazon.com was not responsive to e-mails.
Take a look at an Amazon.com support screen (part of one is shown in the mediaplayer at right). I indicated my problem, typed in my phone number and clicked on "When to call." The choices: "Now" or "In five minutes." I left "now" and clicked on "Call me." The phone rang. I picked it up and a recorded voice announced Amazon.com was calling.
In seconds a live rep came on the line and I told him what the problem was and that I wanted to send the Kindle back to Amazon so an expert there could fix it. Instead, over three additional phone calls (with two additional reps) we talked the situation through. I deleted "The First Tycoon" and the rep sent me a new copy, and (so far) my Kindle is working fine. The book file was corrupted, not my Kindle.
The instant phone-back system, known as click-to-call, is dazzling. OK, some of the reps had foreign accents and I had to get them to repeat themselves. But the problem was solved.
The "wow factor" of Jeff Bezos is right up there with Steve Jobs' iPad, IMHO.
Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter, and author of the e-mail newsletter, Denny Hatch's Business Common Sense. Visit him at www.businesscommonsense.com or www.dennyhatch.com, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.