Last year, Amazon.com accounted for app. 60% of the E-commerce growth in the US. Here, the Big Data technology helps to realize improvements in cost reduction and secure a sustained annual increase in sales. This company surely knows how to sell well, so how customer-obsessed is Amazon.com seen from a customer point of view?
To find out we should start by understanding the difference between the Promote & Sell mindset and the customer-oriented Listen & Learn mindset. Managers with a Promote & Sell mindset may announce in public that customer is king’, but in fact they are driven by the ‘cash is king’ mentality, just like Zig Ziglar, one of the most famous salesmen, was quoted for:
“Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the ‘gotta have it’ scale”!
So it is perfectly ok to use Big Data to push sales and reduce costs. Big Data technologies enable sales focused organizations to collect and visualize sales data in real time, including live data feeds, which improves sales managers’ tactical room for maneuvering without necessarily having to understand the reasons for such changes. Big Data enables you to monitor what, when, and where customers buy and how they behave, both online and in stores. For instance, Amazon’s algorithms that monitor which books people buy and recommend is better, less expensive, and much faster to present relevant books to readers than Amazon’s initial expert team of reviewers was able to.
Does this mean that Promote & Sell managers don’t gather data about their customers? They surely do, but the question is how they do it and how they use it. Gathering observation-based data on customer behavior is not the same as listening to customers’ opinions or meeting customers’ needs. Let’s share our personal customer experience as first-time sellers on Amazon to illustrate some of the challenges of digitalized “customer service” that could be more customer obsessed:
Amazon.com serves as intermediary between traditional businesses (with something to offer) and consumers, so for a B2B customer, who wants to sell through a customer obsessed company is should be easy to get a sale up and running on Amazon.
It took us 3 weeks to get the book into Amazon’s UK inventory due to missing information on its site about labeling requirements and red tape in general in the internal Amazon system. So far so good!
To get the book sold through Amazon.com. was crazy: Two fairly intelligent people spent hours in the attempt to set up the sales online, which turned out to be ‘mission impossible’. The information provided on Amazon’s home page was far from sufficient – only standard guidelines were provided, and there was no chance to get hold of a person that would listen to our concerns and needs. We looked everywhere for a customer service line, but no such life raft was offered. We found the Amazon seller forum, but its suggestions were hilarious. For example, we asked why the book was displayed as ‘currently unavailable’ after we finally had found a way into the inventory, and how to activate the sales. The answer was “because you are not selling any books and because the title sucks! Fire the person who gave it that title.”
Not much help, so we started a customer service phone number quest. We managed to find a number, but only to be sent around in a maze of polite voices that several times requested the same information from us just to pass us onto the next polite voice “thank you for your patience.” “We hope you found our service satisfying.” Basically, we managed to escape the online maze and get the book displayed as available by systematically ticking the various boxes in a ‘trial-and-error manner’. We learned a lot about its automated logistics office (seller central), but we doubt whether Amazon learned anything from us. How Amazon work backwards is still a mystery to us. Our story illustrates the effectuation of Amazon’s Promote & Sell mindset with no opportunity to Listen & Learn from their customer experience. Data tracking of the hours and clicks spent on searching on its seller central combined with the ‘service’ provided by Amazon staff could give some valuable insights into B2B customers experience and unfulfilled needs. Amazon, we hope you are listening…