Amazon and Eventbrite: How to Build a Great Customer Service Organization
The world is full of great businesses and it’s not always easy to stand out in this vast crowd. But if you are looking to differentiate your business and to attract satisfied and happy customers, focus on great customer service is definitely the way to go.
Studies have consistently shown how companies with good customer service have customers that are more loyal and who are likely to bring in more customers to the company. This guide will look at the importance of customer service through two examples of successful companies: Amazon and Eventbrite.
In this article, you’ll learn about 1) the importance of customer service for your business, 2) a short introduction to Amazon and Eventbrite, and 3) what sets both customer service organizations apart from each other.
WHAT IS CUSTOMER SERVICE AND WHY IT MATTERS FOR BUSINESS?
When it comes to customer service, many people think they know what it is, even though they don’t have a clue. Customer service is a concept that is often mentioned, but never explained. This has led to many companies having a dedicated customer service department, but a horrible customer service culture.
The definition of customer service often describes it as a process, which ensures customer satisfaction with a specific product or service. It is a process that can take the form of a face-to-face interaction, a phone call, a self-service system and often in today’s world through e-mail, online chat or other such form.
Customer service is often the interaction the customer has with the company as they purchase the product or service. It often also manifests itself when things don’t go according to plan. Consumers contact customer service departments when things have gone wrong with the product or the service. But it is essential to understand that a company’s customer service should focus on all aspects of customer relations: the interaction before, during and after a purchase.
Customer service’s importance to business success is evident when you look at these following statistics:
- Harris Interactive conducted a study that showed 86% of customers stopped buying from a company simply because of a bad customer experience. More importantly, this has grown to the current levels from 59% just four years ago.
- American Express data show 59% of customers will try a new company in search of better customer service.
- NewVoice survey shows around half of customers increase their use of a company if they experience good customer service.
- Zendesk study highlights that nearly 95% of customers will share bad customer experience with other people, with nearly 45% of customers doing so on social media.
With good customer experience, a company is able to increase customer retention, attract more revenue, and build brand and trust in the wider community.
If you look at companies that are continuously ranked high in different customer service surveys, a few seem to constantly perform: Amazon and Eventbrite. These two major companies have been able to create a successful business, mainly because of their focus on customer service.
AMAZON AND EVENTBRITE IN NUMBERS
You’ve most likely come across both of these brands, as they have quickly grown to be among the top firms in the era of the technology business. Both companies have been able to achieve success and grow operations because of the relentless focus on customer service.
Amazon was founded in 1994 in Seattle, United States of America. It’s founder and current CEO, Jeff Bezos, wanted to get in on the Internet business boom and grow his business into a global company.
At the start, Amazon focused on selling books online, but its catalogue of online goods has continuously grown. Today, the company is the most valuable retailer in the United States in terms of market capitalization.
Eventbrite stepped into the business scene a little later, during the boom years of the online business in 2006. It was launched in the Silicon Valley by Kevin and Julia Hartz and Renaud Visage. The platform is all about providing customers with experiences, as it allows event organizers to plan, promote and sell tickets on its platform.
So, while Amazon is mainly about delivering products, Eventbrite focuses on providing a service. Nonetheless, customer service is essential for both.
Both companies are huge when it comes to their sales and serviced customers – yet they manage to score high on customer service surveys. If you look at Eventbrite, its total volume processed in 2014 stood at $1.5 billion, with 80 million tickets (free or paid) processed on the site. Amazon’s net sales stood at a staggering $89 billion in 2014. The retailer reportedly has around 244 million active users around the world!
Both companies haven’t put a lot of effort on marketing. They naturally have a marketing department, but the more important marketing tool for these companies is their customer. They know that 95% of customers share their bad customer experiences with other people and often do so on social media. Both companies rely on positive reviews from other users, which in turn make more people try their service.
Despite these huge customer and transaction numbers, both companies provide customer service around the clock for seven days a week. What is even more important is how the companies offer different routes for customer service. In recent years, customers contact preferences have changed and moved towards online service. Online-based customer service is important for both Amazon and Eventbrite and 30% of customer service engagements take place online these days.
In a recent ForesSee Experience Index report, the research company surveyed customers and how the customer experience impacts their purchasing decisions. The survey found the following to be true of satisfied customers:
- 75% of customers are likely to prefer the brand overall
- 83% of customers will purchase more from the brand
- 60% of customers will continue doing business with the brand
When the survey calculated Amazon’s customer satisfaction number, it found it to be 87 out of 100. Similar surveys have consistently shown the same level of satisfaction with Eventbrite customers.
WHAT SETS THE TWO CUSTOMER SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS APART FROM OTHERS?
The above shows that both companies have understood the importance of good customer service. They have been successful at creating a great customer service culture and the positive numbers show the results.
But how did Amazon and Eventbrite create this success story? When you look into the customer service culture in both of these companies, you can instantly see a few common denominators. If you want your business to emulate the success of Amazon and Eventbrite, the following seven characteristics are crucial for success. Both companies share these seven characteristics and they are the cornerstones of their successful customer service.
Customers first attitude
The first thing that defines a good customer service is the ‘customers first’ attitude. This is something that defines both Amazon and Eventbrite, and not just at the customer service level. The whole company operates with the notion that customers come first and it creates a customer service culture throughout the whole company.
At Amazon, this company-wide culture of customer service shows in a unique approach to employee management. CEO Jeff Bezos has created a system where each employee in the company needs to work two days every two years in customer service. Whether you are part of the finance team, a warehouse worker or even if you are mister Bezos himself, for two days every two years you’ll be serving in the customer service department.
The benefit of this approach is that every employee in the company will be reminded of the reason why the company exists in the first place: the customer. What Amazon has understood is that customers these days aren’t only important for the transaction value they bring to the company. Customers can also generate much more new revenue through recommendations.
In a 60 Minutes interview, Bezos said, “If you build a great experience, customers tell each other about that.” The more your customers view the business positively, the more likely they are to recommend other people shop with you as well.
Finding the right team to support customer service
But Eventbrite and Amazon have also understood the importance of the employee in the process. Customer service is among the toughest jobs in the world. You need compassion, enthusiasm and quick thinking even on days when you’d rather stay home and eat ice cream. There are no opportunities to ‘take it easy’ in customer service – every single customer should get quality service.
The problem with many businesses is that the growth of the company can often happen very quickly. When you need more staff urgently, it’s easy to relax your hiring standards and just get enough people to fill the roles.
Eventbrite is the best example of how you need to avoid falling into this thinking. The company’s VP for customer experience, Dana Kilian, knew that each new person that comes to work in the customer service has to fit the same qualifications.
You need to pay close attention to the hiring process and to find the best persons for the customer service roles. Employees in these companies are passionate about the work they do, they are quick thinkers and eternal problem solvers, they are compassionate and they want to help other people.
Knowledge and passion about the service/product
Once you have a good team of people around you, you need to ensure your customer service representatives have the right knowledge and attitude towards the product or service you’re selling. It is crucial to ensure your employees understand and love the product or service your business sells. This can guarantee customer problems are solved efficiently.
At Eventbrite, the customer service team is heavily involved with continuous training. The company organizes a weekly “master’s training” event, which focuses on both soft skill and hard skills. The events can be about new products, feedback from customers as well as better understanding of technology.
The customer service team should be well prepared for whatever the customer might throw at them. It is important to focus on a thorough understanding of the product. You want to make your employees excited about the product and service, so they can help the customer feel as passionate about it as well.
Personalized customer service
The reason a lot of customer service is bad is down to lack of personalization. Too often these days customers receive a generic e-mail response or have to talk to a machine. Even if they finally are able to discuss the problem with an actual customer service representative, the responses sound read out from a machine.
Eventbrite’s customer service personnel don’t have a set script on what to say and how. According to Kilian,
the company only has “basic tenets that we make sure everyone is familiar with and that reflect the quality of service we want to provide, but the rest is really up to them (the customer service representatives).”
At Amazon and Eventbrite, personalized customer service is at the forefront. At Amazon, the customer service department allows you to pick the time of day you like to be contacted – this immediately guarantees the customer a more relaxed experience.
Furthermore, Amazon is very good at gathering customer data to improve on service quality. This shouldn’t just be part of the customer’s purchase history in defining sales, but also an aspect of customer service. You can improve the customer service experience, if your employees are aware of the customer’s previous experiences and issues.
Convenience and flexibility to customers
Today’s customer service is swiftly moving from traditional methods, such as phone conversations, to online customer service, such as chat options or email services. This shift has been understood well by both Amazon and Eventbrite. These companies have understood that customer service isn’t just about solving the problem; it is also about providing convenience and flexibility to customers.
As mentioned earlier, Amazon allows customers to pick the appropriate time for the contact through online forms. It is also possible to discuss the issues with a customer service representative online. It is crucial to provide this flexibility to customers – to allow them to make the decision on how they want to contact your business and solve their problem.
Furthermore, both companies have taken into the self-service culture. Customers don’t always want to talk to someone in order to solve a problem. A good FAQ page or tools to fix the most common problems by themselves are often the preferred routes customers would take.
A proactive rather than reactive customer service
Amazon and Eventbrite have managed to create ‘a customer first’ service culture, which means that customer service isn’t just a department that deals with problems when they arise, but rather at the forefront of everything the company does. This means that solving problems, responding to customer queries becomes a proactive activity rather than a reactive engagement.
Amazon tries to make the customer experience as problem free as possible. They have paid a lot of attention on simple things such as ordering, packaging, and delivery. By focusing on these issues, customers enjoy convenience and the amount of problems that arise can be limited. Instead of responding to issues after they become a problem, both companies try to learn from their customer behavior all the time and improve the service.
This means that certain metrics are important, as is a strong feedback culture. Focusing on these doesn’t just allow these two big companies to improve their customer service, but also gives them more tools to fix their service and product. Naturally, this will enhance the overall customer experience and end up bringing in more revenue.
As Kilian said in an interview, “You want to be able to illustrate where points of friction are in the product by showing how many calls you’ve received about each issue. If you’re at a cash-constrained company, you want to make it clear how much a bug or an absent feature is costing the company quantitatively.”
Building trust with the community and the customers
Finally, these companies have understood the importance of building trust. You want to create a company and a brand that immediately makes people feel trust and respect – as mentioned earlier, this will help grow the business further.
In his 60 Minutes interview Bezos pointed out how customer trust in the long term is much more important that short term gains. He said how it would be financially more viable to increase prices at Amazon, for example, but how this move “would erode trust. And that erosion of trust would cost us much more in the long term.”
In order to achieve this trust, the company’s customer service plays the key role. If customers know their problems will be listened to and solved, they will start trusting the brand as well. Therefore, getting the above points working in the business are crucial for ensuring this final characteristic falls into place as well.
Furthermore, Eventbrite’s example shows that it isn’t only about creating trust with the customers, but also the team. If you can build a team of employees that trust the business, trust their positions and who feel comfortable in their positions, you will create better customer service.
Dana Kilian summed up the importance of trust perfectly in her Inc. interview. She said,
“I really think it’s important to hire the very best people you can, invest in them with leadership and training and then trust that they’re going to do a good job and empower them to do it.”
The above has hopefully shown how successful both Amazon and Eventbrite have been in putting customers first. These companies haven’t done great customer service at the expense of losing out on business – in fact, part of their business and financial success has been all about creating a good customer service experience.
While you can’t ever replicate the business success just by copying another company’s strategy, you should learn about the right models successful businesses have used to get where they are today. If you want to build a great customer service culture in your organization, the above methods and characteristics are a great starting point for your journey.