Amazon Mayday - What it Means for Your Contact Center

Rethinking Communications

Amazon Mayday - What it Means for Your Contact Center

By Jon Arnold, Principal, J Arnold & Associates  |  January 10, 2014

With today’s technologies, customers are increasingly expecting a high level of personalized service, but most businesses simply don’t have enough resources to properly support that. And just when you thought expectations were high enough already, along comes Amazon’s Mayday button. The Mayday button allows customers to get a live connection to an agent for technical support in 15 seconds or less.

Nobody really likes calling for support, and more than anything else, customers want to get through this process in as little time as possible. Technology-based problems tend to cause a lot of anxiety, and the easiest way to dial this back is by answering their calls quickly. Since customers typically get put into a long queue with endless IVR prompts, by the time they get connected to a live agent, the stress of waiting can easily exacerbate the problem beyond its actual impact.

In this context, the Mayday button has obvious appeal. However, to clarify, it only applies to a fairly narrow problem set. The service is embedded with Amazon’s new Kindle tablet, so it’s hard-wired to be easy to use on that device – but nowhere else. They don’t currently offer it for other products or lines of business, and Mayday is only for technical support – not just any request for customer service. As such, don’t be misled to believe that Amazon now delivers customer service to any customer for any need within 15 seconds. Nobody can deliver that unless the objective is to build market share at all cost.

Amazon doesn’t need to do that, but instead, the company recognizes the long-term business value of getting customers to use their branded tablet instead of those made by other vendors. It has learned from Apple (News - Alert) and Samsung just how powerful endpoints can be in driving the demand for services and applications. As the book business continues migrating online, owning the customer at the endpoint level brings a lot of leverage for the long tail of Internet commerce that Amazon is so famous for pioneering.

While most businesses lack Amazon’s scale and efficiencies for managing a gigantic customer base from the cloud, these underlying principles can still apply. You may not need to deliver service in 15 seconds, and with a little bit of research, you can easily determine the optimal waiting time that applies to your customers. Once you know that, the trick is figuring out how to deliver the right service once contact has been made.

This sounds simplistic, but actually requires a lot of different technologies working together in new ways. More specifically, I’m talking about integrating customer service operations with business processes. In UC circles, we refer to this as BPA or CEBP – business process automation, or communications-enabled business processes.

Whatever acronym you use, the main idea is that many of the answers you need for providing great service are already in your midst. However, most businesses tend to function as a collection of silos where information is not readily shared or leveraged to enhance overall performance. Amazon truly excels here, especially in making use of data analytics, so don’t worry if you can’t live up to that level.

You should look to Mayday as an example of how you can raise the bar for customer service in a sustainable way. Running out to copy Amazon with a 15-second response promise will almost certainly fail, but what you can do is review your internal capabilities and follow best practices for ways to integrate them in ways that serve the needs of your customers. You can’t do this by keeping silos intact, so some cultural or political shifts might be necessary.

None of this will be easy, but it would be shortsighted to ignore Mayday because you don’t think that type of service could be supported by your company. Instead, you should view Mayday as an example of what’s possible when communications technology is tied to business processes in the name of customer satisfaction. It’s no secret that companies delivering superior customer service outperform those with average service, and if nothing else, Mayday is a wakeup call to say that service can always be better, and with the right technology and vision, it can be delivered in a cost-effective manner.


Jon Arnold (News - Alert) is principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and marketing consultancy with a focus on IP communications, and writes the Analyst 2.0 blog. Previously, he was the VoIP program leader at Frost & Sullivan.

Edited by Blaise McNamee
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