What is Service?

I ran across this article on CFO.com: “The True Meaning of Service”. Something really stood out to me. In the article,  Timothy Chou asserts Amazon is not in the business of sales, but in service. As someone who has had poor service interactions with Amazon, and read of the many people who have had bad to horrible experiences with Amazon’s “service department”, I was taken aback.

But what really struck me was the reasoning and evidence offered. It sums up to the fact that the shopping cart icon is small compared to the rest of the page.

No, seriously, that is the argument. See for yourself:

Now look at the Amazon.com website.  What Amazon is trying to do is deliver information that is personal and relevant.  People like you bought this book; they liked it; maybe you’ll like it, too.  Now look at the website and locate the transaction processing system.  It’s that little shopping cart in the upper-right hand corner.  It’s pretty hard to find.  What does that tell you about how important it is?  Yes, it has to be secure; it has to be available, and it has to work, but it’s really not that important because Amazon is about service, not sales.
[CFO.com][] (http://s.tt/1jWcl)

No, Mr. Chou. It is small because it is almost unnecessary. Every item has one or more significantly (though appropriately) sized buttons to add an item to the cart, and then you have the option of going to cart or continuing shopping. Amazon also has their famous “1-Click” route which means there is no need for the cart. The icon is small because it’s relevance is small, not because Amazon is “about service”.

The sad thing is, Mr Chou demonstrates a lack of understanding about service, as many CFOs (and other three letter titles starting with C) fail to understand. Service isn’t about making it easier to buy from you. It is about serving the customer. Whether that is providing information they ask for, or handling their complaints in a timely and personal manner.

If your customers want to buy from you because of the service they get, then you can begin to make a case you have a service oriented business. If you fly, look at the difference between Southwest and Delta. Delta reacts to late planes entirely differently than Southwest.

Delta tries to minimize your distaste of them when you have to stay overnight because you missed your connecting flight. Southwest tries to make the experience go away by holding planes when they can so people can make their connecting flights - or reroute you on the fly to see if they can either get you to your next connection or reroute to get to your destination as close to your original arrival time as possible. If they have to call the other terminal to hold a plane a few minutes to do that, they will.

As a result, people who have experienced it, prefer it. That is service. Southwest is in the service business. Delta is in the airline business. Just as Amazon is in the sales business, not the service business.

[CFO.com]: http://s.tt/1jWcl

Bill Anderson avatar
About Bill Anderson
Just your frendly neighborhood curmudgeon!