The Amazon Playbook for Speed and Agility


Share on LinkedIn

It’s no secret Amazon is a customer-obsessed organization.

What’s fascinating to me is how they achieve this obsession. Former Amazon executive, John Rossman, shared some of the company’s secrets in a keynote address at ICMI’s Contact Center Demo and Conference last week.

His presentation shared insights from his book, The Amazon Way, which highlights 14 leadership principles Amazon follows to drive its legendary customer service. Rossman called this Amazon’s playbook for speed and agility.

Here are a few take-aways that really stood out for me.

Photo credit: Jeff Toister

Customer Obsession is #1

Rossman made an interesting distinction between a company that is merely customer-focused and an organization that is customer obsessed.

He compared employees in customer-obsessed organizations to college football fans for their insane levels of devotion and enthusiasm. This obsession goes beyond a superficial acknowledgement that service is important. According to Rossman, you must “be willing to do really hard things over a long period of time. 

This really resonated with me. A long-term commitment to continuously improving the service culture was a common trait of leaders I interviewed for The Service Culture Handbook.

One example Rossman gave was the empty chair. He described how Amazon leaders often leave a chair empty during meeting, so the chair can be figuratively occupied by the customer. 

It’s a reminder to never lose focus on what is most important.

Reduce Friction

Rossman described how Amazon is constantly looking for ways to make things easier for customers.

One opportunity is internet connected devices. These are rapidly changing how consumers purchase common household items such as groceries.

For example, the company introduced the Dash Wand in 2014. It was a small device that customers could use to order groceries from Amazon by scanning the barcodes of products or saying the name of the product into the device.

A year later, Amazon introduced the Dash Button, which allows customers to re-order specific items like laundry detergent with a single push of a button.

Buying groceries online has been around in some form for about 20 years. Amazon is just making it easier.

Invent and Simplify

This is closely linked to reducing friction. Rossman described how Amazon often takes aim at the worst part of of a customer experience and tries to simplify it. He said, “Making things simple is as important and hard as inventing.”

A great example of this is Amazon Go

Most consumers would agree that the checkout line is worst part of grocery shopping in a traditional supermarket. Grocers have studied different ways to make lines go faster, such as self-checkout stations, 15 items or less express lanes, and cross-training employees to serve as back-up cashiers as needed.

Amazon took another approach and simplified the process. The company has invented technology that allows customers to skip the line altogether.

This same philosophy guides the company’s internal operations. 

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to tour an Amazon fulfillment center where I was able to see first-hand how Amazon gets orders out the door so quickly and accurately. There were several things the company does differently than the typical fulfillment center that in hindsight make perfect sense.

Amazon’s Service Philosophy

Rossman explained that “most customer interactions are the result of either a defect or an error.”

So the culmination of Amazon’s customer obsession, quest to reduce friction, and invent and simplify philosophy centered around avoiding contacts in the first place.

If you think about it, that’s really how Amazon has cemented its reputation for outstanding customer service. You don’t hear tales of Amazon employees going above and beyond like you might with some other companies.

What you experience is the ability to quickly order a product with minimal effort and have it delivered within days or even hours.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here