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Why Amazon Needs Strategic Change Management

Posted Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

I recently ordered an e-book from Amazon, but did not receive it. So I called their Customer Service team to resolve the situation. After chatting with nine employees and while waiting to speak with a supervisor, the call was terminated. No e-book, no resolution, no refund, no apology, some profanity.

The inescapable conclusion from this customer experience is Amazon needs change management.Change with Darwin

Not project-based change management, where they upgrade some systems and tweak some business processes, but strategic change management. They need to become customer-centric, not Amazon-centric. It is clear Amazon’s technology supports a responsive conversation with customers. It is equally apparent their platform facilitates quick transfers between departments and allows staff to gain context by tracking conversations with customers. Where the whole system breaks down, however, is Amazon’s approach to customer service.

It should be the job of the first person you speak with, let’s call him Arun, to listen carefully to the customer’s inquiry. Once Arun fully understands the customer’s issue, he is able to troubleshoot the problem and find the exact resource needed to resolve it. Instead of being eager to pass customers along, Arun takes the time to listen, diagnose and canvas his team (if necessary) to find the right answer and apply this knowledge to resolve the customer’s inquiry. Such customer-centric models exist – zappos.com and Southwest Airlines for example – creating loyal customers, profitable companies and highly engaged employees. Arun might even favour such change and champion a workplace culture focused on increasing employee autonomy and customer satisfaction. Focusing on the strategy of customer service, instead of its execution, is a change Amazon needs to make to remain relevant.

Too often in change management we follow behind the project team, bolstering communications here and coordinating training efforts there. We attend a staggering number of meetings listening to the technical aspects of the upgrade from business analysis to code drops, from test to production environments and UAT. In all of this activity, the question is rarely asked – is this technology the best way for us to achieve our mission?

Change managers rarely get the opportunity to address the larger issues. Does our business model work? How can we make it work better? What do the front line employees think is the best way to improve revenues and lower costs? Until we begin thinking along strategic lines and are able to offer executives greater insight and more innovative solutions, we shall remain as effective – or ineffective – as our project teams.

I doubt Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos will be calling us to implement strategic change management anytime soon. But if he does call, one person will answer, listen, diagnose and ensure his company receives customer-centric, strategic change management services.   And we will try not to make him swear.

Doug Thornton is a Partner at Darwin Solutions Inc.

 

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