I think there's a nice ironic touch to the fact that when I tried to leave a comment on this post by Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon.com, his technology would not allow me to sign in. It is fitting because Werner thinks Amazon does just fine listening to its customers and does not need the likes of Robert and me to come in and tell them much about anything in particular about how to get along with customers.
I think he does. I'll get to that in a moment.
Werner argues that Amazon sets a very high bar and expects its guest speakers to be prepared to defend their ideas against these tough and exacting standards. He writes:
"This was my approach with challenging Shel and Robert at our lunch meeting. I wanted them abandon their fuzzy group hug approach, and counter me with hard arguments why they were right and I was wrong. Instead they appeared shell-shocked that anyone actually had the guts to challenge the golden wonder boys of blogging and not accept their religion instantly. "
I'm not the fuzzy group hug type and in 61 years, no one has previously called me a "golden boy." While Robert and I are indeed corporate blogging cheerleaders, I have to admit that I was shell-shocked when I learned that the heckler sitting on the floor, was CTO of Amazon.com.
I was surprised again by Werner's post, who characterized our visit as something that sounded a bit like the old Buckley-Galbraith Firing Line. The Amazon people who prepped me for this meeting , had just said Amazon wanted to hear about blogging and why they should do more of it. I don't often avoid confrontations, but this felt pretty much like the wrong forum for butting heads with our host's executive officer who was behaving like he was locked and loaded for bear hunting.
I don't know how Werner treats his guests in his own home, but the way he behaved just isn't the way I treat guests in mine. Werner, if you want to have a public debate on how Amazon could improve its customer relationships with more employee blogs or corporate blogs, please name the time and place--as well as the neutral referee. I require only two rules. (1) Let me have my say next time, without you interrupting, and (2) Let's both agree to the same agenda before we go public with it.
Now, let me tell you a bit more about me as your customer--one of those millions you claim to know all about.
- I have been a customer of your since about 1996. You know how many books I've bought from you. I don't because Amazon will not share my own data with me. That's okay. My guess is that 90 percent of the books I have purchased from Amazon are non-fiction and that most of those are history, biography or business related. So tell me, Werner, why, for nearly 10 years does your list of recommended books for me only contain fiction books, with your #1recommendations to me being For Whom the Bell Tolls and Of Mice and Men? I emailed comments to some nameless person at east five times years ago. But it never got fixed and I never got answered. If you have this much wrong about me, Werner, how much wrong do you have on all those other customers that you "know all about" as you stated yesterday?
- Would you like to know how you can improve your relationship with me as a new author? Would you like to hear about the negative experiences scores of people told us about when our book first went live at Amazon.com? I'd love to tell someone in private, but try as I might, there seemed to be no avenue for talking t anyone--until I met two of Amazon's representatives at a social gathering. Face-to-face meetings don't happen all the time. Our problem got fixed almost immediately because of that meeting, but perhaps--just perhaps--you are not as well set up to hear input from your constituents as you think.
- Representatives from two Amazon departments have asked for my time, which I donated, to hear how blogging and bloggers could help them. They seem to think we had some valuable ideas. Of course they asked questions and listened to our arguments. They were sincere in hearing what we had to say, rather than hell-bent on proving us wrong before we said anything.
Werner, you are clearly a smart guy who gets blogging. My partner, Robert has a great deal of respect for you. I don't want to pick a fight with you and whether or not you were "just pulling my chain," as you stated, you certainly did not leave me with the lasting impression that Amazon is nurturing an open and customer responsive culture. I suspect some of the fine Amazon employees we met feel the same.
I may not have moved the needle much in terms of corporate blogging at Amazon. But at least I met a whole lot of reall nice people who work there. But as the senior guy in the room, I really need to tell you, you did not personally enhance my personal view of Amazon and its executive leadership's influence on its internal culture.
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