NRF 2016
The Enduring Importance Of Great Service
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When, in 2003, Seth Godin introduced the concept of the Purple Cow, or “transforming your business by being remarkable,” very few companies were properly considering the potential impact of digital, much less eCommerce. That was a full year before Facebook would come into existence, another two before Twitter, and a full seven years before Pinterest would see the light of day. While the marketing technology tools are different now than they were 13 years ago, the principle remains the same: if you create something spectacular, something talked about, a strong business will follow. What spectacular means to different companies can differ, but one theme that emerged many times over in today’s NRF keynotes was the idea of delivering fantastic customer service.

Kenneth Chenault, Chairman and CEO, American Express, kicked off the day’s sessions with a reminder of the importance of reinvention, but what stood out was his call to companies to be clear about what they stand for. For Amex, that is service. Amex started out 165 years ago as a travel-focused company, and it has been rightly renowned as a payment services business. Now, as Chenault puts it, just as Amex helps “in the entire travel experience from end to end,” it also offers a similarly broad portfolio in its commerce business—always centered on accelerating “service, trust, integrity.”


Chenault wasn’t the only speaker to highlight the importance of excellent customer care. Terry Lundgren, Chairman, President and CEO of Macy’s Inc. talked of getting back to basics with a focus on customer needs and how they intersect with the unique aspects of your business model. And in the case of Disney Retail EVP, Paul Gainer highlighted some ways in which they focus on customer service through creating magical moments for guests of every age.

It’s not surprising that more than a few times at this week’s Big Show, including during these keynotes, Amazon has been mentioned with a certain level both of respect and fear, but as discussions continue about how to differentiate and compete, it’s important to remember that Amazon’s intention is be the Earth’s most customer-centric company.

When customers order from Amazon, they are not usually buying for the best price; they are buying for the convenience (speed of payment, or delivery), for the ease of choice (ratings and reviews) and because they know any issues will get resolved almost immediately through an incredible customer support system. They aren’t the only ones to be magnificently attuned to the customer. They stand shoulder to shoulder with great, venerable companies such as Amex, Macy’s, Marks & Spencer, and the John Lewis Partnership in being shining beacons of great customer service—in every commercial channel.

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