eff Bezos' annual letter to Amazon investors is always worth reading, a peek into the mind of arguably the most important CEO in the technology industry. In 2011, Bezos wrote a manifesto, positioning Amazon as a universal self-service platform, obliterating traditional gatekeepers and unlocking new sources of creativity. In 2012, Bezos plays his hand closer to the vest, returning to familiar pro-consumer themes, arguing that Amazon's continued investment lets the company anticipate customer needs and meet them, sometimes even before customers can articulate them. Amazon, Bezos says, is focused on its customers, not its competition or Wall Street or short-term profitability — a tricky proposition in a letter to investors who are, typically, worried about precisely those things.
As examples, Bezos cites AutoRip, monthly royalties for Kindle Direct Publishing authors, price guarantees, and Amazon Web Services' track record of adding new features while reducing prices. If the unifying theme of 2011's letter was self-service, the unifying theme of 2012's is speed and automation in customer service. Bezos would have you believe that Amazon's technology is faster, smarter, and more aggressive than anyone else's, and that this speedy intelligence is focused on surprising, delighting, and earning the trust of Amazon's customers.
"LONG-TERM THINKING SQUARES THE CIRCLE."
Much of this is well-trodden ground for Bezos and Amazon: some of the phrases (like going up "blind alleys" that turn into "broad avenues") are copied verbatim from past keynotes. So what's the goal here?
Bezos needs this letter to do two things. First, it must address the fact that Amazon lost money in fiscal 2012: a net loss of $39 million, or 9 cents per share. A loss is never good news for investors, even investors as sanguine as Amazon's. Without naming the source or author, Bezos quotes Matthew Yglesias' admiring characterization of Amazon as a "charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers." Bezos doesn't grant the premise, arguing that "long-term thinking squares the circle. Proactively delighting customers earns trust, which earns more business from those customers, even in new business arenas. Take a long-term view, and the interests of customers and shareholders align." Bezos needs to assure investors that he's playing a longer game here, one where money spent on infrastructure and customer loyalty now cements Amazon's position as the universal retailer of first resort for the foreseeable future, a license to print money next year and beyond.
NOT EVERYONE BELIEVES THAT AMAZON IS SO GOOD TO ITS CUSTOMERS
The second goal of Bezos' letter is even more ambitious. After all, if investors were truly unhappy with little to no profits, they'd vote with their dollars and sell their stock. No. Bezos needs to reassure everyone — investors, the press, the public — that Amazon, the unstoppable monster of the tech industry, can still be nice.
A year ago, Amazon was emerging from a fierce fight for the future of book publishing as the undisputed winner. Now, like many other tech companies, it's seen as the Evil Empire. When Amazon bought the social portal Goodreads last month, many vocal Goodreads users were disgusted and terrified, promising to delete their accounts to deny Amazon their data, like Russian peasants burning their villages in anticipation of Napoleon's armies.
AMAZON IS DONE WITH RADICAL DISRUPTION AND MOVING ON TO RADICAL SURPRISES
Amazon, to many people both in and beyond the world of books and publishing, is the enemy, the same way Microsoft, Apple, Google, or Facebook have been the enemy in their respective fields. The only thing that keeps Amazon from being perceived widely as an enemy is the equally widespread belief that nobody offers a better experience than Amazon, whether in e-reading or online retail. It's essential that Bezos maintain the perception, the trust, that nobody delivers more for their customers than Amazon. If Amazon is a victor, it must be a benevolent victor: if Bezos is a king, greedily hoarding secrets and profits from investors, it must be because he is a river to his people — not because he is looking for more worlds to conquer. That's why he has no problem taking up the mantle of being "too good" to customers; the alternative is suicide.
So last year's Amazon, the radical engine of disruption, is gone. This year's Amazon is the company that loses to win, that seeks to use its unique position not to fleece its customers, but to surprise and delight them — and in delighting them, more fully conquer them forever.
Re: Bezos explica porqué no tener beneficios es bueno
Jeff Bezos, CEO de Amazon, ha dado una conferencia con motivo de la reunión anual de inversores. El “leit motiv” de su charla se podría denominar como “Nos preocupamos de nuestros clientes y no de la competencia”. Los productos que ha sacado Amazon como el lector de ebooks Kindle o la tableta Kindle Fire, están pensados para consumir productos dentro de Amazon, por eso tienen un precio de coste, con los que supuestamente Amazon no tiene beneficios, y por tanto, debe esperar a que los clientes alquilen películas, o compren ebooks. Esos servicios son los que el líder minorista pretende “mimar” sin esperar a lo que haga la competencia.
En España acabamos de ver un ejemplo con el descuento de 5€ extra, sumado al 10% de los libros para poder luego comprar otros productos en la tienda online.
Otra de las practicas de la empresa es rebajar el precio de sus productos. Lo ha hecho con el erader Kindle, que está a 79€ el más económico o el Kindle Fire a 159€ en su versión más barata.
Actualmente tienen en su sección especial para socios Amazon Prime, mas de 15 millones de artículos, 38.000 películas y series y más de 300.000 libros en su catálogo.
La política de recomendaciones y critica de los usuarios es primordial para el servicio de atención al cliente. Jeff Bezos cuenta que un usuario intentó ver el clásico “Casablanca” mediante streaming y en los comentarios dijo que la calidad era muy pobre. Amazon se puso en contacto con el cliente y le devolvió el dinero. El cliente ha contado eso en el portal y sirve de ejemplo para otros potenciales clientes.
Jeff Bezos está contento de tener clientes fieles, y en eso pone todo su empeño. “Estoy feliz por ver a clientes que llevan 4 años con el kindle confiando en nosotros”. A continuación pongo la carta entera del CEO de Amazon a los accionistas.
La carta completa:
To our shareowners:
As regular readers of this letter will know, our energy at Amazon comes from the desire to impress customers rather than the zeal to best competitors. We don’t take a view on which of these approaches is more likely to maximize business success. There are pros and cons to both and many examples of highly successful competitor-focused companies. We do work to pay attention to competitors and be inspired by them, but it is a fact that the customer-centric way is at this point a defining element of our culture.
One advantage — perhaps a somewhat subtle one — of a customer-driven focus is that it aids a certain type of proactivity. When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before we have to. These investments are motivated by customer focus rather than by reaction to competition. We think this approach earns more trust with customers and drives rapid improvements in customer experience — importantly — even in those areas where we are already the leader.
“Thank you. Every time I see that white paper on the front page of Amazon, I know that I’m about to get more for my money than I thought I would. I signed up for Prime for the shipping, yet now I get movies, and TV and books. You keep adding more, but not charging more. So thanks again for the additions.” We now have more than 15 million items in Prime, up 15x since we launched in 2005. Prime Instant Video selection tripled in just over a year to more than 38,000 movies and TV episodes. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has also more than tripled to over 300,000 books, including an investment of millions of dollars to make the entire Harry Potter series available as part of that selection. We didn’t “have to” make these improvements in Prime. We did so proactively. A related investment — a major, multi-year one — is Fulfillment by Amazon. FBA gives third-party sellers the option of warehousing their inventory alongside ours in our fulfillment center network. It has been a game changer for our seller customers because their items become eligible for Prime benefits, which drives their sales, while at the same time benefitting consumers with additional Prime selection.
We build automated systems that look for occasions when we’ve provided a customer experience that isn’t up to our standards, and those systems then proactively refund customers. One industry observer recently received an automated email from us that said, “We noticed that you experienced poor video playback while watching the following rental on Amazon Video On Demand: Casablanca. We’re sorry for the inconvenience and have issued you a refund for the following amount: $2.99. We hope to see you again soon.” Surprised by the proactive refund, he ended up writing about the experience: “Amazon ‘noticed that I experienced poor video playback…’ And they decided to give me a refund because of that? Wow…Talk about putting customers first.”
When you pre-order something from Amazon, we guarantee you the lowest price offered by us between your order time and the end of the day of the release date. “I just received notice of a $5 refund to my credit card for pre-order price protection. . . What a great way to do business! Thank you very much for your fair and honest dealings.” Most customers are too busy themselves to monitor the price of an item after they pre-order it, and our policy could be to require the customer to contact us and ask for the refund. Doing it proactively is more expensive for us, but it also surprises, delights, and earns trust. We also have authors as customers. Amazon Publishing has just announced it will start paying authors their royalties monthly, sixty days in arrears. The industry standard is twice a year, and that has been the standard for a long time. Yet when we interview authors as customers, infrequent payment is a major dissatisfier. Imagine how you’d like it if you were paid twice a year. There isn’t competitive pressure to pay authors more than once every six months, but we’re proactively doing so. By the way — though the research was taxing, I struggled through and am happy to report that I recently saw many Kindles in use at a Florida beach. There are five generations of Kindle, and I believe I saw every generation in use except for the first. Our business approach is to sell premium hardware at roughly breakeven prices. We want to make money when people use our devices – not when people buy our devices. We think this aligns us better with customers. For example, we don’t need our customers to be on the upgrade treadmill. We can be very happy to see people still using four-year-old Kindles!
I can keep going – Kindle Fire’s FreeTime, our customer service Andon Cord, Amazon MP3′s AutoRip – but will finish up with a very clear example of internally driven motivation: Amazon Web Services. In 2012, AWS announced 159 new features and services. We’ve reduced AWS prices 27 times since launching 7 years ago, added enterprise service support enhancements, and created innovative tools to help customers be more efficient. AWS Trusted Advisor monitors customer configurations, compares them to known best practices, and then notifies customers where opportunities exist to improve performance, enhance security, or save money. Yes, we are actively telling customers they’re paying us more than they need to. In the last 90 days, customers have saved millions of dollars through Trusted Advisor, and the service is only getting started. All of this progress comes in the context of AWS being the widely recognized leader in its area – a situation where you might worry that external motivation could fail. On the other hand, internal motivation – the drive to get the customer to say “Wow” — keeps the pace of innovation fast. Our heavy investments in Prime, AWS, Kindle, digital media, and customer experience in general strike some as too generous, shareholder indifferent, or even at odds with being a for-profit company. “Amazon, as far as I can tell, is a charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers,” writes one outside observer. But I don’t think so. To me, trying to dole out improvements in a just-in-time fashion would be too clever by half. It would be risky in a world as fast-moving as the one we all live in. More fundamentally, I think long-term thinking squares the circle. Proactively delighting customers earns trust, which earns more business from those customers, even in new business arenas. Take a long-term view, and the interests of customers and shareholders align.
As I write this, our recent stock performance has been positive, but we constantly remind ourselves of an important point – as I frequently quote famed investor Benjamin Graham in our employee all-hands meetings – “In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.” We don’t celebrate a 10% increase in the stock price like we celebrate excellent customer experience. We aren’t 10% smarter when that happens and conversely aren’t 10% dumber when the stock goes the other way. We want to be weighed, and we’re always working to build a heavier company.
As proud as I am of our progress and our inventions, I know that we will make mistakes along the way — some will be self-inflicted, some will be served up by smart and hard-working competitors. Our passion for pioneering will drive us to explore narrow passages, and, unavoidably, many will turn out to be blind alleys. But — with a bit of good fortune — there will also be a few that open up into broad avenues.
I am incredibly lucky to be a part of this large team of outstanding missionaries who value our customers as much as I do and who demonstrate that every day with their hard work. As always, I attach a copy of our original 1997 letter. Our approach remains the same, and it’s still Day 1.
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