E-commerce sites have pretty much streamlined how they handle product returns — there’s usually a form to fill, a valid reason to give, and someone comes over to your house and picks up whatever you’ve chosen to have returned. But things must’ve come to a pretty pass if you’re forced to return your product directly to the company’s CEO — at a public event no less.
At Amazon’s annual stockholder meeting, Jeff Bezos was faced with an usual question. A customer — and also an Amazon stockholder — wanted to return a package directly to him. “Can you please return this for me?,” they asked.
Jeff Bezos could’ve been forgiven for being flustered at the query — someone was pointing out a lapse in Amazon’s delivery systems, right as hundreds of shareholders were watching. But Bezos didn’t miss a beat. He instead gave what is clearly a masterclass in handling what could’ve been a potentially awkward situation.
“Yeah, sure,” he immediately said. “We’ll help you with that right after the meeting,” he added. “My apologies that you had to use this unusual venue to accomplish what should have been a routine task. We’ll also look into the root cause of why that happened,” he continued. “Anybody else have anything they need to return?,” he asked looking at the audience, which promptly broke into laughter.
As the tension in the room immediately dissipated, it’s not hard to see why Bezos’ has built what many feel is the most customer-centric company in the world. He immediately agreed with the aggrieved customer with a “Yeah sure,” putting him instantly at ease. He then apologized, and even gave a time frame around when it the problem would be fixed — right after the meeting. And while Bezos appeared to be very acquiescent of the customer’s wants, he did gently chide them as well: he said that the customer had chosen an “unusual venue” to bring up his demand, which asserted that while he was being respectful of his customer, a shareholder’s meeting was perhaps wasn’t the best forum to bring the problem up.
The rest of his little impromptu speech appeared to be directed to the shareholders — with his “root cause” comment, he established that Amazon was the sort of company that wouldn’t be merely content with fixing this particular problem, but would also make sure that other customers weren’t impacted going forward. And at the very end, he even made his audience laugh, asking if anyone else have anything they need to return. The customer was happy, the audience was reassured that Amazon’s top boss was on top of his game, and the shareholders were smiling again.
There are times when it is said that CEOs are paid far too generously, and they’re worth far too much money — but it’s perhaps the ability to handle situations like these that makes the Amazon CEO the richest man in the world.