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This is no time to be short changing your customers. Amazon.com is a great example of the positive things that can happen when you continue to keep customers your primary focus. The company has not let the depressed economy become an excuse to stop doing the things that have made them successful. Fourth quarter sales at Amazon were up 18%. BusinessWeek recently put Amazon top on its list of this year's "customer service champs."

What are they doing that many other companies are not doing? First of all, they pay attention to the entire customer experience. And by customer, they mean everyone, including buyers, distributers, re-sellers, small merchants who sell through Amazon, and, as I know from my own experience, writers and publishers. Jeff Bezos, the Fortune 500 CEO with the mindset of a start-up entrepreneur, said in an interview with PBS Nightly Business Report's Scott Gurvey:

We didn’t do anything special to recognize this economy…we continue to focus on fundamental things we’ve focused on for 14 years: having the lowest price, having the biggest selection, and getting products to customers really quickly and accurately…Our whole mentality around how we run the company is to focus on obsessing over the customer rather than our competitors. We try to pay attention to our competitors, but we don’t obsess over them.

I have to assume that their customer service training is exceptional. Technology takes care of most of the buying process, but when there is a special request or problem, employees get involved. Their responses are consistent, decisive, and intended to satisfy customers even when it is a financial loss to the company in the short run. The proof of the effectiveness of this approach is in the numbers and reputation of this exceptional company.

Companies are making deep cuts across the board and doing anything they can to reduce costs. The customer experience and customer service are often victims of this slashing. Amazon is an example of a company that thinks differently about the economy and customers and, so far, has the evidence that proves them right.

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