Amazon: room for improvement
Amazon does a lot of things really well.
You want to return something? It’s easy. For an e-book, you can even return it within seven days of purchase your self, just by going to
finding the book there, clicking or tapping “Actions…”, and returning it.
If it’s a physical item, Amazon lets you print out a return label.
You even have thirty days to return a Kindle:
You want Customer Service?
If you have a new generation Kindle Fire, you have the Mayday service. There has never been an easier way to get Customer Service (and I’ve used it a few times already).
Buying things? Some people would say it is too easy.
Overall, I’d say Amazon is the best retail company I’ve ever used, hands down.
That doesn’t mean they couldn’t be better.
I do believe they want to be better. Amazon is constantly changing and updating things. A lot of the innovation this year has been around new services and savings, more than around new hardware. As an existing customer, that’s how you want it to be. Making what you already own better…at no additional cost? Great.
There are, though, some definite areas for improvement.
I’m going to list a few year. As always, you can comment on the post to add your own. My hope here is that Amazon is moving in these directions, and is aware of the concerns. If they aren’t, well, this might be like an ant trying to move a rubber tree plant, as the old song goes…but remember, in the song, that plant does move.
What’s in a name?
The Bard of Avon wasn’t saying that names are irrelevant. Sure, a “rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, but the last names that Romeo and Juliet had indicated a lot about them…and that’s where the problems happened.
People assume that, if you name something, you are conveying meaning inherent to that thing. When the name and the meaning don’t align, it’s confusing and offputting.
We can go back to the beginning of the “Kindle”, more than six years ago now.
Many people didn’t like the name. People (properly) associated “kindling” with “burning”…and disrupting the book industry by associating books with burning was not a good thing. Amazon put out something explaining that they meant it like “kindling passion”…getting something started, rather than destroying it. Paperbooks and flames, though? Not a good association.
Okay, that’s just a case of how the name of a thing that people were seeing for the first time was perceived: just a first impression.
People got past that. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are young people who first associate the word “Kindle” with a book-reading device, rather than with burning things.
However, it then started to get confusing.
Rather than naming the next generation Kindle a “Kindle 2″, or something like that (officially, anyway), Kindles have been named…”Kindle”. Now, the current “entry level” Kindle (which I call a “Mindle”) doesn’t have much in common with the 2007 device…but according to Amazon’s naming conventions, they should be identical.
You could, of course, argue that a Ford Mustang is called a Ford Mustang every year, but it’s not…they add the model year to it. I can understand not wanting to name your e-book reading devices with the year, but I think a serial naming sequence (“Kindle 1″, “Kindle 2″) would make sense. If you want to come up with cool names each time, like Apple did by naming operating systems after big cats, that’s fine.
You just shouldn’t have two very different things with the same name.
I had cautioned against it, but they also named the tablet a Kindle…a Kindle Fire. Now, these are two very different lines of hardware, that do different things (although there is a fairly small overlap). People were confused: they were complaining that the “new Kindle” wasn’t easy to read in bright sunlight. They talked about “upgrading” from a Kindle 3 (or Kindle Keyboard, or whatever they called it) to a Kindle Fire…that’s like upgrading from a baseball bat to an avocado. They just aren’t in a direct line.
Beyond that ,we have all of Amazon’s uses of the word “Cloud”. You have the Cloud Reader, the Cloud Player, the Cloud which is your archives stored on Amazon…and now, Cloud Collections (which don’t appear at the Manage Your Kindle site…which I think is what many people think of as the “Cloud”).
I’ll suggest a simple guideline, which I used to tell people when I helped them with database design: two things which do different things shouldn’t have the same name. I would tell them not to have two “Accept” buttons on the same screen, for example.
In my “day job”, I do a lot of training, and that can certainly involve education (although they aren’t the same…training has do with modifying behavior, which often requires knowledge…education is just knowledge). Amazon, unfortunately, doesn’t do a very good job in letting people know about things.
When a new feature is introduced (like Cloud Collections), I’ll see massive confusion for days…even years. It may be something people would love (at least parts of it), if they knew the intended use…but Amazon never seems to explain that.
I certainly don’t mind (in fact, I enjoy) explaining the features, as I did here:
However, I have to figure it out pretty much by trial and error. I can’t just go on to an Amazon Help Page and get a scenario based explanation. Typically, even the features aren’t explained there.
Somebody at Amazon knows the use cases for all of these features: when they are good, and when they aren’t. If they didn’t, they couldn’t get built.
Maybe the thought is that they’ll be replaced soon anyway, so why spend the time and energy…but that doesn’t make sense to me. Even the basic concepts of what is stored on the device and what is stored at Amazon could be explained better.
I still see people (quite frequently) worrying that if they remove a Kindle store book from a device, they won’t be able to read it again.
Has Amazon ever given people a simple explanation of Simultaneous Device Licenses?
Before you release a significant update, you should prepare a communication piece that explains the “why” of it. What is the context? What’s the advantage? What adjustments will people need to make? I’ve taught change management, and I always tell people that the first thing you say is what is not going to change.
If you are going to change the organizational structure in a business, the first part of introducing that should be, “Nobody is losing their jobs.” I’m putting it bluntly, here, but that’s got to be in the message before you say what is going to change…otherwise, people are just waiting to hear if that is going to happen, and they don’t hear anything else until that is addressed.
Similarly, updates should reassure people first.
Then, they should tell people why changes were made…and what the advantages are.
Lastly, they should tell people how to use the new features.
That’s not the only place we could use more information. It stills stuns me that they don’t list the clipping limit on a book’s Amazon product page. That’s important information: if you can only “clip” ten percent of one edition of a book, but one hundred percent of another, that might affect your buying decision…and satisfaction.
Choose Your Own…pretty much everything
My third one here is going to be the sense I have that Amazon thinks everybody wants the same things…and that, of course, it is easier for Amazon if there isn’t a lot of variety out there.
Sure, if you let people change their “screensavers”, there is a risk that something goes wrong every once in a while. That might have a Customer Service expense associated with it.
However, people have made the buying decision to get a different device just because they couldn’t have that! There is a bigger expense (or loss) associated with that.
I remember consulting with people who wanted every possible access to Help removed in Microsoft. They didn’t want people finding out how to do things on their own, because it would make it harder to support the technology, since there would be more variety in the field. That seemed counter-productive to me: it would require more tech support for simple things…and simple things are more common.
We don’t get to make decisions about whether we want to upgrade or not. We don’t get to decide about whether we want to have local Collections or Cloud Collections (or ideally, both).
Amazon just makes the change, and we all end up with the same thing.
I’m hoping that, maybe, Amazon has started to recognize this by having customizable covers.
I kind of doubt it, though. All they did there was making something available somebody else had developed.
The corporate philosophy seems to be that everybody is the same…having one color (or maybe two) of a device is fine, having one organization of the menus is fine…okay, they let you change the name of the device, which people love to do, but we could have a lot more flexibility.
Those are three big areas of philosophy where I’d like to see Amazon make a change. I do love Amazon, and am extremely impressed to their adherence to their basic tenets (selection, service, price). I’m not asking for any of those to be compromised: I just see room for improvement.
How about you? Are there philosophical changes you’d like to see made at Amazon (not specific hardware/software changes)? Do you agree with mine, or am I being focused on things that bother me, but don’t bother you? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.