Amazon's quest to become everything to everyone

Walmart became the everything store in the 90s. It was a one-stop shop that could clear a calendar quickly of chores with one visit. Now, Amazon is trying to do the same thing from a virtual perspective.

Within Amazon.com (AMZN) there’s a certain type of e-mail that elicits waves of panic. It usually originates with an annoyed customer who complains to the company’s founder and chief executive officer. Jeff Bezos has a public e-mail address, [email protected] Not only does he read many customer complaints, he forwards them to the relevant Amazon employees, with a one-character addition: a question mark.

When Amazon employees get a Bezos question mark e-mail, they react as though they’ve discovered a ticking bomb. They’ve typically got a few hours to solve whatever issue the CEO has flagged and prepare a thorough explanation for how it occurred, a response that will be reviewed by a succession of managers before the answer is presented to Bezos himself. Such escalations, as these e-mails are known, are Bezos’s way of ensuring that the customer’s voice is constantly heard inside the company.

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