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Is Amazon’s Mayday Support Model Right for Your Organization?


When Amazon announced the new Mayday support button on the Kindle Fire HDX, industry observers described the move as “the future of tech support” or a “terrible misstep.”

The feature, which enables customers to click a button on the device and instantly video chat with an Amazon support rep, is a boon for customer service because it addresses two common annoyances with traditional support channels:

  • It prevents customers from having to navigate through phone trees and sit on hold to reach an agent; and,
  • It reduces time-to-resolution because agents have access to the device the customer is calling about, providing them immediate context about the issue.

But these benefits don’t come without risks. Demand for support could increase because customers stop trying to “figure it out themselves” (it’s easier just to hit the Mayday button). And, the number of issues resolved per agent could drop because, unlike email or chat support, this new model allows them to handle only one issue at a time.

So why is Amazon willing to take these risks? They have a lot more to gain than merely providing customers with a faster channel for contacting support—the Mayday button could directly increase revenue. In this article, we’ll identify four key questions other organizations should explore to decide whether video chat support would benefit their company in the same way.

1. Could you use the channel to collect valuable data?

One of the primary reasons Amazon introduced Mayday was so they could collect more data that could be used to improve the device, operating system and user experience in ways that would help them sell more. This data is primarily regarding issues or questions customers face when using the device; the idea being that Amazon can proactively eliminate those obstacles for future customers.

While support organizations can use traditional channels (e.g. phone, email, chat) to collect aggregate data on the most-common issues customers face, video chat could enable Amazon to garner even more granular information, particularly regarding issues potential customers face in the pre-purchase stage.

This is because many customers won’t necessarily reach out if they have a question that prevents them from buying. Often, they’ll just choose not to complete the purchase. Video chat solves this problem because it provides a simple, immediate channel for fielding these questions and increases the likelihood customers will connect with you in these instances.

In order for your company to realize this same benefit from video chat support, you need the appropriate context for effectively intercepting a question from people known to be in the pre-purchase stage.

Amazon created this context by making video chat a feature on a device customers use to shop online. For your company, it might be an online prompt you set to pop up if a customer is logged into your website and has a shopping cart filled with items totaling over $350.

Or, you might automatically enable a live video chat feature for site visitors that take a certain path on your site, e.g. they click through several case studies and eventually land on your pricing page. Another option would be to enable it for anyone who searches for a term indicating purchase interest, e.g. “pricing,” in a search bar on your website. Clearly these site visitors are evaluating your product or service and might have questions that prevent them from buying.

“It’s all about delivering the right service to the right customer at the right time,” says Laura Bassett, director of marketing, customer experience and emerging technologies at Avaya, which offers a one-touch video call center solution. Avaya’s system allows users to configure their website with rules that offer video chat to customers based on their website behavior.

2. Can talking to an agent affect the outcome of the sale?

From reading reviews of the Mayday button on Amazon, it seems most customers are using the feature for post-purchase support. Ideally, however, Amazon wants to use it to respond to questions from customers in the pre-purchase stage. Along with collecting data for the purposes mentioned in the first section, this would enable them to convert a customer that might otherwise not have bought anything.

“The Mayday button is a really cool feature that represents a big investment for Amazon,” says Yohai West, product marketing manager for NICE Systems, a company that provides a call center video support solution as part of a larger interaction management suite. “For them to see the return, they need customers to use the tool more for advice, e.g. what book should they should buy, or video they should watch.”

West said NICE’s customers, which are primarily financial organizations, use video chat capabilities online to mimic the types of interactions that typically take place in a branch (e.g. taking out a business loan or mortgage).

While these types of transactions can—and do—occur online without the help of video chat, organizations convert many more customers by offering the feature. Since taking out a business loan or mortgage is typically a significant investment for the customer, they feel more comfortable moving forward when they can consult with an actual person.

If a customer is unable or unwilling to visit a branch, interacting with an agent in a virtual environment is the next best thing. Providing this service prevents customers from abandoning the transaction and leaving the website if they don’t feel like trying to call customer service.

NICE clients have also provided these services both at ATMs and in actual branches, as a standalone booth or kiosk, as a means for reducing overall labor costs. Instead of having a small business loan expert, for example, in every branch (or in some cases, instead of having a branch at all), they might have one for a particular region that consults via video with customers at various locations when they need assistance.


Image of a video chat-enabled ATM from Bank of America

If your company conducts these types of transactions—purchases that are enabled with the help of “consultative” type services—video chat could be an effective option for driving additional revenue.

“This service is really best for complex issue resolutions, or instances where you need advice or consultation,” says Paul Jameson, senior director of industries for Cisco, which offers a video remote expert solution. For example, Nationwide uses the solution to deliver mortgage expertise to customers at every branch in the U.S. without having to hire a consultant for each location.

3. Is customer loyalty core to your business model?

Amazon has been very upfront when describing their goals with the Kindle: “We make money when people use our devices, not when people buy our devices,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, told Wired.

In other words, it crucial to the Kindle’s revenue model that customers actually use the device, so providing a Mayday level of customer service could effectively inspire future purchases. Consider, for example, that 71 percent of U.S. consumers have ended a relationship due to a poor customer service experience.

“It’s about understanding what a 1 percent increase in customer satisfaction means in terms of loyalty and revenue,” Basset explains. “It’s a different way of thinking about how you provide service. Instead of just thinking, ‘How can I reduce service costs?’ you’re thinking, ‘How can I increase satisfaction?’”

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the Mayday button could improve time-to-resolution because agents know more about the context surrounding the issue the customer is trying to solve. This is because the agent has immediate access to the device the customer is calling about.

In one review, for example, a customer writes about an Amazon Mayday agent named Heather, who immediately recognized that his Kindle needed an update and walked him through how to complete the process. It reads:

“During the update, the Kindle had disconnected from Mayday Heather, but when I tried Mayday again, I got Heather again. … She was very easygoing, calm, relaxed and very skillful and not in a hurry to disconnect. A very unexpected bonus to the new device.”

In order for your company to provide this same level of service, you’ll need a means for collecting context about the issue in the same way Amazon does.

This context can be garnered through some of the methods we’ve already discussed, such as tying video chat to a physical location where the customer has to login with their personal information, such as at an ATM, or dynamically offering the service to customers based on their website behavior.

Another option is to offer video chat within a mobile application. This allows you to use the customer’s location and purchase history (because they are logged in) to gather information about their issue that will help you solve it faster.

4. Do you have the resources to scale this model?

Even if you answered yes to the previous three questions, it’s important to consider the additional costs this model requires. This includes (at least) the following:

Manpower: Video chat support most likely won’t replace any of your support channels, though it could move some customers from one to the other (rather than increasing overall ticket volume). Regardless, agents using this channel can only handle one customer at a time, so you’ll need additional labor to handle the same number of issues—especially if you aim for Amazon’s promised response time of 15 seconds or less.

Equipment: You should also consider what new equipment would be required to implement this model. In addition to having video-equipped computers, agents need to be in a clean, clutter-free environment in order to appear as professional as possible. Amazon actually puts their reps in a studio of sorts, with “Amazon” perfectly framed in the shot on the wall behind them:

Amazon-MayDay image of a Mayday Support rep with the Amazon logo framed in the shot behind them

While a separate studio might not be necessary, video agents will need to be in a relatively quiet space that is somewhat isolated (in other words, the traditional call center floor wouldn’t do).

You might also want to consider wardrobe—should all agents wear the same shirt with your company colors? As Basset explains, “When you walk into a Best Buy store and see those blue shirts, you make the assumption that they know about computers. It’s all part of branding the experience.”

Hiring / Training: Finally, you need to make sure that all of your video chat representatives are “camera ready.” Some agents that are great on the phone might not do as well on video—their body language and/or facial expressions might not be naturally positive or upbeat.

One Mayday reviewer, for example, noted that the agent appeared to be slightly annoyed at his request. For this reason, you might have to use slightly different hiring criteria to fill video chat support roles.

“It’s not just important that they be able to say the right thing—they also have to convey the right message with eye contact and body language,” West says. Think of it as being the same as hiring someone that would work in a store, interacting face to face with customers.

All of these elements can add up to a significant investment, so it’s important to consider whether this support model will help you generate enough additional revenue to offset these costs.

Mayday Is Not a Fit for Every Company, or Every Customer

While Amazon’s Mayday feature unquestionably provides a level of service far beyond what agents can accomplish through more traditional channels, it should never completely replace other contact channels.

It’s a relatively expensive support model, and just as Amazon has limited the service to Kindle users, you will need a method for selectively choosing which customers can access video chat. Ideally, you’d want this service to be available only to your most high-value customers, or for products for which data about buyer hesitations would be the most valuable.

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Ashley Verrill

About the Author

Ashley Verrill has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has been featured or cited in Inc., Forbes, Business Insider, TechCrunch, GigaOM,, Yahoo News, the Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal, among others.

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