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Failure is Not an Option at Amazon — It’s an Opportunity

Small businesses have a love hate relationship with Amazon. Some might think that the online behemoth is stealing business away from brick & mortar retailers with their low prices and rapid deliver. Others may view Amazon as helping to spread the word about new products that customers can then find at the local store. Whatever your opinion, there’s one undeniable fact: Amazon is a success.

But like most businesses, Amazon has had its share of failures. The difference, as founder Jeff Bezos explains in his the new book, “Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos,” is a customer-first mentality that allowed Amazon bounce back and flourish.

When you are focused on moving things forward, you run into problems, failures, things that don’t work. Each one of those times you have a setback, you get back up and try again. You’re trying to invent your way out of a box. We have so many examples at Amazon where we’ve had to do this. We’ve failed so many times — I think of this as a great place to fail. We’re good at it. We’ve had so much practice.

I treat every problem that I hear about from a customer as an opportunity to improve. My email address,, is well known. I keep that address and read my emails, though I don’t see every single one anymore because I get too many. But I see a lot of them, and I use my curiosity to pick out certain emails.

For example, I’ll get one from a customer about a defect. We’ve done something wrong. That’s usually why people are writing us — because we’ve screwed up their order somehow. Whenever something may seem a little odd about the problem, I’ll ask the Amazon team to do a case study and find the real root cause or causes — and then do real root fixes. So then, when you fix it, you’re not just fixing it for that one customer. You’re fixing it for every customer, and that process is a gigantic part of what we do. So if I have a failed order or a bad customer experience, I treat it just like that.

The resourcefulness of trying new things to figure out what customers really want pays off and it is core to everything we do.


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