Continuing the company's quest to own all aspects of retail and customer service, Amazon has just launched a sommelier service in Japan to help give wine-buying advice over the phone. The service, called Amazon Sommelier, is led by Japanese wine expert Miyuki Hara and employs numerous certified sommeliers; customers leave their phone number by clicking a link on the page for a given bottle of wine (see image below), and wait for a call back. Amazon Sommelier is only available in Japanese and can be used from 12PM to 5PM on weekdays.
I had to try this, of course, so I left my number on the page for a Japanese wine called Continental Koshu Heart. (I liked the bottle.) Within seconds I got a call back — in fact, I actually hung up by accident the first time by locking my phone. I tried again, and the second call came equally fast. The sommelier introduced herself, and I told her that I was looking to buy some Japanese wine for my mother in England, who doesn't really eat Japanese food at home, so I was wondering if there were any Japanese wines out there that would go well with any types of Western food?
I should say at this point that I'm not really a wine person, so I wasn't able to probe too deeply at the sommelier's recommendations. But if I were a wine person, I probably wouldn't need Amazon to provide me with an on-demand sommelier, so. In any case, I found her advice to be helpful and easy to understand. She explained the process by which Japanese wine is made, and the palate that makers tend to go for, and that the results tend to be quite light by Western standards. It was interesting to hear all of this, particularly as the information was framed by my specific question.
Another example of hyper-personal Amazon customer service
One problem, however, is that it's not really convenient to look at Amazon while you're talking on the phone about products with unfamiliar names. Perhaps because of that, Amazon's sommeliers can follow up by email after the conversation, providing the customer with a list of wines that may fit their needs; I got an email half an hour later with three other wines that used Koshu grapes but with comparatively firmer bodies. All of them seem better picks than the one I'd found myself, but one of them, the Lumiere Cadette, sounds perfect for my fictional situation — it's recommended to go with pork sauté, pizza, and creamy pasta.
Amazon Sommelier is a pretty impressive service, and an example of the things that can be achieved with the company's dominant scale; the Mayday video chat helpline on Amazon's Fire tablets is another demonstration of the hyper-personal approach to customer service. I don't know if I'd use Amazon Sommelier myself, but if you ever worry about embarrassment at a BYOB party, this could be the service for you. If it ever makes it out of Japan, that is.