What Jeff Bezos is missing in the customer service equation

This is an open letter to @JeffBezos at Amazon. Jeff, I love your customer service. However, ongoing reports about treatment of employees ultimately are damaging my customer experience.

Here’s why: While I still order regularly, my one hesitation is thinking about employees working like dogs to get those products to me as promised. Frankly, I’d rather wait a day or two longer and know that the people handling the fulfillment process are being well treated. After all, employees are your customers, too. And treating them well ultimately enhances the odds that they will in turn treat customers well.

Jeff, here are a few issues to consider:

Faster isn’t always better. The faster you promise something, the more people expect it as the norm—and become disgruntled when the commitment isn’t met. While same-day delivery can be an intriguing option, delivery a couple days later is absolutely acceptable. And, I’m one of those people who expects commitments to be kept. I’d rather wait a bit to get reliable delivery than call in when the Prime guarantee isn’t met. Adding $5 or $10 to my account as “compensation” doesn’t make up for the hassle. Lack of reliability is a trigger to revert to brick-and-mortar shopping in some cases.

There should be customer service limits to protect employees. Last spring, Denver experienced a cyclone bomb blizzard. It was comparable to a Category 1 Snow Hurricane with wind gusts approaching 100 MPH in some parts of Colorado. I had an Amazon delivery scheduled that day, but fully expected it would be delayed due to the weather. I didn’t want anybody out driving in the storm for anything but an emergency. When the delivery didn’t arrive, I did call to confirm that weather was the reason. I was shocked, and dismayed, to learn that the driver was in fact out in these horrid conditions—but had just screwed up the delivery. Any customer unwilling to understand a delay in this situation is too entitled or self-absorbed for their own good—or the good of anyone else.

Happy employees make happy customers. This is axiomatic, but it seems to get lost in the Amazon formula. While I’ve always been treated courteously and, in some cases, rewarded well beyond the scope of my expectations, better employee treatment will help make that a sure thing in all cases. It’s good business; it’s common sense. Well-treated employees will stay longer, be more trustworthy, and will be more motivated to help customers. In contrast, rapid turnover creates extensive rehiring and retraining costs—and less likelihood of customer treatment consistency. Costco gets this, and it’s a vital piece of what makes them so successful. Costco is my #1 favorite retailer, both because of their customer service policies and the fact that they treat their people so well—in turn making my experiences predictably enjoyable. Amazon is currently #2, but I can see them falling down the ladder without improvement in employee treatment.

More to follow…

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“This is the first of a four-part series about the disconnect between Amazon’s customer service and treatment of employees. In his quest to build the world’s most customer-service-centric company, employees appear to be pushed to their limits to make sure customers get everything they want. As self-absorbed consumers—who feel entitled to get what they want ever more quickly—grow a social conscience, they’re realizing that a company’s culture includes valuing, acknowledging and respecting its employees. This will cause more people to question using Amazon until the perceived quality of the employee experience improves. I’m one of them“. ML

Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience.

Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage,  Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm.

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