Unmet commitments lead to buying hesitation

While the art and science of good customer service can get rather complicated and sophisticated, the essence is simple: Make customers like, trust and respect you. All the customer service-oriented bells and whistles in the world won’t do the job if people become unsure and start questioning commitments.

This is a downside of current same-day/next-day fulfillment and delivery promises made by such retailers as Amazon. Maintaining the like, trust and respect qualities—in contrast—is what makes Costco so successful.

The world is unsure and unsteady enough: Knowing what to expect, when to expect it and how to address it if there’s a problem are cornerstones of the Costco buying experience. As a 20-year member, I have experienced consistent, reliable customer service on everything from computers and cellphones to glasses and greens.

Once, I ordered glasses that carried the wrong prescription because of an ophthalmologist’s error. Costco refilled the Rx free and without question. It clearly wasn’t their fault, but they went the extra mile anyway.

Now, I’m looking for new glasses. While Costco doesn’t carry the frames I want, they can do the glasses if the frame fits their specs. So, I’m currently searching for suitable frames to take to Costco. By the way, their price was half that of America’s Best—so look where I found the real deal.

My current unease with Amazon is causing hesitation. I just ordered something with two-day turnaround and thought that would be sufficient to ensure on-time delivery. But now, every time I order or think about ordering, I have to ask myself if I’m comfortable enough to proceed. No such issue with Costco.

Ultimately, this ever-faster frenzy will run headlong into the laws of nature. Until or unless teleportation becomes a reality—making delivery virtually a real-time proposition—we need to think about slowing down in the interest of keeping commitments that will bolster like, trust and respect instead of eroding these qualities.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe Amazon is doing a good job of providing positive customer service on most fronts. They certainly remediate problems when they arise.

But, at the end of the day, I give my ultimate nod to Costco. I keep reading Amazon vs. Costco stories, and how the two retailers are duking it out. Some articles address how Costco is maintaining its popularity amid challenges from such companies as Amazon.

I believe it’s basic and simple: Costco hits on all cylinders almost all of the time, including taking care of employees, another important “customer.” Amazon, in contrast, is doing a good job on some fronts but can’t match the consistency, reliability and “trustability” of Costco.

In the end, consumers are making their choices accordingly.

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Back to borrowing a page from Simon & Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy): “Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last.” It’s time to reassess our “immediate gratification-on-steroids culture.” The more companies speed up such processes as fulfillment and delivery, the more they risk not meeting commitments. In the rush to out-compete everyone, companies are offering hours instead of days or even weeks to get that latest-and-greatest item from the factory to front door. In some cases, it’s raising expectations to often unsustainable levels. When expectations are not met, frustration and disappointment follow. That’s not a good place to be in the customer service world. 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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