Amazon customer service to sellers falters

I gotta admit: I’m conflicted about ordering from Amazon for reasons beyond fulfilling their guaranteed delivery windows and treatment of employees. A just-uncovered businessinsider.com article details how the company is NOT providing top-notch customer service to its sellers—who are invaluable stakeholders in Amazon’s success formula.

The article notes: “Amazon charges third-party sellers as much as $5,000 per month to gain access to a dedicated customer-service person under its management growth program…A Washington Post report detailed how sellers who don’t pay into this system could be left without access to immediate help when relying on Amazon’s automated customer-service channels to deal with issues like fraud…Sellers and former employees told The Post that Amazon is focused on increasing profits at the expense of sellers.”

Continuing on, the article points out: “The service guarantees quick help from a real person, according to The Post, and deciding not to pay can have devastating effects on sellers’ businesses, especially in instances where quick customer support is required…The article talked about Jeff Peterson, an Amazon seller in California who did not opt to pay for the service. Peterson’s account was hacked, and he said he called Amazon’s support line, its customer service number, and emailed Jeff Bezos himself, but nothing worked, and he was left helpless as fraudulent orders and negative reviews poured in. It was over three weeks before Peterson was able to access his account again, according to The Post…Without paying into this program, Amazon still offers customer service to sellers, but without the dedicated account manager who could solve problems that appear before they blow up.”

Then, the article says that governmental entities are looking into a potential conflict of interest, even as Amazon disputes accusations “…of hurting third-party sellers. In his annual letter to shareholders, Bezos wrote, ‘Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt. Badly.’ In 2018, third-parties sold 58% of all merchandise on the website, according to The Washington Post.”

Dispute this, Jeff: I’ve made Amazon my #2 go-to retailer behind Costco. I’m re-evaluating if/how I want to do business with a company that clearly is achieving success on the backs of some stakeholders. My direct customer service interactions, although fulfilling Amazon’s “customer centric” mantra for me, don’t obviate my increasing dissatisfaction on other customer-service-oriented fronts.

I’ve placed several Amazon orders this week alone. My account shows that I’ve placed nine orders in the last month. So, ceasing to buy from Amazon will require a rethink of my buying strategy. But, hey, it’s a first-world problem. I can live without that picture frame or probiotics on their site. Or, find another way to get these items—including revitalizing brick-and-mortar buying.

I’m on the bubble. The questions are whether or not that bubble bursts—and, if so, when.

Stay tuned. I’m certainly going to see where Amazon goes with its questionable treatment of sellers.

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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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