Jeff Bezos: Here’s how to lose a loyal customer

I hadn’t planned to write this post, but Amazon’s batting zero this week inspired (and infuriated) me. Recently, I wrote a post about how Amazon needs to slow down fulfillment and delivery to ensure keeping its commitments.

Well, this week alone they’ve missed multiple delivery deadlines. The first time was evidently some snafu between the carrier facility and driver. The latest involved an attempted delivery where the driver didn’t leave the package because he couldn’t gain entry to my building mail room. (Long ago, I had instructed that it’s okay to leave packages in the unsecured foyer if needed. And, packages have shown up there.)

On one hand, I appreciate the driver’s caution, given rampant threats in unsecured areas. But, I had authorized it. The driver either didn’t pay attention to the instructions or they were incorrect.

No matter. This week, all initial delivery commitments were unmet. And, I’ve now spent about an hour between customer service, logistics and the escalation department dealing with the individual episodes and attempting to lock down delivery protocols for the future (if applicable).

I’m weary of spending time and addressing Amazon’s lack of keeping commitments. Coupled with my previous positions decrying their employee treatment and bending over of their sellers—both vital customer groups—I’m moving closer to stopping Amazon Prime orders altogether.

That said, I would like to see improvements that align with my core values of keeping commitments and treating all stakeholders fairly with dignity and respect. Here are a few initial suggestions:

  1. Quit putting the onus on sellers with onerous monthly fees of 5k to access reliable Amazon customer service. When sellers suffer because they can’t get the support they need without paying a heavy price each month, we all ultimately pay the price. Take of them as you take care of buyers.
  2. Up your game with all employees. While there likely are many satisfied Amazon employees, myriad horror stories detailing inability to take bathroom breaks without penalty speak to a major problem. Figure out a way to solve it. It’s one thing to incentivize employee productivity; it’s quite another to penalize them for missing even a single beat.
  3. Rethink your faster, faster, faster delivery program and look at issues occurring between the carrier facility, driver and the delivery location. I’m sure this already is happening, but look at ways to improve deliveries on-time in part by ratcheting back on the current ultra-aggressive timetable. Or, figure out ways to make the system work correctly the vast majority of the time. In part, this feels like a Microsoft vs. Apple discussion. Reports cite Microsoft’s philosophy of throwing it out there, then making changes/improvements on the fly vs. Apple’s practice (at least once upon a time) of putting more mature, less buggy products on the market from the get-go.
  4. For Prime members getting “guaranteed delivery,” don’t make the customer reach out for a compensatory credit. If the deadline is blown for any reason other than totally understandable inclement weather or other extraordinary circumstances, just put the credit on the account when telling customers about the delay. (I realize that the driving reason for not doing this is that most people probably don’t call. They just wait. Amazon saves a lot of money by not compensating people unless they request it.) One hallmark of a total customer-centric company should be to do the right thing without having to be called on it.

Amazon appears to be making gazillions of dollars and seems to be growing exponentially. Jeff, it’s time for capitalism with a conscience when it comes to employees, sellers and other stakeholders.

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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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