If you follow me on Facebook you may have seen my recent adventures with Amazon.com as I have been less than subtle about some recent frustrations.
First let me say that I have been a loyal Amazon customer for well over a decade and a Prime member almost from day one. I have always been pleased with the convenience and quality of Amazon’s service.
Although we have been together far too long to consider this a case of the “7 year itch” over the past few weeks Amazon and I have been experiencing some unexpected problems in our relationship. These problems have led me to have several encounters with Amazon’s Customer Service department, resulted in me being transferred to the “Escalation Department” and finally even exchanging emails with Jeff Bezos. This has given me ample time to reflect on what it means to provide excellent customer service.
A few lessons learned:
- Do what you do best, and leave the rest. Up until recently, I have never had issues receiving my packages from Amazon. They arrive promptly and in good shape. Recently, I began seeing these vans with the tell-tale Amazon smile emblazoned on the side. ENTER AMAZON DELIVERY. After failed deliveries because of 1) I have a dog, 2) it was raining, 3) I wasn’t home, and 4) the driver couldn’t gain access (note- We have our packages left right in front of our gate so none of these reasons except #2 apply), I became admittedly more than a little frustrated. Bottomline- Is Amazon equip to provide delivery service when there are others (USPS, UPS, Fed-Ex) that are? Similarly in our 4-H programs we can get pulled quickly in many directions and we have to ask ourselves, “is this what we do best?” This to me is one of the wonderful things about Florida 4-H’s Standards and Expectations- those are the things we should do best. Other things are fantastic, but they should make sense and be more of what we do best in our communities.
- Understand your customer, don’t just listen. During a few of my online chats with Amazon’s customer service (oh, there were several) I could tell I was getting play by play from the company’s customer service handbook. “Don’t worry, I am here to help.” “Here is a $5.00 gift card for your trouble.” The problem was they were not understanding my concerns which lead me to becoming increasingly frustrated. Anytime you work with the public you can expect complaints, and 4-H is no exception. We must remember to 1) understand what our clients REALLY are asking of us (don’t assume), and 2) use that to improve the rest of our services. You can assume for one complaining client there may be several others who feel the same yet don’t want to take the time to approach you.
- Don’t play the blame game. In one recent incident with Amazon I was especially frustrated because an item I need delivered by a certain date (and was promised by that date) was delivered several days later. Customer Service told me, “If you wanted it earlier you should have paid extra for next-day delivery.” Now, personally I don’t feel I should have had too since the delay was unexpected and on their end, but even so, you can imagine how that comment affected my impression of the Customer Service rep I was speaking with. Note for us- even when a customer “SHOULD HAVE” done something differently, it’s probably just best to keep that in your head and vent to a friend later.
- Don’t settle for 99% right. One Amazon customer service rep told me, “Well, I’m sure you can understand, mistakes do happen.” Well, of course I can understand. I think most days I’m a reasonable human being. However, who wants to be in the 1 percent in this instance? And what customer wants to be told, well our average is good so we are sorry about your luck. Remember that no customer cares if you did it correctly 99% of the time if they are in the unfortunate 1%.
- Under-promise and over-deliver. Certainly we’ve all heard this one. One of the items I received late, I needed for a particular day and reason (because I know you are curious the item was Wonder Woman Tutu Pajamas for my daughter’s pajama day at school). Had I not been promised those would have arrived in the time frame I needed, I would simply have gone with another option (also from Amazon). However, they promised something they could deliver, and when it didn’t happen I felt let down by the company. However, there have also been times I have received things much sooner than anticipated and being pleasantly surprised, and those are the days I have been most appreciative of the company.
- Use language carefully. Whether it’s language like Deadline vs Due by, or End of Business day vs. midnight, whatever you produce- rules, regulations, policies, expectations, etc., save yourself a ton of trouble by making your language clear, easy to understand, and impossible to argue. I’m still scratching my head as to why Amazon’s Customer Service Department uses the term, “Expected Guaranteed Delivery date.” If you can tell me how something can be both expected and guaranteed, leave me a note in the comments.
Now don’t get me wrong, this really is not a post to bash Amazon. They have righted their wrongs with me, and honestly they also did several things right during the process which are worth mentioning.
- Apologize. Everyone I talked to, the first thing they said was, “I’m so sorry.” Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. Either way, those two words are easy to say and they do wonders to impact the offended party.
- Timely Responses. Whether it was their online chat, email, or on the Amazon.com Facebook page, I never had to wait long for a response. Everyone got back to me quickly, and really did seek to resolve the situation as soon as possible.
- Social Media Complaints. Social media makes it very easy for someone who is very frustrated to make their frustration well known before a large audience. Amazon has people watching their social media pages constantly. When a complaint is made, they don’t delete it or hide from it. They address it professionally, respectfully, and in the open. Chances are at some point you’ll find a complaint on one of your 4-H Social Media pages. Check out 11 Steps to Handling Customer Complaints on Social Media for a helpful infographic.
- Don’t be afraid to bring out the big dogs. “I want to talk to your supervisor” is quite the popular statement amongst those who have complaints that are being unmet. If you are the supervisor, don’t be afraid to be accessible. According to: Why Jeff Bezos Still Reads His Emails the Amazon Founder and CEO still reads most of his emails. While customers will likely not get a personal response, he often forwards them to appropriate parties to handle. In case you are curious, Jeff’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and I did in fact, email him. I don’t know if he forwarded my email, or a representative did, but either way my problem was solved and I was a happy Amazon customer again.
And all this brings me to my final point. People will have complaints regardless of if you are Amazon.com or X County 4-H program. The important thing to remember is that how you handle it will determine the long term relationship with that customer. I can honestly say that although we are well past the honeymoon phase, I still love Amazon.