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Customer service the right way – and the wrong way

October 18, 2010

With the growth of virtual brands and the movement of commerce models online, customer service is key to brand perception and customer loyalty. In the publishing world, Amazon leads the way – and justifiably so.

A friend of mine is preparing a training session for publishers in e-book technology and its implications. As part of his preparation, he decided to acquire an Amazon Kindle and ordered from Amazon. However, on placing his order he suddenly realised that he might not have given himself enough time to work with the Kindle before his session.

He sent an email to Amazon asking whether if he paid more he could have the Kindle sent to him earlier. The reply, sent by Amazon within 5 minutes, shows just why they are market leaders in their segment – and how much the rest of us can learn:

Thank you for contacting Amazon.co.uk with your Kindle query. Unfortunately, we are unable to make any changes to your shipping method on order because your order has already entered the dispatch process. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience.

However this does mean that your order is being readied to ship so it should reach you before the 26th (the date he wanted it by) . Super saver delivery normally takes between 3-5 days to deliver so it should be dispatched in the next day or so and should arrive some time next week.

Once your order has dispatched we will notify you by email. I hope this helps.”

The email also gave links through to other parts of the Amazon site – if the email helped and if it didn’t – ensuring that there was still further customer service should it be required. This is excellent customer service and deserves reporting.

Now, contrast this with the experience of another friend of mine whose son was incorrectly sold a kiteboard he’d bought for his son from a company called Edge Watersports. His son had undergone some kiteboard training while on holiday and decided to purchase a kiteboard/mountain board from the same company.

Unfortunately, after their holiday was over, it was discovered that the board was designed for children under 12; his son was 15 so my friend emailed the company asking for a replacement or a refund, which were denied him – although a credit note was offered (little use given that he lived 200 miles away). After several emails with no resolution, he eventually sought advice and sent them a legal letter saying that the board sold was not fit for purpose (note the board manufacturer’s site emphatically states that the board he’d been sold was designed for under 12s). This was the final, catty, reply:

“We just received your letter today.  I think there are a few things to note:

  1. Mountain boards are designed for both adults and children.  As your son was 15 he would have quite happily fitted into the term “younger rider”
  2. have a look at the attached photo I am at least 17.5 stone.  The board is actually extremely stiff and doesn’t deflect that much even with my weight on it.  The board is perfectly stiff enough for your son.
  3. When Land kiting with a mountain board especially for children a lightweight and short mountain board is beneficial to their learning and progression.  A board that is too long and heavy is not helpful.
  4. Its obvious that another shop would say that the board is not suitable if they think they can sell you another model.
  5. You receive the award for the first person in over 7 years of trading that has ever suggested that we have given them unsound advice when purchasing equipment from us.

If you put the item in a box and prepare it to be picked up and let me know where and when i can get this collected.  Can you also email me your credit card number, expiry date and i will refund the £120.

Kind  regards

Eric Bridge”

Let’s compare the two approaches.

In Amazon’s case, the customer is always right. If the customer has a problem, they solve it. If the customer’s query is not solved, they can go deeper into the Amazon service to find the answer they need.

In the case of Edge Watersports the customer is always wrong, it seems. They don’t like people complaining. They brush off complaints as if the problem is something to do with the customer. If the customer’s query is not solved, tough. If the customer eventually gets redress (as a result of a legal letter) , patronise and insult the customer so you don’t lose face.

The only plus point about Edge Watersports is at least that a human being replied. But, you know what, if it’s a choice between a reassuring email service and a thoroughly unpleasant individual, I know which I’d prefer.

If we as companies wish to grow our business, retain customers and live to see the future, these two different experience tell us an awful lot. Because these days bad news travels fast.

How does your company shape up in the customer service arena? 

Why not put it to the test today and see what happens?

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