Published on: January 30, 2014
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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
One of the things I hear a lot, both when speaking at companies and via email, is the sentiment that bricks-and-mortar retailers are sort of genetically better at customer service than e-tailers. That can be the case - a store with great customer service can generate enormous loyalty. But as the George and ira Gershwin once wrote, it ain't necessarily so.
Case in point…
I have a daughter who is a sophomore in college, with a criminal justice major and a law minor. (She works really hard, and is doing exceptionally well. I'm particularly thrilled when she starts talking to me about all the stuff she is learning, and I have no idea what she's talking about.) But the books can be a little pricey, so sometimes we'll try to order them from Amazon instead of from the school bookstore; with tuition prices what they are, it's good to save a buck wherever we can.
When she started the new semester recently, we ordered some books that we'd learned about at the last minute from Amazon, with every confidence that she'd have them a day or two before she'd need to bring them to class. But on the day when they were supposed to be delivered, I got a notification that the postman had been unable to deliver them, and would try again the next day.
Now, I could not imagine what the problem could have been. We have a mailbox. We have a front porch. The garage door was open. There were tons of places to leave the books, unless, for some weird reason, a signature was required. Which seemed unlikely.
So I went on Amazon's site, and clicked on the "call me now" button. And within about 15 seconds, my phone rang.
I ended up speaking with a very nice woman named Emee, and I explained my problem. Almost before I'd finished the explanation, she told me what they were going to do. They'd ship a new set of books, for next day delivery, no charge. When the original order showed up, I could just send them back, no charge. And they were going to put a $5 credit on my account for whatever my next Amazon purchase was, just to compensate me for my trouble.
I'd initiated the phone call, to be honest, in a pissed-off mood. But within about 30 seconds, I had a big grin on my face … because short of actually reading the books for my daughter, I cannot imagine how Amazon could've been more responsive. And I'm pretty sure that the problem wasn't of Amazon's making, but rather the Post Office's.
And that, in a word, is what Amazon's competitors have to deal with. Not that they can't. Not that they can't do better. But, for example, if Walmart really believes it can invest enough money to bring it to online parity with Amazon within two years, this is one of the things with which it must compete. And judging from what it's like to go to the customer service desk at a Walmart physical store - painful at best, interacting with people who don;t seem to want to be there - they have some distance to go.
Walmart, like all retailers, have to understand that online customer service can be excellent … and that they have to focus on their own cultures, their own priorities, if they are to achieve excellence in this arena.
When retailers consider what they must to do compete, I would urge them to pay attention to the line from William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," in which Cassius says, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves."
That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: