Customer Service, What?

It’s amazing to me how customers expect so much disconnect.

I run a few Amazon accounts.  We ship a few thousand orders per day.  Though my inventory spans tens of thousands of items in all categories on Amazon, from camera lenses to dildos, the majority of the products I deal with are generic aftermarket electronics.  If you’ve ever purchased a $3 iPod cable on Amazon, you may have bought it from me.  We ship from a few different locations in the world, and my accounts currently service 12 countries, with the 13th starting soon (if you consider Canada a real place.)

Naturally, customer service emails flow in like water.  Feedback gets left constantly.  And this is where a little thing called customer service comes into play.

I’m constantly surprised at people’s attitudes towards buying on the internet.  Personally, I purchase more stuff online than I do at the store.  I may even go to the store to look at it, feel it, see if it’s something I really want, then come home to buy it online.  It just works for me, and I only buy from places where I know that if I have any problems with my order, it will be taken care of.

With the Amazon accounts I run, I take customer service personally.  I get upset when someone leaves negative feedback on my account.  It can literally keep me up at night.  I email every single customer who leaves a neutral or negative comment to ask what I can do to help.  I offer them a full refund, or ship them a replacement product if theirs was defective, and generally do anything I possibly can to ensure their satisfaction with the order.  And this is where I see the disconnect.

Because I deal with a lot of low-priced goods, it’s very common to see negative feedback of this variety: “item didn’t work, not worth returning or asking about, piece of junk don’t buy” – along with a 1/5 seller rating.

So you received a defective item (they happen, by the way), you’re admitting you are too lazy to contact us, but you’re going to bring down our company’s customer service rating because of it with a 1/5 rating?  That’s nice.

I don’t care if your item cost a penny or $100, I’m going to do what I can to ensure it’s serving you well.  If you paid for something, it should work.  Why are people in the mindset that they just wasted money, and there’s nothing that can be done about it?

I would email the above customer and tell them this, and offer to send them a new one or refund them.  I tell them they don’t have to return the original, no matter what they choose.  About 10% of customers email me back.  I’m literally reaching out to these people in response to their feedback, offering a full refund, and most are still too detached to reply.  It’s amazing.  They can take the time to post a complaint, but not to get their money back for the problem.  They may say “It’s only $6, I don’t care,” but clearly they cared enough to post feedback.  Why not answer another email and reclaim your $6?  I’m going to take care of it.  I may be a blonde haired, blue eyed German, but I’m not a Nazi.

The other side of this spectrum is buyers who get in touch about a problem, I fix it for them, and then they say things like “I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your customer service and willingness to help.  It’s great to know there are still companies out there who care about the people buying from them.  Your service is a very rare breed.”

That’s really sweet and I appreciate it, but it’s also pretty sad.

Have we really become a society of people who expect that no business cares about its customers?  That may be true for a lot of huge corporations, operated by billionaires and staffed by minimum wage-salaried drones with no employee pride in what they are doing or selling,  but do we think that way about all businesses now, even down to independent Amazon sellers who work out of a home office?  This type of disconnect is unhealthy in a commerce-based society.

I get that the internet may make it hard to identify with the company you’re trading with.  It’s easy to pretend there’s nobody on the other end.  You just pick an item, type in some magic numbers, and eventually it shows up at your house.  The dynamic comes with the ability to easily ignore the human elements that make all that magic work.  But there still should be someone in that process who cares.

I don’t have an army of employees.  I don’t get a six figure paycheck.  I’m just trying to grow a business using a wide array of merchandise coupled with solid service.  I run my Amazon store like a mom and pop shop, where I’m not afraid to send a personally-typed email to 60 customers in a day because I care enough to not just copy and paste a template response.  I want people to be happy with how they’re treated, so they’ll buy from me again.  That’s how it used to work.

And it’s not just little folks like me.  There are at least some big stores that do the same thing.  Just look at Zappos:

Some of us are still out to help if we’re just given the chance.

I don’t think people need to have deep relationships with businesses or brands.  My personal brand loyalty is nonexistent save for a very small list of stores and products.  But I still carry a belief that when I buy something, if it doesn’t work, it’s going to be taken care of.  The assumption that one has wasted money just because something was $4 doesn’t make sense.

Please – next time you buy something, if it doesn’t work or you have a problem with it, just let someone know.  Better yet, just buy everything from me from now on.  I’ll take care of you.



One thought on “Customer Service, What?”

  1. You have placed yourself in a position as a for profit middleman and thus have no actual control over the quality of the products that are being sent to the customers. Without being the maker, you are going to be taking the hit that the buyer really means to tell the maker. It is your choice to be in the middle, but unless you actually QC every product before it is sent, you will continue to receive the negative feedback from unhappy customers. Unlike a store where we go to buy things (the store being the middleman), at least the buyers must assume some responsibility since they have the opportunity to view / try the product in person before actually buying it. The wider the the and more spread out the distribution process becomes, the poorer the QC becomes. You will notice certain products that you deal with get more bad reviews than others. Don’t take it personal, those reviews are usually about the product. Do learn to distance you business from companies that produce inferior products, even if they might bring greater profit margins. Chill….don’t take this so personal. Have a great Christmas!

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