Amazon does the right things when no one is looking

By | November 23rd, 2016

Is there anything you can’t get from Amazon?

Now that it even offers groceries in addition to all manner of merchandise and online media, you might expect a myriad of things to go wrong with the massive cogs and wheels of Amazon’s automated online market.

But no.

Service seems to have actually crept into the opposite direction, where errors can be even anticipated and corrected in advance.

I know because it happened to me when Amazon issued me credits entirely on their own — before I even knew I was owed them.

Sometimes the Good News Guy has his own worthy experience needing to be told, sharing some already about Fairfield Inn and Comcast (yes, Comcast — the Good News Guy is also a fair guy).

I do not like shopping. I do not like crowds. I do not like traffic. I do not like green eggs and…wait, never mind. But I still like getting a good price. Is that so wrong?

And to sweeten the deal somehow, my Amazon stuff magically arrives at my front door by Amazon elves. I almost feel guilty and over-privileged. Well, almost.

The subject of a previous topic, Amazon seems to be expanding customer service commensurate with its endless selection of one-stop-shop products and services offering almost any type of merchandise, delivered quickly at competitive prices. Apparently, Inc. and Forbes agree.

And if that isn’t enough, a Prime Membership annual fee includes shipping for most items, movie viewing, music library, Kindle eBooks, online storage, and now food, along with fresh perishable deliveries.

I’m scared, but in a good way.

The unaddressed issue with most services is the inconvenience associated with an incorrect order or defective product – a topic creatively addressed by Zappos in a previous story. Many businesses overlook the true cost of unsatisfactory service — the price plus any time and effort expended to ship or schlep an item back to where it came from. And don’t forget the follow-up online and phone time to make sure things are resolved.

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No shipping and schlepping here.

“My most recent merchandise return with Amazon was not actually a return,” said Der. Wait — what am I doing interviewing myself? I’m losing it, so let me just tell you about it.

I ordered three different vitamin supplements that were supposed to arrive in one shipment in one box. One bottle was missing, but the packing invoice said all three were there.

Sigh. So now what? How will I document that? Will I now need to write an email to higher-ups or return the other two to have the actual order re-sent as placed?

Not to worry — Amazon simply took my word over their slick interactive order-specific web portal and sent me another one.

Just like that.

But wait, there’s more.

I have a confession to make. (Don’t listen, Amazon.) As a satisfied Prime customer, I don’t really need every item of merchandise I order the next business day. So when I recently had only one of numerous other orders one day overdue, I actually didn’t notice, let alone say anything.

Totally on their own, Amazon voluntarily noticed the one delay and notified me by email they refunded the shipping charge that would have applied had I not had the Prime discount.

And the potential shipping charges for the other items I did get.


Hold on. There’s still more.

As a Prime member, I enjoy their selection of streaming movies and television as an alternative to cable. And being a bit of an electronics geek, I cannot of course have a TV that is too big or internet that is too fast.

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(Hot consumer tip! When viewing the Prime movies web page on a mobile device or smartphone, Amazon displays an option for many movies to download onto the actual phone storing it for later viewing without having to stream it over a phone carrier or internet connection. Long boring flights now fly by for no extra charge. But I digress.)

Sometimes a streamed show can suffer from a random freeze hiccup when the bandwidth is overloaded. This happened to me recently when streaming a Prime movie (yes, it had lots of explosions), and the traffic jam could have been anywhere along the internet broadband connection. The particular movie was a recent release requiring a $4 surcharge debit to my credit card stored in my profile. The viewing pauses were minimal and brief, and didn’t really mind.

Imagine my surprise to receive an email the next day from Amazon observing that they noticed I had trouble viewing the movie and voluntarily crediting back the surcharge — even though I successfully viewed the entire feature.

OK, the Big Brother level of how they knew about this was a bit unsettling, but that faded into customer appreciation for going above and beyond.

The principle at stake is far greater than the shipping issues or minor movie surcharge. In three unrelated and insignificant customer service glitches, Amazon’s corporate culture and monitoring protocol enabled a voluntarily check of their own performance providing out-of-the box ways to offset any perceived inconvenience. No matter how small.

So are they really that good? Maybe, maybe not. I have had a couple of unsatisfactory past experiences, and so have others. So what? Perfection is an elusive goal with any gargantuan operation having so many moving parts and millions of orders.

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Rather, it is the willingness to recognize an error and sincerely want to make it right, especially without being asked. That is why I will always be an Amazon customer.

  • tio2girl

    I live in a rural area far away from big box stores and use Amazon A LOT. I’ve had the same experience time and again with them. Their customer service is really quite amazing.

  • jsn55

    Super article, Andrew! I live in a major metro area, so use my shopping errands as walking opportunities; no matter what I’m in the store for half an hour cruising up and down the aisles. But when looking for something unique, Amazon to the rescue.

  • michael anthony

    Love Amazon UNLESS you have a problem with a kindle. For the 2nd time in 6 months I’ve had a major issue. And just like last time, they can’t seem to understand. (Even with the ability to see your screen on their hand). It’s extremely frustrating.

  • Kairho

    Bingo … same situation here. Love Amazon.

  • cscasi

    Did Amazon resolve the problem with your Kindle? Usually, I find that Amazon readily agrees to have something one is dissatisfied with returned for a refund or replacement. Was there and issue with your returning your Kindle? It would be interesting to see that posted here.

  • Great story, and a great company that values the customer.

    Then there are those companies that fall into this category . . . “Many businesses overlook the true cost of unsatisfactory service!”

    I’m pointing at you the cable, satellite and phone service providers, airlines, and a large number of auto repair shops.

  • Thank you!

  • joycexyz

    I’m a huge fan of Amazon! They almost always have what I’m looking for, at a good price with fast and free shipping. And should I ever need to return something, they make it so easy…just print out the return form and label, then drop it at the post office or UPS. No hoops to jump through, no stonewalling. And as soon as the label has been scanned, they issue the refund. Can’t beat that!

  • PsyGuy

    I love Amazon, not because they are as awesome as you describe (they aren’t for me), but because compared to everyone else in retail they are amazing. Just not having to keep receipts in a shoe box vastly makes my consumer life easier.
    I do have a few issues:

    1) Same day delivery means I need it during the actual day, not late in the evening.

    2) Drone delivery needs to be more accurate, it needs to hit outside my door not my neighbors.

    3) Language translation needs to be better and done in advance of on demand translation, then edited and read for clarity.

    4) Packing and packaging needs to be appropriate, ordering light bulbs requires some bubble wrap.

  • PsyGuy

    You don’t get the best POS deal though. I’ve compared receipts for grocery purchases and local in person trips is still substantially cheaper.

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