The following is an excerpt from a recent conversation on RetailWire, reproduced here with kind permission. The author is RetailWire contributor George Anderson.
There's a big reason the vast majority of my online orders are placed with Amazon.com. When I place an order, it arrives on schedule and comes out of the box in one piece.
A little more than a month ago, I placed an order for glass cleaner refill bottles from the e-commerce site of a major retail chain. That began an odyssey which left me asking myself, "Why didn't I just use Amazon?"
Phone Call #1
When the date of expected delivery passed, I checked and was told apologetically that the package was in transit and would arrive within a couple of days.
Phone Call #2
True to the call center rep's word, I received an e-mail a couple of days later informing me the package had been delivered. But wait, the address was somewhere in the Midwest and I'm in New Jersey.
I called the retailer again and the confused call center person told me she would check to see what happened. After putting me on hold for a short period, the rep informed me the package was returned to the company's DC because it had been damaged in delivery. Instead of the company just sending me a new order, I was told I would have to cancel the previous order and place a new one. Figuring that any company can run into damaged packaged problems from time-to-time, I placed a new order.
Phone Call #3
My newly placed order showed up on time. It did not, however, arrive intact. In fact, bottles were placed in a box that seemed too big and certainly didn't prevent the glass cleaner from bumping around inside. The result was a very wet box with the contents of two bottles nearly emptied. (I've ordered liquids from Amazon before and never had this issue.)
I called the contact center to inform them of yet another mishap with my order. Again, the person on the line was very apologetic and said the retailer would credit my card for the two bottles. I declined to order replacements.
A short while after my call, I received an e-mail with instructions for returning the spent bottles. Return the bottles!?
Phone Call #4
By this time, my normal good-natured approach to difficult situations had left me. I called and asked why, after two rotten experiences, the company expected me to go find a box, head to the UPS store and return two empty bottles of window cleaner. After being put on hold, the contact center rep apologized and told me sending back the package would not be necessary. He reconfirmed my card had been credited and, although he didn't say so, I'm pretty sure he knew my business had been lost.
RetailWire BrainTrust comments:
We all have similar stories about brick-and-mortar chains who simply don't execute well on their websites. My recent example involves a large national department store chain whose struggles over the last 18 months have been well-documented. I ordered an area rug...they shipped the wrong rug...I returned the rug to a local store and reordered it...they shipped the wrong rug...I canceled the order.
In this case, the item was shipped from a vendor, not from the company's own distribution center, and I believe a lot of these problems occur because of the second-rate logistical management of the retailers' "partners." Amazon uses a lot of second-party shippers but appears to be equally scrupulous about its own execution and its suppliers' execution. Its aggressive expansion of its own distribution network is another key advantage, compared to "omnichannel" retailers trying to cut corners. — Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC
Amazon is laser focused and has invested in its core capabilities successfully. Although it has many interests, it doesn't seem to have taken them on at the peril of its basic business model. Inexplicably, so many other Internet only merchants don't get it and/or just can't replicate that model. B&M retailers that have built online presences generally have fared worse.
It's one more example as to why Gap CEO Glen Murphy's comment, "Some people talk about Amazon with their 100 distribution centers, God bless them. We have 2,600 distribution centers," is naive. Many successful retailers are not prepared/capable of being successful m/e-commerce providers and may never be. — Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive
Amazon excels because a) it listens to its customers, b) it probably listens to its vendors on how to package, and c) I'll bet anyone here a quarter it does tests on packaging of particular products when it starts to carry a new one.
The one time the company let me down was when I ordered a TV to be shipped to my house and then taken with me to St. Croix. The packing material seemed way too flimsy and I didn't want to open the inner box, because...well...you know how hard it is to put a TV back in its packaging. But check this out — I called them and explained my problem. I was immediately issued an RMA for the TV and a new one was shipped out next day by air. No questions asked. Just a big "I'm sorry."
Amazon has indeed spoiled us all. Retailers have a lot to learn from the company. — Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research
The issue is simple. It's customer service — or lack there of. The system has to work. If it breaks down, it doesn't matter if it is a brick and mortar store or an e-commerce retailer. There has to be a backup system. Some companies get this more than others. Regardless of technology and sophistication of the system, when it breaks down it has to be supported by people. By the way, I've had an issue or two with Amazon.com. Their recovery is excellent.
Perfection (when it comes to shipping and most other things) is not reality. It is a goal. In the process, there will be mistakes. It's how they are handled that restores the customer's confidence. — Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC
(Photo by Beck Gusler.)
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