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Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009 at 6:06 am

Ecommerce Alchemy: Turning Disgruntled Customers Into Brand Advocates

By Melissa Burdon
January 29th, 2009

boxing.jpgWhen something goes wrong with a product or service and you’re looking to request an exchange, return or be compensated somehow for the inconvenience, you probably expect a fight when contacting the vendor. This is a result of companies missing the mark on successfully meeting our customer experience basic expectations.

I had to laugh at myself when I found myself in this exact situation. I had my boxing gloves on and I was ready to duke it out, expecting the worst. I purchased a pair of weight lifting gloves at Amazon at the beginning of December. With all the holiday events and some travel, I had forgotten about my purchase and realized that I had not yet received my product in over 4 weeks.

It was quickly pushed to the top of my “to do” list. I started my investigation by finding the tracking section on Amazon. Upon tracking my order, I noticed that the delivery status indicated that it had successfully been delivered. Well, I can assure you that it hadn’t! Thoughts started racing through my mind. Perhaps the package was stolen or not delivered at all. Will I be held responsible for this? I wonder if they had any clauses in their guarantees against lost or stolen items. If they do send me a replacement, I am sure they’ll charge me for shipping.

I puzzle- pieced my way through Amazon to try and find a customer service number to call. Because it was difficult to find the number, I was even more convinced that they’re trying to avoid their customers and feared the outcome of my phone call.

valeowriststraps.pngWhen the customer service rep answered the phone, I almost started the conversation by telling him that Amazon can keep their darn weight lifting gloves and should go take a hike! Let’s just say that I’ve been tainted by a lot of negative experiences with several large companies when similar situations have arisen- Bell Mobility offering the ultimate worst customer experience ever (I’ll keep that for a different story).

Instead of automatically lashing out, I remained calm and stated my case. He pleasantly responded by telling me that not only will a replacement item be shipped out that day, but it would also be sent using expedited two day shipping.

The same thing happened to Bryan Eisenberg recently when purchased a new SD card for his camera from an independent reseller on Amazon. It took him weeks to realize that he never got it, and when he reported the missing item, he was not only sent a replacement item, but then they sent him a free reader with his replacement order. Not that he needed it, but the gesture was wonderful!

You don’t have to be Amazon to have this corporate philosophy. This is something that every company can benefit from doing.

That could have been the last purchase I ever made from Amazon, had they treated me poorly. I will never hesitate to buy from Amazon and when I need something, I’m likely to purchase with them again because I know that I can trust them and will always have a good customer experience, even in the worst situations.

Amazon successfully took a negative situation and turned it into a positive, using it to their advantage. They are putting customers first. When customers are calling in with complaints, how are you dealing with them? Are you going the extra mile to please them or are you doing the bare minimum? They are your customers to lose. In this economy, it is probably cheaper to keep a converted customer that try to convert someone who never bought from you before.

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Comments (14)

  1. Damn Melissa, what about the four weeks that you missed lifting weights? How will they ever compensate you for that?

    Kidding aside, I had a similar experience with Amazon. The product was a bread maker. Their superb handling of the situation made me a cheerleader for Amazon. Whatever I’m looking for, I check there first.

  2. That also goes for (and I’m sure other sub-sites). Their customer service is as good, or better, than any company I’ve dealt with otherwise.

    Like Harry, Amazon is my first port of call… I rarely see the inside of a brick-and-mortar store nowadays.

  3. Amazon is definitely a leader and innovator of ecommerce, usability, and internet marketing. Without customer brand loyalty, ecommerce businesses will face serious growth challenges.

  4. Your article could not have been more timely given my recent experience with the flip side of that coin. Some time ago I bought a meat smoker from Bradley Smoker ( under a promo that promised a $50 rebate. I got a check for $50, but being issued by a Canadian company that apparently had not established the correct banking channels, every one of my local banks charged a $10 – 20 fee for cashing the check. So I did not consider that the promised $50 rebate. Six months later, after complaining about this to their so-called customer service department, an unanswered letter to their V.P. of Sales, and just this weekend a telephone discussion and exchange of e-mails with the company president, they still did not see the wisdom of making a customer happy. Imagine over $10 (which could easily have been returned as a credit or free product) ticking off a customer and killing any referrals that customer might have provided. Apparently not all companies have caught the spirit of good/smart customer service practiced by the likes of Amazon, L.L. Bean, and others.

  5. There has to be some more information here that we don’t know.

    Was it the shipper fault, so Amazon would get everything refunded? This must have been a case where they sent your order to the wrong customer, or the shipper lost it. So either way it wasn’t costing amazon anything.

  6. Good message – and it’s one I believe in.

    With that said, when I think of customer service I don’t think of Amazon. In fact, I know multiple people who refuse to order from them simply because, as you stated, it’s so difficult to find a phone number if you run into a problem. To me, it seems like Amazon has made an obvious choice of operational efficiency OVER customer service.

  7. I’ve seen the this go the opposite direction as well, where a small portion of your customer’s take advantage and end up getting your product twice.

    That being said…I’ve yet to see a situation where it still isn’t worthwhile with your loyal custom following. I believe it will almost always outweigh the negative.

  8. It amazes me how little most companies care about customer service these days. I’ve seen customers in various businesses I interact with totally flip flop and go from unhappy to extremely happy just by answering the phone or returning an email. They never expected someone to respond.

  9. I differ as to the way Amazon handles it’s customers. I find them very secretive when it comes to them making an error. I had 2 problems that they left as “my problem” with no explanation. The first was that they refused to let me sell books despite my unflawed (you’ll have to take my word) financial background and long-standing relationship with Amazon as a purchase and 2) that they simply stonewalled me and harrassed me with superfluous emails when they erronenously rejected my using my bank checking account as a payment method. Because of this treatment, I have stopped using Amazon altother.

  10. when I anticipate of chump account I don’t anticipate of Amazon. In fact, I apperceive assorted humans who debris to adjustment from them artlessly because, as you stated, it’s so difficult to acquisition a buzz amount if you run into a problem. To me, it seems like Amazon has fabricated an accessible best of operational ability OVER chump service

  11. Your article has been a good guide thanks for impressing with that .

  12. Amazon is definitely a leader and innovator of ecommerce, usability, and internet marketing. Without customer brand loyalty, ecommerce businesses will face serious growth challenges.

  13. Your article has been a good guide thanks for impressing with that .

  14. Your article has been a good guide thanks for impressing with that .

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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