Amazon almost lost me as a customer, but not for reasons you might expect. I covered the fall of Amazon Studio Head, Roy Price, who Executive Producer Isa Hackett accused of sexual harassment, but honestly, that didn't affect my buying habits.

Yep. My 9-year-old saved and saved his money in order to buy his very own Kindle Fire. A package, the right size, arrived and I let him open it. Surprise! It wasn't his Kindle Fire, but two French books. We don't speak French.

Now, I'm not heartless and I understand mistakes happen. So, I contacted customer service to inform them of the error. They agreed that, indeed, I did not order French books and promised to send the Kindle Fire express shipping. Great.

Two days later, nothing. I contacted them again. Oh, oops, we didn't order that. Do you still want it? Yes, please, I said. 

And so then I got the email saying that a replacement was coming, expected to arrive November 7--which was four weeks after he placed the original order.

Yes, the very same product that I could order on my own and have delivered in 2 days with Prime (which I have), would take 3 additional weeks to arrive because they messed up.

I couldn't contact Amazon except via email, as their chat function wouldn't work and their "call me back" option was like requesting a call from the abyss. I selected that option at least 10 times and heard nothing. I tried tweeting at their customer service which resulted in platitudes and an explanation that they couldn't actually do anything.

I finally got a phone number for Kindle technical problems, called that, and got transferred to the right person. 

My son's Kindle Fire finally arrived 16 days after he originally ordered it.

In theory, if you asked me which was worse--bad customer service or sexual harassment, I'd say sexual harassment, no question. But, the reality is, I didn't change any of my shopping habits after the scandal broke. It was only after receiving spectacularly incompetent service that I started to grumble.

I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only person like this. Your company can survive a scandal at the top, but it can't survive long-term incompetence at the bottom. The systems failed here, which bred frustration towards a company where I spend a substantial amount of money each year. 

Amazon seems to be set on taking over the world of retail. They are even dipping their toe into the Pharmaceuticals market. But, in order to continue to be successful, they need to get their front line employees up to speed.  Mistakes happen, but bad customer service is a result of bad hiring and bad training and bad systems. Those things are all fixable, so they better make it a priority.

Published on: Oct 30, 2017