Monday 27 December 2010

Amazon - Masters of marketing or perfecting the art of customer dissatisfaction?

Now this blog is not about AWS (which I'm a big fan of) or cloud (which is being over-inflated by traditional IT vendor hot air), but rather it's about the Amazon online web retail shops and experiences.

To be clear I'm a big fan of Amazon retail, especially how they've defined, improved and driven online retail so well. Indeed in just the last 5 years I've place over 300 orders on alone - frankly I dread to think how much I've spent but my average order value appears to be well over £50 each time....

But like all good things, over time you come to notice a few items that start to irritate and then eventually if not treated they annoy. So it has come for me with Amazon, thus below is a list of current irritants & annoyances from Amazon...

Clearly the recent farce with Christmas deliveries hasn't done much to help things, no they couldn't help the snow that descended upon major parts of the UK & Europe - but they certainly could have handled it as least as well as other online retailers. I find it strange that despite 'the weather' orders placed with other retailers and also Amazon MarketPlace sellers can arrive next day, but expedited (at extra delivery cost) orders placed with Amazon still haven't arrived 10 days later...

Customer Services
Nor it has to be said has their handling of customer support over this time excelled - sorry but posting web messages saying "due to volume, we're having delays responding to your customer service phone & email enquiries" just isn't good enough, hire some staff (heck why not use ?). This is especially compounded when the return date deadline remains fixed despite the inability for customer services to respond - do the decent thing and extend the deadline if you can't handle the workload.

One could also be forgiven for thinking that Amazon also do their best to hide their customer support contact details - yes it's easy enough to contact & give feedback to MarketPlace providers, but for orders direct from Amazon no such easy actions exist. You certainly have to dig for a bit to find the Amazon customer services phone number of 0800 496 1081 compared to the ease of contacting their MarketPlace sellers.

Have you to tried to 'leave feedback' about an Amazon order as opposed to a MarketPlace order? Have you tried to chase up on a late delivery of an Amazon shipped order? perhaps they could patent & then impliment 'one click customer service'? ;)...

It disappoints me that they still lack of any form of customer loyalty scheme - I've been using & for over 12 years, and yet I get no different an experience or pricing to a brand new customer.  Yes their recommendations are better tuned to the types of things I want & like, but some form of recognition (ie early releases, limited editions or exclusives, discounts, gift vouchers etc) of my past business would be good.

It is very odd that there is still no Google Android application for Amazon one-click shopping in the UK - despite there being one in the USA, despite there being an Amazon MP3 download app in UK & USA and both of them for iPhone in UK & USA.

Information Management
Perhaps one of my biggest annoyances is that they still do effectively nothing with allowing customers to utilise the information about their orders & account history :-
  • They really do need to embrace products like iMediaMan or Gurulib that allow customers to do their own catalogue and inventory mngt - in the age of increasingly digitalised assets (eg MP3, Kindle etc) it's essential for the customer to be able to manage & report on their assets.
  • Ability for me to download an XML / CSV file re my order history and the products I've ordered? (useful for export into catalogue / library management tools, but also for keeping re household insurance records etc)
  • An ability for me to 'tag' wish-list items and orders (& line items) against my own defined metadata categories (eg 'for work', 'for home', 'kids', 'gift' etc) would be useful for improving recommendations further
  • Implement a simple warning if an order contains something you've previously purchased from them before, this is partially done in some areas of the site but certainly not complete or as a check prior to final order completion.
Yes their Personalisation, Preferencing & Profiling system is one of the best on the market, and having looked at this for VoD systems in the past I know just how complex and difficult this vital subject area is - and just how much IT infrastructure & data is needed to do this properly.

Some Enhancement Requests
  1. Ability to have sub accounts that I can give an allocated spend allowance to - bit like gift carding an account but for sub-accounts that I can give an age rating and spend ceiling limit to, and to which I manage, review & approve orders on, with payment being fixed to being made by my one-click payment method. Thus allowing me give my children Amazon accounts whilst still being safe.
  2. Capability to be able to place bids for products that vendors could then chose to accept, ignore or counter - a reverse auction if you like. This works on other sites, and Amazon use it well in their AWS business.
  3. Of course the ability to give feedback, and contact support just as easily with an Amazon direct order as I can currently with a MarketPlace seller order
But despite these irritants and annoyances, Amazon is still the first place I go to buy anything, even before the real high-street let alone other internet retailers - so they must be managing my customer dissatisfaction fairly well I guess?

So whilst I'm looking at what Amazon recommends for me today I wish you, Happy Shopping...

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