The View from England

Amazon’s version of Christmas customer care

At this time of year, more than any other time, you have to work harder at customer care. This is due to two main reasons. Firstly, you have a much higher volume of customers and, secondly, many of these customers could be people ordering for the first time over the Internet and thus need more hand holding.

It is the ideal time to demonstrate great customer service and try to get these customers to be loyal, repeat buyers.

It is thus frustrating when one of the channels I sell on actively makes me provide very poor customer service. Surprisingly I am talking about Amazon.com, an organization that prides itself on its customer first policy. Unfortunately for me it seems to be stubbornly determined to provide bad customer service for all U.K. sellers.

This time of year the customer’s single biggest concern is, “Will the order arrive in time for Christmas”? A good retailer will go out of its way to reassure that this will happen. Amazon, however, does the opposite. It goes out of its way to say that the order will arrive in January.

It is all down to Amazon’s “expected delivery dates.”

  • For orders to be sent to Canada, Amazon sets the estimated delivery dates to be 5 to 10 business days, which is very achievable.
  • For U.S. territories, Amazon sets the delivery dates to be 4 to 8 business days — a tough target, but possible.
  • For all other U.S. addresses, including mainland U.S., Amazon sets the target to a staggering 18 to 32 business days. Thus for any order placed on the December 4th or 5th, Amazon expect the delivery to be between January 5th and January 16th.

Imagine the annoyance of a customer when she purchases a gift and expects to get it in plenty of time for Christmas, only to then receive a message from Amazon saying that it will not arrive until January.

To add to this Amazon strictly prohibits retailers from sending our own dispatch emails to customers. So we cannot send an explanation email to customers saying that the real estimated delivery date is 5 to 10 business days, and please ignore Amazon’s estimate.

To make matters worse, because of the overlong delivery estimates, patient customers wait too long to complain about non-delivery. By the time the rare non-delivery complaint arrives, it is normally nearly two months after the order was placed, by which time it is too late to find any parcel and typically too late to re-send. Indeed we may well have sold out in the intervening weeks.

Over the years that I have been selling on Amazon, I have repeatedly asked it to change these estimates. The staff has always refused. I can see no logic in these estimates. Why do they think it will take so very much longer to post to New York rather than Porto Rico? Do they have such a poor opinion of the U.S. postal service that they think it will take it weeks longer to deliver a parcel?

I know it’s Amazon’s market. I know it’s Amazon’s rules. But after replying to the nth customer who has emailed me asking why it takes so long and why can’t I get his order for Christmas, I get frustrated.

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