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Customer Experience

The Amazon Customer Experience Remains Elusive To Other Retailers

digital camera

Why does everyone talk about Amazon’s customer experience? It’s both because Amazon is so good, and others just don’t measure up.

It was 9 a.m., two hours before my weekly live show and I realized that the connector cord I bought for my brand-new camera was not the right one. I had purchased a mini HDMI connector instead of a micro HDMI connector. Who knew? So I had two hours to acquire the right connector. 

I first tried a major electronics retailer, but their store didn’t open until 11 a.m., which was when my show was scheduled to start.

Then I stopped at a major big box retailer that has a large electronics department. I couldn’t find the micro HDMI connector, so I asked a store associate. He looked up the item number and told me that it was an “online-only” item. Why on Earth would a major big box retailer have online-only items in the first place? Isn’t the whole point that their stores are brick and mortar, local and convenient? 

Next I tried their direct competitor, another discount big-box retailer, but couldn’t find what I was looking for there either. This store didn’t even carry the product.

Finally, wising up, I called a major office supplies retailer before heading over there. I got stuck in a lengthy IVR (interactive voice response) system, and then put on hold for more than 5 minutes, at which point I just hung up. 

So to summarize: one store wasn’t open yet, one store had the item as an “online-only” purchase, one store did not have the item at all, and one store would not answer the phone.

Frustrated, I drove home and decided to do my live show without the connector. I ordered the correct connector on Amazon for free next-day delivery, and then initiated a return of the incorrect connector. Amazon offered me a “returnless refund,” meaning they fully refunded my purchase and told me that I didn’t need to return the item at all! Perfect.

Amazon has not killed the local retailer, or even the national retailer. Those retailers have done that to themselves, by not being as easy to shop with, as convenient, as flexible, or as helpful. They haven’t learned to “Do Simple Better” as former Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon taught his players.

Four different stores could have had my business that day, and all of them failed to earn it. Amazon’s customer experience remains consistently solid. It is for this reason that so many people simply choose Amazon over any other retailer. 

This reminds me of the closure of a major toy retailer, Toys R Us. Many people were upset that a well-loved toy store was closing. But the Toys R Us of the twenty-first century was the exact same store as the Toys R Us of my childhood. It never evolved, it never grew, it never fully adapted to the Amazon age. (Though to be fair, it tried partnering with Amazon and that didn’t work out.)

Toys R Us should have been the go-to destination for children and their parents to try out every new toy before buying it. It should have taken a page from the Lego Store, which is so engaging and interactive and fun. But instead, Toys R Us remained just a retailer with toys on shelves.

To compete in the modern age, companies don’t have to be better than Amazon. After all, Amazon is so good at what it does because its entire culture is customer-centric. But Amazon is not infallible. All four of those local retailers, parts of national chains, could have delivered for me something that Amazon couldn’t: a last-minute purchase in an urgent situation. But they didn’t. And next time, I’ll save the drive and just order from Amazon. 

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Did you know? The Experience Maker has its own Amazon storefront, featuring our favorite business, marketing, social media, customer experience, and customer service books along with other favorites — including the camera and HDMI connector mentioned in this article! Each purchase results in a small commission to The Experience Maker but does not affect your price.

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