The Impact of Amazon
Every day I am asked what I think the impact of Amazon is on brick and mortar retail. There is no question that Amazon is affecting the assortment, accessibility, and speed of delivery. However, with the company’s growth, the organization appears to be lacking in face-to-face customer service. As their home deliveries grow the final miles become saturated with employees that are untrained in customer service skills. Last week, we received a bicycle camera we never even ordered and for which we were not charged. Try to talk to a human being to resolve the problem – impossible. Have you felt like home deliveries in the little white van are a bit like a private detective arriving at your front door? Are you afraid to open your entry to the person delivering, and if you have opened your door, have you received a thank you for your purchase? The need for outstanding customer service in today’s business world is growing. Providing outstanding customer service is one way for retailers to overcome the loss of business to Amazon.
Outstanding Customer Service
Recently, I had a positive experience with FedEx that made me realize that some companies are still out there providing outstanding customer service. I needed some workbooks printed for a workshop that I was giving 1200 miles away. The associate at my local FedEx spent a great deal of time with me so we could determine the optimal number of pages, the best paper, and the best way to copy the document. At one point I mentioned that I had to carry the copies on the airplane, and the store associate indicated she would be happy to locate a local FedEx office so I would not have to take the prints on the plane. She promised they would be ready on Saturday morning by 9:00 am. When I arrived at the local FedEx, not only were the documents available, but I found out that my local store associate had called that morning to ensure the workbooks were ready. I was so blown away by the experience that I was compelled to write a positive note via email to the CEO, Frederick W. Smith. Below is an excerpt of the letter of response I received two days later.
“We appreciate your kind remarks regarding the service you received from Dollie. There is no doubt that our company’s success is directly attributed to the commitment of our employees to provide the best service offered in this industry, and we also understand the lasting impact that a courteous, professional employee can have on our customers. It is a pleasure to hear firsthand that Dollie’s assistance was helpful to you, and I am confident that both she and her manager appreciate your praise. Your letter serves as another important reminder to all of us at FedEx that our customers always deserve our best efforts. We have an internal process for recognizing such events, and Dollie will be rewarded for her efforts on your behalf.
A letter such as yours is particularly gratifying; a heartfelt note of praise from a person says not only a lot about the intended recipient of the recognition, but it also means a lot about someone who would take time out of their busy day to acknowledge the efforts of another. We thank you for taking the time out of your day to bring this to our attention.”
Upon receipt of this beautifully written response, I was reminded of the many years I spent as a store manager, and asked myself the question, “did I provide this level of service every day?” Outstanding customer service begins at the very top. Regional and District Managers need to walk the talk in every visit and every customer interaction. Store Managers need to talk about customer service and customer follow-up every day to their associates. I can tell you without a doubt that the next time I need copies or something shipped, I will be going back to FedEx. Not only did all the local staff meet the customer service challenge, but there was a CEO walking the talk. The store associate was recognized and he graciously complimented me for taking the time to acknowledge the outstanding employee. He left me feeling like I had done something spectacular when all I did was send an email. I would love to send more emails like this but unfortunately, I have not found that same level of customer service in the brick and mortar stores, and even if I found it would I find the CEO’s email on the Internet? What this says to me is that retailers are missing the opportunity to offset the impact of Amazon with outstanding customer service. Congratulations FedEx’s CEO, Frederick Smith, for a job well done!
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