Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Here follows an overview of what happened since my article from last week.

American Express
Immediately the person who is responsible for social media reacted via Twitter. She put me in contact with their @askamex people to help me further.
She was very helpful and did find out that there was indeed a software problem (Safari and Chrome access didn’t work). That is what I told the Amazon people in the first place, but they wouldn’t listen.
Then she said that she could not assist me any further as my card was issued in the EU and she could only work with US issued cards.
As a global customer however I expect global, seamless service. But that is not the way they are currently organized. So, I would suggest renaming their account into @AskAmexUS.

Via Twitter I did receive no reaction at all, although I copied them on my Tweets. Also there was no reaction to my negative ratings on their service performance.
So, why do you ask your customers about their satisfaction, when you take no action to follow up?
And why do you have a Twitter account if you do not react on issues?
This means that I had to be very creative in order to get my issue solved. I did mail a very valued Zappos contact and she introduced me to Amazon customer relations.
She was very helpful. After some time she confirmed that some browsers were not supported and that they are working on the issue.
Then she informed me later that the Membership Rewards Program was only eligible for in the US issued Amex cards.
Aha, this was not mentioned in the beginning and it is still suggested on my accounts page.
So, why are they making a difference between US customers and everybody else? Apparently I am good enough to order and pay with my (EU issued) card, but I don’t get the benefits for it.

If you are a global company then you have to make sure that you design your service in such a way that you can really support global customers.
If you provide service, then your goal is to help the customer to his or her satisfaction and not to get rid of them as fast as possible or pass on the responsibility.
If you ask for feedback, than follow up or don’t ask.
If you want to be a customer centric company than you have to make sure that the customers can reach you easily and effortlessly, by phone and by email.
If you use social media, than monitor what is being said about you and follow up.

And above all, if you make a mistake....... admit that you have done so!


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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

AMAZON’S Backlog in Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company

Last week I did read an article in TechCrunch that Amazon now accepts American Express membership rewards points for purchases on Amazon.com. Well this is good news, I thought, as I have quite some points to use. So, I logged into the specific page on Amazon to link both accounts. I just had to fill in a few details regarding my American Express account and then hit the last button ‘Link rewards account’. But........ nothing happened, I expected a confirmation page which tells me that everything is linked now, but no reaction at all. I could only see that my cursor was back at the place where I first provided my details. So, I tried again and again, but every time no result. Pff, this was frustrating. While I was so happy with the possibility of buying books from my points.

What to do next? I had to get in touch with customer service. This is where we get in an area where there is a huge opportunity for improvement.
It is very difficult to find a way to email/contact customer service. You need to spit tthrough a lot of FAQ pages and then somewhere at the end there is a link.
It is clear that Amazon prefers self-service and doesn’t really want you to contact their customer services. I now understand why.

First I used their mail facility and explained my problem. This was there reaction.
“I'm sorry you had problems using our website! I wasn't able to reproduce the problem you had, so I'd suggest you give us a call.  One of our colleague will assist you online in linking your card.”
In other words, dear Mr Customer you are wrong there is no problem!! This statement rules against the most crucial principle of services, namely the customer is always right. This made me angry, so I decided to make use of their call facility. They promoted  that I just had to provide my number and that I then would be called back. However, this functionality doesn’t work when you are living in the Netherlands. So, if  you really want to be a global company, than please include all countries where you are selling to.

What to do next? After some searching I did find a phone number, which I had to call at my own expense. Okay, I did it. The person who answered the call had never heard about the possibility of linking these accounts. So, I basically took him by the hand and explained the issue. The only answer he had (after consulting with his supervisor) was to call American Express instead. This is another major mistake in providing services; never pass the responsibility to someone else. So, I ended the thirty-minute international phone call and there I was. Still no solution and a lot of time and money wasted.
I decided to answer the first email and this is their response.
“We didn't receive the e-mail message below because it was directed to an e-mail address that can't accept incoming messages”
This again proves that they, Amazon, see services as a cost center, as an area in which they want a minimal amount of conversations, even better no conversations at all. They don’t want direct contact with me, the customer. On the contrarie. I, as a customer, want personalized and customized support. So, there is quite a gap here. But if you have this as a slogan in your signature “We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company” there is still hope…….

So, I did send a new email, again explaining my experiences. And this was the response.
“I'm sorry to hear you had trouble registering your rewards program to Shop with Points. Be sure to follow the instructions provided in the error message.”
Further in the mail, they explained the procedure. And this is it, nobody answered my question and nobody cared. Obviously it is my problem and not theirs! I feel that I am not wanted. I am just a nuisance and have to solve my own problems. Please don’t bother us, we just want to sell you stuff and provide as little personal service as possible.

As a last resort, I did check whether Amazon has a Twitter account, and they have. So I posted a message that I just had a terrible service experience. I hoped to get a reaction, but that was in vain. Also on all the emails there was this paragraph.
“Did I solve your problem?
If yes, please click here:
If no, please click here:
Every time I replied with no and gave the lowest possible ratings. Now, a week later, I have received no reaction at all.

What does this experience prove?
That services should not be only a cost center, that services require a specific approach and design, that service is a culture and an attitude and that a positive customer experience is crucial for retention.
Also, dear Mr Amazon you have to understand  that bad news travels fast. I am writing this blogpost as basically a cry for help. Maybe we can even help each other…..

I would also like to suggest that you  contact your partners from Zappos, as they really understand what it means to provide WOW-services!


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Tuesday, September 14, 2010


In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that there is something profoundly wrong with the way we make sense of success.
It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forebears shape the patterns of our achievement.

The emerging picture from studies is that then thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a worldclass expert – in anything. So, you need to have parents who encourage and support you. You can’t be poor.
But before we can become an expert, someone has to give you the opportunity to learn hw to be an expert.

What truly distinguishes outliers is not their extraordinary talent, but their extraordinary opportunities. Their success was not just of their own making. It was a product of the world in which they grew up.

IQ is a measure, to some degree, of innate ability. But social savy is knowledge. It’s a set of skills that have to be learned. It has to come from your families. Did you have that opportunity?

The sense of possibility so necessary for success comes not jusr from inside us or from our parents. It comes from our time: from the particular opportunities that our particular place in history presents us with.

Success arises out of the steady accumulation of advantages: when and where you were born, what your parents did for a living, and what the circumstances of your upbringing were. The traditions and attitudes we inherit from our forebears play the same role.

Sucess follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. Nor is sucess simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. Outliers are those who have been given opportunies – and who have had the strenght and presence of mind to seize them.

Outliers are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy.

In Iconoclast, Gregory Berns explains how the brain sabotages creative thinking for most ordinary people.

An iconoclast is a person who does something that others say can’t be done.
The iconoclastic brain differs in these three functions and the circuits that implement them:

  • Perception
  • Fear response
  • Social intelligence

Perception is heavily influenced by past experience and what other people say. To see things differently the most effective solution is to bombard the brain with things it has never encountered before. Novelty releases the perceptual process from the shackles of past experience and forces the brain to make new judgments.

The iconoclast perceives things differently than everyone else.
The key to seeing like an iconoclast is to look at things that you have never seen before. Unfamiliarity forces the brain to discard its usual categories of perception and create new ones.

Only when you consciously confront your brain’s reliance on categories will you be able to imagine outside of its boundaries.

Novelty triggers the fear system of the brain. Fear of uncertainty/the unknown (ambiguity), fear of failure and fear of public ridicule inhibit iconoclastic thinking. The true iconoclast. although he may still experience these fears, does not let them inhibit his actions.

Fear of the unknown, the other great inhibitor of innovation and iconoclasm, can also be managed through the same techniques of reappraisal (replace a negative reaction with a positive one) and extinction (any fear can be managed through practice). If individuals reappraise all sources of stress as an opportunity to discover something new or find a market niche that other people are afraid of, stress may itself decrease.

The truth is that many of our thoughts originate from other people. Conformity: we know what we see, and we know right from wrong, but with enough social pressure, we cave in to the fear of standing alone.
The most effective strategy for dealing with a group is to recruit one like-minded individual. Committees should not be required to arrive at a unanimous decision.

The individual must sell his ideas to other people. The modern iconoclast navigates a dynamic social network and elicits change that begins with altered perception and ends with effecting change in other people (or dying a failure).

Connecting with iconoclast depends on two key aspects of social intelligence: familiarity (face and name recognition) and reputation. Increase the world’s familiarity with you through productivity and exposure. And develop a reputation so that people are drawn to you and not repelled. To be successful, the iconoclast must foster networks. Iconoclasts need connectors. Without them, he stands no chance of achieving success.

So, what CAN you still do if you want to make a difference?

  • Practice makes perfect. Put in these ten thousand hours to become an expert.
  • Bombard your brain with new experiences
  • Team up with like-minded people
  • Improve your social skills
  • Continuously build your reputation
  • Provide meaningful work


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