T’was the month before Christmas and all through the house, all the creatures were clicking…ordering gifts via Amazon.com! Our household enjoys the convenience of “window-shopping” and making purchases from the comfort of our laptop (not fighting crowds or wasting gas). We happily anticipate hearing the doorbell ring knowing our perfectly chosen items have just been delivered. Last Christmas, a big gift for my 8-year-old son was a mountain bike! He was ready to graduate from the 14-inch Cars themed bike he’d been riding since he was five to a sleek looking red 20-inch red bike, with rugged looking tires and shocks. We were thrilled to find this bike for just around $100 on Amazon. The boy was going to love it!

Bike Problems

The bike was delivered, but the box it came in was severely bent up and had several donut-sized holes. As I opened the box, I saw signs that this wasn’t the first time the box had been opened. As I attempted assembly, it became evident that parts were missing. My first thought was “Ok, no problem! I’ll just ask Amazon to send me the missing parts”. I chatted with an Amazon rep online, and they told me, “we cannot just send parts for this model number, you’ll have to return the entire bike and we will send you a new one.” I expressed my willingness to do that, but also explained that I had already spent 1.5 hours assembling this bike, and that it would be time-consuming to take apart and ship back. Furthermore, my biggest concern was that this was a “Santa gift” for an 8-year-old who was likely experiencing his last Christmas as a “believer” and Christmas was only 2 weeks away. Would the replacement arrive in time?

Working Christmas Magic

This is where Amazon’s empathetic customer service superpowers began to surface. “May I put you on hold for a moment?” – while usually being asked to be put on hold is a bad thing, I could feel something special was possibly happening behind the scenes. After 1 minute on hold, the Amazon rep returned and said, “Mr. Whitaker? Yes, I got approval from my manager – we will send you a completely new bike at no additional charge and we will make sure it arrives before Christmas. No need to send back the other bike.” Wow – two bikes for the price of one, and a guarantee that the new fully working bike would arrive before Christmas. Two days before Christmas the bike arrived. What was even more impressive was that they contacted us on Christmas Eveto check and make sure the bike had arrived in time!

Getting it Right

This experience helped me understand why Amazon.com recently earned a Top 25 in the 2018 Temkin Experience Ratings. Of course, I am only one person, and this was only one transaction. But the Temkin ratings show that I’m not alone in my experience or in my perception of Amazon.com as a company with excellent customer service. Creating excellent Customer Experiences has evidentially enculturated through their organization. Here is what they got right applying the Temkin measurement approach of success, effort, and emotion to my situation.

  1. The 2nd fully functional bike was successfully delivered before Christmas showing that they understand the importance of a delivery deadline and made it happen.
  2. With very little effort on my part, but I’m sure some effort on their part, they provided a solution that solved our problem.
  3. Incredulous. Impressed. These were some of the emotions I was feeling with the confirmation that a second bike (totally free) would be delivered by Christmas.

Lastly, when they proactively followed up with us on Christmas Eve to ensure that the bike arrived – this made us feel special, important, and garnered our loyalty. To us, this empathetic driven experience made us feel as if Jeff Bezos himself was telling our customer service rep, “Do whatever you have to do to keep the Whitakers happy!”.

The Power of Empathy

In this example, our customer service representative went above and beyond to provide excellent service. Perhaps my rep had their own Santa-skeptical eight-year-old at home or maybe they just remembered the feeling. Regardless of how it happened, we felt that our rep had developed a deep sense of empathy for us and that made all the difference for us. And I’m sure this level of customer service will make a difference for Amazon too. At least for us, I’m 100 percent certain that Amazon.com will get the biggest slice of our holiday shopping budget this year.