Is Good Customer Service Really That Hard?

I’m angry.

I’m frustrated.

I’m confused.

Do I have unrealistic expectations as a consumer?

I’ve read Zappos founder Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness… surely good customer service can’t be that hard!

Why aren’t there more ecommerce companies like Zappos?


Here’s a recent story, driven me to write this post.

It’s my girlfriend’s birthday, and I ordered her a present from an ecommerce site with online shipping.

The order was delivered on-time, no problem. I wrapped the present up (horribly), to give to her for her birthday. She opens the box, and immediately we see that the order was fulfilled incorrectly — in fact, it wasn’t even close.

I commence the exchange process — the retailer will graciously pick up the order from me, and then ship back a replacement.

As it turns out, the timeline is as follows:

2 business days to pick up the return; 2 business days for the warehouse to receive the return; 3–5 business days for the warehouse to inspect the return, per their policies (apparently there’s a backlog); then another 2 business days for them to ship out the replacement.

That’s almost two full weeks to process a return!


Ecommerce brands are obsessed with lifestyle marketing — as they should be, it helps move product!

Well, you know what kind of lifestyle I want to live?

One where I don’t have to deal with sh*t customer service!

And one where I, your paying customer, am more important to you than a prospective customer.


With that being said, I have a list of demands.

I don’t know if they’re unreasonable — they might be — but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to set our standards high as consumers.

Without further ado…

The Customer Service Manifesto — from a Customer Perspective

Invest in Me.

Seth Godin thinks that we’re still clueless about lifetime customer value, and argues that customer service has moved from a marketing feature that allows a company to gain a competitive advantage, to an operational expense that ought to be minimized.

I would agree.

I may not be worth that much to you now, but invest in me — through good customer service — and you will be rewarded.

Invest in me now — while I’m still young — and it will pay off when I’m old, and rich.

I don’t care about your company policies.

I guess I understand why you need to have them. But I don’t care about them, nor to I want to hear about them.

And if you do need to have them, might I suggest allowing flexibility for your customer service staff to delight customers, especially when you, the company, make a mistake?

In this recent experience, the ecommerce company told me it is their company policy to inspect the return before shipping out the exchange.

Why do I have to wait for a company to inspect the return, when they’re the one that screwed the order up in the first place?

Don’t make your problems my problems.

If you screw up, I expect some sort of compensation.

If an airline screws up, and it’s within their control, they are compelled to compensate their passengers. Same should apply for ecommerce stores.

I appreciate your apology — and you better give one — but an apology doesn’t make me any more inclined to do business with you moving forward.

Yes, I’m fickle, and perhaps unreasonable.

But again, earn my loyalty and you will be rewarded.

Your customer service should be outbound

I don’t want to wait on hold — get a callback system.

What’s more, when there is an open ticket, put mechanisms in place to update me regularly. I don’t want to follow up with you for updates.

We want immediate service

Get an online chat and hire enough people to man it for 12 hours.

If you’re experiencing high call volume, don’t apologize to me for your high call volume — hire more call center employees.

And we don’t care if it’s expensive. Invest more in current customers than new customer acquisition, and again, you will be rewarded.

If you’re an ecommerce store, free shipping and free returns is non-negotiable.

The fact that some companies still charge for shipping is shocking to me.

But ecommerce companies must also offer free returns. Yes, Zappos has set a standard that cannot be walked back.

From a behavioral psychology perspective, it’s better to charge a person once than twice. Just bake the cost of shipping into the margins!

And in-spite of ecommerce wreaking havoc on traditional retailers, the fact remains that customers still like to touch, feel and try on product.

All of the top ecommerce brands — Warby Parker, Daniel Wellington, Away, Bonobos — still have brick and mortar shops.

For those who don’t, why do you think pop up shops are so hot right now?

Free returns allows for that benefit, and should be non-negotiable.


Is that too much to ask?

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