Monday, 22 December 2008

A Christmas Re-Tale of Online Delivery

I realise that I often use this blog to rant about poor online customer service so I thought I would begin by posting one of my more positive experiences of online retail.

Graham Chorlton recently wrote a post on the E-Consultancy Blog about how high street retailers are handling Christmas delivery. Delivery times are crucial around Christmas, particularly for someone like myself, who aims to do the majority of their shopping online but still leaves it until the last minute. The thought of gifts not arriving on time and having to find presents for all my family on Christmas Eve, fills me with dread.

In 2006 I ordered a lot of my Christmas presents from Amazon. I placed my order on 10th Dec. I had ordered a variety of different delivery dates but decided to consolidate all my orders into one delivery on 18th Dec. I specified that I would have the items delivered to my office as, like most full time employees, I am unable to sign for deliveries at home as I am not there during the day.

There really is a gap in the market for a delivery company to devise a solution to this problem. Whether it be paying extra for evening or weekend deliveries or specifying a secondary address in the event of non-delivery, this is a major barrier to online purchase.

For example, I recently had a package delivered from Apple, that I had to drive about 10 miles to my nearest TNT depot to collect, taking almost half a morning out of the office. If I had known this, it may have been simpler for me to purchase directly from an Apple reseller, all be it for a slightly inflated price.

Anyway, I must get back to the Amazon story as I said this would not be a ranting post. I went on skiing on the 17th Dec and returned on the 23rd only to find that no delivery had been made. After a bit of enquiry at work I decided to call
Amazon directly via their customer services callback mechanism. This service worked incredibly well, the callback happened almost instantly. Amazon were able to track the order from dispatch to my local Royal Mail Depot. I managed to speak to the local depot who told me that my delivery had been left for postal delivery. I had to conclude that my parcel must have got lost on the final leg of the journey, the 500m from the Royal Mail depot to my office.

However, with nothing in the office and the Xmas shopping hours rapidly running out, I decided to speak with Amazon again. Despite the fact they had really done nothing wrong, they assured me that they would do their best to get all the items sent out to me by special delivery the next day (24 Dec). The delivery was made as promised and even included the items that originally had extended delivery times.

This level of customer service, I thought was exceptional and have not forgotten. I believe that Amazon are a best of class online retailer that are continually innovating within not just their sector, but online as a whole. The fact that their customer service is also superb demonstrates that they have a a customer centric approach that will inevitably allow them to sustain growth even during this economic decline.

I
thought no more about the whole episode until a year or so later when a departing colleague was unpacking his desk and found the original package from Amazon that he had accepted, signed for and forgotten about.

I should mention that I have no affiliation with Amazon at all. I'm just delighted that they were so attentive and so helpful, especially as the blame did not lie with them.