Amazon vs. Jet On Customer Service

Contributor: Brian Cantor
Posted: 09/06/2016
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It may be the Goliath of the online shopping world, but Amazon is not a villain.  Its overall experience is, in fact, generally lauded by the masses.  Its selection is great, its prices are competitive, its shipping and processing are elite, and its customer service is stellar.

Despite its marketplace dominance and strong, customer-centric qualities, Amazon is not, however, immune from competition.

One of its most buzzy challengers is Jet.

The online retailer recently accepted a $3.3 billion acquisition bid from retail giant Wal-Mart.

Jet is not radically transforming the shopping experience, but it does offer some interesting advantages over Amazon.  Notably, it allows customers to trade perks for discounts.  If they use a debit card rather than a credit card (eliminating Jet’s credit card processing fee) and/or waive their right to a free product return, they receive additional cost savings.

Certain purchases also trigger additional discounts.  Jet, unlike Amazon Prime, does not charge a membership fee.

Jet, of course, cannot match some of Amazon’s key advantages.  Its inventory is nowhere near as extensive, and it cannot even offer 2-day shipping on some items – let alone same-day and next-day delivery.  Jet may not charge a membership fee, but it also offers nothing beyond a shopping experience:  it does not, for instance, provide members with access to an extensive library of streaming audio and video.

But what about the customer service experience?  That was the question Call Center IQ recently explored.

To do so, we evaluated the two retailers’ web, voice and social support platforms.  While not an exhaustive analysis – you can’t truly know how well the business supports customers until you actually have an issue that requires support – the investigation tells us a great deal about how the two organizations approach service.

In the age of “competing on the customer experience,” the service approach matters greatly.

Website

The Amazon Experience: Amazon’s main page does not use common terms like “contact” or “support.”  Rather, it offers users a “help” page.

The help page seems to be a hybrid self-service platform.  Rather than immediately offering a phone number, e-mail or immediate link to a live chat platform, Amazon encourages users to first identify the type of problem they are having.  Is it an issue with an order?  Are they looking to make a return or secure a refund?  Do they require tech support with Amazon’s digital media service?

Aware that customers will not necessarily classify their issues in the same manner, Amazon also offers a list of “recommended topics” and a search bar for those who “can’t find what they need.”

At the bottom of the page is a “need more help” option.  The option – tailormade for those accustomed to pressing “0” to skip the IVR prompt and go straight to a live agent – offers customers the option to post a question in one of the user communities or contact Amazon.

Before providing a phone number, the “contact” tool asks users to pre-qualify their issue.  Users are prompted to select the specific purchase or service about which they are calling and provide some basic details.  Once they fill out the qualification form, they are provided with the option to e-mail, call or chat with support.

Amazon does offer Twitter customer care, but there are no obvious references to that option on the official website.

While Amazon’s user interface attempts to route customers through the self-help or qualification processes, it is worth noting that one can immediately secure a direct phone number by typing “contact Amazon” into Google.

The Jet Experience: Jet’s approach to support is more straightforward and direct.  The footer of every page lists the official phone number, the official support e-mail, and a link to a frequently asked questions page.

Customers can perform basic, transactional tasks – request a refund, cancel an order, etc – from their account page, but there does not appear to be a self-help or diagnostics platform in the vein of that offered by Amazon.

Like Amazon, Jet offers customer care on Twitter.  Like Amazon, Jet does not provide any obvious links to that account.

Links to its general social media accounts are, however, prominently featured in the footer.

Phone

The Amazon Experience: One who calls the main Amazon support line encounters a fairly conventional IVR, which segments and qualifies customers based on standard factors like product category, issue type, etc.  Customers are ultimately either presented with a solution or routed to a live agent.

The Jet Experience:  Those who call are greeted by a voice recording, which informs them that they can perform basic functions via their online account or stay on the line for agent assistance.  Following a joke from the recorded voice and the standard quality assurance disclaimer, the customer is indeed forwarded to the agent/agent queue.

Twitter

The Amazon Experience:  Amazon offers support through its @amazonhelp account.

A quick overview reveals that Amazon does not respond to all customers (or at least all open-ended inquiries from all customers), but it does respond fairly frequently.  During business hours, it seems to provide multiple responses per minute.

There are a few examples of @amazonhelp responding to inquiries that were not specifically sent to the @amazonhelp account.  It also seems to occasionally respond to conversational Tweets (“I’m going to read these books on my Kindle”) in addition to feedback, complaints and more traditional requests for “support.”

The responses tend to be of a mixed quality.

On the one hand, the @amazonhelp replies are fairly organic and “human” in tone.  They reflect a legitimate interest in understanding and addressing customers’ issues.

On the other hand, they are not always particularly substantive or resolute.  Several Tweets ask customers to contact Amazon directly (as in, via e-mail, phone or chat) as if the Tweet itself doesn’t count.

Part of the problem is that Amazon does not direct message customers.  It, consequently, cannot readily access – and certainly cannot share – specific information about each customer’s issue.  The company’s Twitter engagement is therefore limited to general inquiries, information sharing, exchanging of feedback, and promises to do better in the future.  Anything deeper requires escalation to a more “private” channel.

The Jet Experience: Jet offers support through its @jetheads account.

The account only seems to post a few times each hour, but it is not necessarily ignoring customers.  The volume of inquiries communicated to @jetheads (and the main @jet account) simply pales in comparison to that facing Amazon.

A search of @jetheads Tweets, in fact, reveals very few customer support inquiries.  Many (perhaps the majority of) messages tend to be of a stock, scripted, closed-ended format:  “I just had a great experience on @jet.  Thanks (insert agent name) and the @jetheads.” 

The responses Jet does provide tend to be reasonably organic and personalized.  They often include the customer’s name and demonstrate mindfulness of context.

Unlike Amazon, Jet does communicate with customers using DM.  In theory, that means Jet should be capable of solving most, if not all, issues on Twitter.  It should not need to route customers to another, higher-touch channel (whether it does engage in such routing is unclear).

Overall Approach:

Reducing customer effort is considered one of the most paramount imperatives for today’s businesses.  Amazon and Jet differ on which effort to reduce.

Jet makes it very easy to contact the support team.  The support phone number and e-mail are posted at the bottom of every page, and there are no complicated diagnostics tools or qualification processes separating customers from live agents.

On the other hand, this means the customer will need to identify himself and explain his issue at the onset of the call.

The Amazon experience requires more upfront effort; customers are asked to identify themselves and detail their issue prior to speaking to a live agent.

This, in theory, should mean less effort is required during the actual conversation.    

brian
Contributor: Brian Cantor