Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Amazing Amazon Service / Paying You To Stop Working

Recently, my Kindle Lighted Leather Cover's light stopped working. I wasn't sure what the reason was because there were no screws that I could tinker with. The case came with one year warranty so I knew Amazon could get it replaced for free. What I didn't expect was how well the process went.

Firstly, I had to call them, so I switched on Skype, went to Amazon's 'contact us' page, and called the US number. A lady answered and I told her about the problem. What's wonderful is that Amazon's tech support personnel are really out of this world. I've called them a few times and they are consistently nice to talk with. They are not in a hurry, they will listen to you, they will wait (and really wait patiently) for you to provide information.

Anyway I'd done my homework. I told her that I narrowed down the fault to the lighted cover because I'd tested the cover with another Kindle and the light still didn't work. There was a possibility that this other Kindle was faulty, but I reckoned it's pretty unlikely. It was more likely that the cover was at fault.

She listened to me, got the picture, and said she would refund me the cost of the cover. I was floored! No more interrogation? No more 'are you sure you didn't drop it on the floor only to have a car accidentally drive over it?' Didn't I need to send the faulty one back first? She said she would overnight a new cover over, but the colour I wanted was out of stock, so the next best thing would be to refund me the money so that I could buy whatever I wanted. I was told to return the faulty cover and was given an address label to print out and paste on the package. Brilliant!

The story didn't end there. I later realised that the return address label was meant for people in the US, and it had no address printed on it, only bar codes. The customer can just drop the package off at any post office and that's that. So I emailed Amazon about this 'problem', told them I was currently overseas, and could they give me another address label to use so that I could ship the faulty Kindle cover back to them.

A few hours later someone emailed me back.


I'm sorry to hear about the problem you are experiencing with this return. In this case, please return the item to our return address below and write back to us with the return shipping charges and we will refund the same to the payment method used in your order. Please write the reason for your return on the packing slip, put the slip in the carton, and wrap the package securely. If you no longer have your packing slip, please write your order number on a slip of paper.

Send the package to:
     172 Trade Street
     Lexington, KY 40511

Please write back and let us know what you paid for return shipping so we may credit you the correct amount. Please visit the following link to provide the information we requested....

Wow! They are paying for my shipping! So this has been quite a pleasant surprise because even though I've heard of superlative service from Amazon, I haven't really had the need to use it before. I filled in the form stating how much it cost me to ship the lighted case back.

Update (30th January): I received an email from customer service.

Greetings from Amazon.com.

We're writing to let you know we processed your refund of $6.00 for your Order 104-6085509-7637041.

This refund is for the following item(s):

Item: Kindle Lighted Leather Cover, Burnt Orange (Fits 6" Display, Latest Generation Kindle)
Quantity: 1
ASIN: B003DZ167A
Reason for refund: Account adjustment

Here's the breakdown of your refund for this item:
Goodwill Refund: $6.00
We'll apply your refund to the following payment method(s):

Gift Card: $6.00

Refunds typically complete within 10 business days and appear as a credit on your statement.

The amount credited to your Gift Card balance should be automatically applied to your next eligible order on our website.

Have questions about our refund policy?
Visit our Help section for more information: http://www.amazon.com/refunds
We look forward to seeing you again soon.


We're Building Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company

As expected, everything went well!

A question I am curious about is: what on earth is going on?! How does this level of customer service come about? I don't know but I sure will like to. Maybe I'll talk about another company associated with Amazon called Zappos.

Zappos is an online shoe store that's also famous for its customer service; it was bought over by Amazon in 2009. Zappos' training programme for new employees is quite interesting. They want to make sure that every new hire shares their corporate culture, concern for the customer and so on.

Now one way to make sure that happens is to intentionally keep only the people who really want to work in the company. But how about the others? Those who are not so keen to do a good job? You may wish to fire them. Sometimes, though, people need some encouragement, so that's what Zappos management is doing.

In the middle of the training programme that all new employees have to go through, they are given the chance to back out. Some people may have always wanted to work there but after going through part of the initial training decide that Zappos is not for them after all. Here's the interesting bit: Zappos management will pay you to back out! To the tune of US$2000. Take the money and leave, no questions asked.

If we were to apply this to the teaching service in Singapore, it'd be similar to saying to a trainee teacher at NIE and saying, 'OK, here's the deal, you've had a taste of school life. After experiencing a bit of what a 'teacher' is REALLY like, we understand that you may feel teaching is not your thing. So we're giving you a chance to QUIT. In fact, if you back out now, there'll be NO penalties, and we'll PAY you $2000 as a goodwill gesture to compensate for the time you've spent with us. Think about it. We'll ask you again in a few weeks.'

I'm not sure if this will ever happen, but if it did, it'll be very impressive! The idea is to recognise that some people may change their minds, and that it's perfectly all right for them to do so simply because it's best for everyone. The other good thing is that only the truly interested people remain, the ones who don't wish to cash out and stay on.

Perhaps Amazon, after acquiring Zappos, have also taken a leaf out their hiring practice. I won't be too surprised if that's the case, given the ease that my Kindle cover was replaced. For the record, if MOE offers me $3000 today to quit, I won't do it. I think I quite like my job LOL!

Further reading:
Why Zappos Offers New Hires $2,000 to Quit
The policy of providing a let-out after one week has gained worldwide attention. Columnist Keith McFarland explains why it makes sense