Why I love my hairdresser – and why Amazon is just something to be used

Amazon for me is the definition of e-commerce. They set the standards when it comes to product range, delivery speed, payment options, handling returns and complaints. And yet, Amazon is a victim of its own success. Amazon not only sets the standards, Amazon is also a standard in and of itself. The retail giant is in danger of sinking in its own popularity.

I have used Amazon for a long time. Many may no longer remember this, but Amazon started as a bookseller, and hence, my first purchase was a book. Oracle Desk Reference by Guy Harrison.

Uwe Funk has been an Amazon customer since 1999, but feels more like a user. The reason: There is no customer love.

Since the turn of the millennium, inner city books stores were overwhelmed with all the specialized books. As were customers. It was very difficult to get an overview of “good Oracle books”. There were verbal recommendations from acquaintances and many specialized books claimed to be THE standard work on the topic. For me, however, a standard work is only rarely a good book.

Searching for books with Amazon suddenly became a delight; there was so much more information at hand. Everyone it seems had something to say about books online, and I got to know what a review was. And then soon came a whole lot more: computers, games, clothing, knick-knacks to gather dust around the house, and products to remove this dust. Amazon has become an enormous corner shop in recent years. Many companies also use the Amazon infrastructure for handling sales and shipping.

What I expect from an online shop

There are few things that cannot be purchased at Amazon. Ordering is easy. Delivery is fast. And if I do not like something, I can return it. Amazon for me has become the definition of e-commerce. Search, find, simply order and easily pay… But the most crucial question in the online world is: When will I hold the product ordered in my hands? That is the factor that separates a good webshop from a mediocre one. Same-day shipping. Express. With no surcharges. That is what I expect from every online merchant.

“A nice word does not hurt if you want to give your customers the feeling that they are more than merely users.”

Uwe Funk

And those who take a look beyond the what is recommended by Amazon, recognize that many webshops score points with fast delivery. However, none of them have a product range as large as Amazon's. It is easy to lose the plot when shopping on a rainy Saturday afternoon. A power strip from Brack, mobile phone case from Digitec, instant glue from Office World, a shoehorn from Zalando. Have the shipping costs charged four times and sit on a chair and wait for it at your door, because it will be delivered by registered mail. DPD, DHL and UPS will deliver the rest. Just which shop delivers though which dispatcher can usually only be determined when the delivery slip is found in your mailbox: “We were here. You weren’t. Too bad.”
 You can also buy everything from Amazon. Just log in once, pay one time, one-time shipping costs, a single delivery service.

The crux of the standard

Amazon clearly sets the standards – and is the standard when it comes to online shopping. I have used Amazon for over 18 years. When I add up the orders placed by my wife and I from past years, it nearly takes my breath away. We spend over EUR 2,000 per year for all sorts of things: electronics, films and hobby supplies, shower gel, deodorant and countless little things that we bought when the idea occurred to us, or if our supplies were low. The smartphone app has made Amazon omnipresent and accessible from anywhere. And sometimes it is like the market hall at IKEA, things simply land in the shopping cart without us even knowing that we need them. They tend to be things that we did not even know existed.

For the tireless dedication by my wife and myself to the benefit of Amazon over the last 18 years, as far as I know, we have never received a birthday card from Jeff Bozos or one of his representatives. Not to mention that we have never received a little gift certification in appreciation for our effort to put even more money into Amazon's coffers.

“I don’t expect anything from Amazon, except that they live up to the standard they themselves have set. On the other hand, Amazon should not expect anything from me either. Especially no customer loyalty."

Uwe Funk

But that is ok. I don’t expect anything from Amazon, except that they live up to the standard they themselves have set. On the other hand, Amazon should not expect anything from me either. Especially no customer loyalty. I also do not feel like a customer, more like just a user. The surprise factor is missing. A little extra step that Amazon could take. If someone buys a food processor at Amazon, that may not be a big deal for Amazon itself. The mail-order merchant receives thousands of orders day after day. And the food processor is nothing more than just another item among the endless orders for the day. But fur the buyers, that order really is very important, and often also emotional. They may have saved for a long time, sacrificed things. The spot in the kitchen has been ready for months. The person ordering knows the machine by heart through reviews and video descriptions and is nearly bursting with anticipation, but then what arrives is a battered box, quite possibly the manufacturer’s original box, with a careless, crooked address label.

“The next time I order shaving cream and shoe insoles, I would like to feel a bit of customer love in the box."

Uwe Funk

The next time I order shaving cream and shoe insoles, I would like to feel a bit of customer love in the box.

It does exist: customer love

SMS from the hairdresser: This is what customer love looks like.

At my hairdresser, the Stylebar in Zofingen, I get a bit of customer love every time I visit. The team is really nice and polite. And in a wonderful, unobtrusive manner. They greet me by name when I walk in the door – which in and of itself is something that I really appreciate in this fast-paced world – and I enjoy seeing Barbara, Jasmin, Jolanda, Ramona, Sibylle and Valentina. I also like receiving an SMS reminder the day before my appointment. And even nicer is when I receive an additional tip that it may take a bit longer to find a parking spot because a street festival, market or marathon is proving challenging for the infrastructure of Zofingen. I like receiving a coupon on birthday in a handwritten and stamped card. These are small, cute tokens of appreciation that make me happy every year. Of course, I never redeem the coupon—which is in turn my quirky way of showing my appreciation.

And if we do not forget to write Christmas card in the hecticness of the season, then Stylebar always receives one. Handwritten and personalized. In comparison, I have never felt the need to write Jeff Bozos a Christmas card. How strange.

The road out of whateverism not need be rocky

Customer love is not a business model. It is simply part of having good manners. It goes without saying that a business can also function without customer love, and can achieve unheard of precision and speed with business processes honed down to the smallest detail. Globalism and digitization have made all this just a few clicks away. But this is somehow alienating. A ‘whatever’ attitude tends to arise among employees and managers. The customer becomes expendable. Staff loses sight of the fact that it is not the company that pays their salaries. Neither is it the boss. It is the customer alone who pays salaries. The user. When you buy a pack of razor blades today, it does not matter which drugstore chain or online shop you use. The merchandise is the same everywhere. The price is also comparable and you still cannot manage to open the packaging without cutting yourself. Wouldn’t you think that at least one drugstore would come up with the idea to include a 5-cent band-aid?

Uwe Funk