If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen an all-out rant the other evening about a complete customer service nightmare related to Amazon.com and UPS. Here's a run-down of what ultimately happened:

  1. I ordered a small chest from Amazon (directly, not a 3rd party seller).
  2. Being a somewhat large item shipping-wise, it took a while to get to me. I checked the tracking. I saw a note saying they tried to deliver it Tuesday, but they had the wrong address.
  3. I called UPS. They told me my apartment number was 3. It's not. It's 359. They cut it off. There is no apartment 3, hence why they couldn't find one. But she wouldn't update anything unless it came from Amazon directly. Then I asked why the driver didn't attempt to take it to the community office instead when they realized no apartment #3 existed. She put me on hold. She ended up disconnecting me.
  4. I called Amazon. They had the correct apartment number on my order. So somewhere between them and UPS it got screwed up. They put me on hold to call UPS. The woman with Amazon comes back and tells me that UPS wouldn't let her change it. Huh?
  5. So the Amazon rep tells me to hold again and says she'll try to change it online. She puts me on hold, and she also disconnects me! At this point I'm fuming.
  6. In her defense, she called me right back within a minute (no customer service rep has done that before during a disconnect with me). She says it'll take a while and asks if she can call me back in 10 minutes with an update.
  7. About 40-50 minutes go by and no call. So I call UPS again (and by now we're nearing midnight).
  8. I tell the UPS rep what Amazon said. They claimed Amazon never called them. Then they tell me there's an updated address after all. They updated it to apartment #3! Hair was on the verge of being ripped out at this point. I corrected them again and told them no, it's 359. Well, we can't do anything.
  9. I call Amazon again. I get a different rep this time. Like the woman earlier, this guy is very nice and actually trying to help. He also calls UPS for me. This time it's done on a conference call so I know very well Amazon actually did reach UPS. It briefly looks like UPS is going to take care of the change. The UPS rep puts us both on hold. Then they disconnect us. Again.
  10. The Amazon guy tells me they'll have to try again in the morning.
  11. Morning comes, and I'm not waiting around for Amazon (who didn't actually get back to me in the morning, but rather mid-afternoon). I called UPS directly. I got a different woman. I make it very clear that I'm extremely pissed off (but that I'm not blaming her personally), that this package already took a while to get here, that I have my ID and a copy of the order showing I placed the order with the correct address, and that it would be completely unacceptable for the package to be sent back to Amazon. I wanted it fixed. I told her how I wanted it fixed. And I told her that I wanted it fixed right now. Do you know what she did? She fixed it. She updated it, sent a message to their local customer service center, and had them call me later in the morning to verify so they could call the delivery person and make sure it got to me.

It's funny, right? Hours on the phone with two companies passing the blame (each repeatedly claimed the mess-up was with the other), with people telling me nothing could be done. Get a bit more assertive, and like magic all the barriers go away and there's a solution after all.

The situation had me pissed off beyond all imagination, but in the end it was the same approach I usually used that got the job done -- make it clear you're upset with the company and not the individual you're speaking to (it's probably really not their fault, and you'd hate to be in their shoes anyway), tell them exactly what's wrong, tell them exactly what you want them to do to fix the problem, and tell them when you expect the problem to be fixed. In this case that was easy -- deliver my package, and do it today (since it was already out with the wrong address again).

Overall, I think this offers a few customer service lessons worth keeping in mind:

  1. Don't try to blame someone else. Yes, Amazon had the correct address from me. But perhaps they entered it incorrectly (one line instead of two) so it didn't fit in the UPS form. I don't know. But when it's something you can potentially fix, just say "I'm sorry, let me help you with this." That single sentence goes a long way towards lessening a customer's rage directed at your company. The same goes for UPS. They fixed it, so obviously they could have earlier. They chose not to. Not acceptable.
  2. Don't hang up on your customers. I was hung up on three times that evening, twice by UPS and once by Amazon. If there's a chance of being disconnected, give the customer a direct callback number to that specific rep first just in case -- then they don't have to repeat the whole ordeal every time they have to call back. And if you do get disconnected, call your customer back instead of making them hunt you down again. Amazon got that right, and it was the most pleasant surprise of the evening.
  3. If you say you'll call a customer back, do it. It was very late in the evening, and the Amazon rep asked whether or not she could call me back. If a customer gives you specific permission to call them back at a certain time, rest assured they're probably waiting for you. I didn't appreciate being kept up late for no reason when I was up late for the sold purpose of working with them on this issue. Call your customers or clients back.
  4. Be patient and pleasant with a pissed off customer. There's never an occasion to be flat-out rude to a customer, but the angrier they are, the nicer you need to be. I will say the reps I dealt with were all very pleasant, and I could have gone from seriously pissed to verging on homicidal if I had to deal with snotty customer service reps on top of it. Understand that a client isn't always mad at you personally, but rather upset with a situation.
  5. If you can fix something for a customer, just fix it. Don't drag them along. Don't make excuses. Don't pass blame. Just fix the f*ing problem. It might seem like common sense, but people don't always do it. Wipe "I can't" out of your vocabulary, and replace it with "let me see what I can do."

Just for the record, I did finally get my chest delivered. I probably won't order larger items from Amazon again any time soon after this ordeal (I've never had an issue getting smaller packages from them delivered), and I'll probably cringe every time I see a UPS truck for a little while. But I'll get over it. If you don't take care of your clients though, you might not be so lucky.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Indie Writers, NakedPR.com, and BizAmmo.com.

Jenn has over 17 years experience writing for others, around 12 years experience in blogging, and about a decade of experience in indie e-book publishing. She is also an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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