Why Amazon Will Put John Lewis Out of Business in 2 Years Time

Now I’ve used JohnLewis.com for as long as I can remember (probably about 8 years) for ordering all my big electrical appliances. It’s one of those companies my parents always used to rave about: “You should always buy from JohnLewis as you get a 2–3yr guarantee and they’ll fix anything that goes wrong — always excellent customer service”.

So that’s what I did. Until now…

See — the thing is that the vast majority of online retailers are losing the plot. Of course there are some exceptions, but generally it can only be a matter of time before Amazon steamrolls over them. In fact, just over 50% of people start their shopping journey at Amazon now.. (which is making Google poo its pants and that’s not easy!)

source: RetailWeek, April 2017

Now I’m not going to break down their financial statements or launch into a huge strategic breakdown.

I’m going to explain with a real-world case of Customer Service, because ultimately you can tell a lot from a company by how they handle themselves.

How many of you use Amazon as your first shopping destination because of either, or all of the following:

  • Free and fast delivery (especially with Prime)
  • 24 x 7 support (web chat, email, phone)
  • No quibble returns for any reason
  • One-click fast purchase

2 of those are about customer service because that’s what is important to us with online shopping.

Now onto the story…

The Freezer

About 3 weeks ago, two draws of the freezer cracked and broke. You know, the perspex holders for the ice creams and frozen berries that you never actually eat.

Now I know JohnLewis gave me a 3 year guarantee on this freezer, after all that’s why I buy my electricals from them, so first stop.. John Lewis online support.

A reply.. yey…

Hmm. Ok, that’s annoying.

Yes, please do make me go and read the guarantee text and then wait 3 days until monday 8am to order new replacement parts using my own time and money. That sounds great JohnLewis!

Not one to be deterred, I looked up the definition of a “consumable” which they were disputing and came back with this:

I sincerly doubt the makes of the Freezer (Electrolux) were expecting my perspex draws to be consumed and disappear after a while…

Well — that worked and they resolved the issue, sent me some new drawers and everyone was very happy.. NOT!

Basically… “F you” is what they told me. Be thankful we offered you something intangible at all — you miserable, ungrateful customer.

Ho Ho, So What’s the Point Of All This Phil

Well, I think it nicely sums up why JohnLewis.com (the online operation) will be sold off in two years time, as will probably a vast number of other online retailers.

Let’s recap…

  • I actually had 6 “different” people take part in the customer support thread
  • They constantly wanted me to call Electrolux myself, order and pay for replacement units, and then “maybe” they might give me a few pounds towards the cost once I send them proof.
  • We argued about the terms of a guarantee which should be there to give people piece of mind and not to be seen like some sort of dodgy insurance that never pays out.
  • It’s still not resolved today… suprise.

Contrast it with my last 5 interactions with Amazon.co.uk

  • I requested the return of a large game “rockband 4 + drum kit etc..” yet got lazy and forgot to actually post it to them for 2 months! I went on online support this evening, explained the issue and in 15 seconds — I kid you not — 15 seconds.. “Surad” had issued be a new returns label and said “no problem sir, try this”.
  • I had a new electrical charger that wasn’t quite working. I contacted Amazon support. They said “so sorry, just keep that one and we’ll post a new one right out to you for tomorrow morning free of charge”
  • A mouse that didn’t work (computer version!). “We’ll send a new one for tomorrow sir — please do send the old one back whenever it’s convienient to you using this free postage label”.

I could go on because this is typical behaviour.

Amazon don’t argue over little, stupid things. They want customers to have the minimum amount of time and hassle because that’s what important to us. You have a problem, we’ll take care of it. That way — you’ll keep ordering from us again and again and again…

They have always known that customer service will win the day and they obsess over this at every level of the company.

If you’re truly obsessed about your customers” Jeff Bezos says, “it will cover a lot of your other mistakes.”

All that will be left of JohnLewis.com customer support

Conclusion: Why Amazon Will Put John Lewis Out of Business in 2 Years Time

It’s really quite simple.

I was a loyal, JohnLewis customer but now they’ve lost my business. To top that — they lost my business over a measly sum of £60! It’s not the value — it’s the hassle and attitude that went along with it.

I’ll be ordering all my future electricals from Amazon next time along with everything else. And if a loyal customer like me is saying this — I wonder how many other thousands, or millions of customers will be saying the same thing…

Then it gets worse because as profit warnings start t hit — the management start to panic and lock down even more customer service “bonuses”. Now the customer will have to pay for all deliveries and returns, and call a premium rate number, and fight very hard over any returns or issues — because we can’t afford it now and need austerity.

Amazon will just lap that up, turn on the charm, and hoover customer 15,695,735 into their ever-widening arms..