Walmart, Amazon, Carnival Splendor – A Week of Customer Experience Lessons

What a week it was! With so much in the news touching upon customer service and consumer loyalty, I’m addressing a few tidbits as “teachable moments” or “food for thought.”

Wal-mart announced that, for the Christmas season, it would be offering “free shipping” on most online item purchases (irrespective of order value).

This announcement sent a chill through many small ecommerce companies which can’t match Walmart on price and certainly can’t absorb shipping fees into their price structure.  The impact of this announcement demonstrates the risk of competing on price alone (when your competitor cuts cost or augments service for the same price you suddenly become vulnerable).   All of this begs a brilliant question that Seth Godin once asked, “how would you add value without adding cost to insure your customers will be loyal in the face of a competitors price drop?”  However you answer the question, take action on your answer – NOW – before the competition starts the price war. faced a consumer boycott as a result of carrying a controversial ebook supporting pedophila.

Given that Zappos was acquired by Amazon, I saw a few tweets this week talking about including Zappos in that boycott.  Since Amazon pulled the book from it’s online inventory swiftly, we will never know if a boycott against Amazon would have had much traction against Zappos.  My suspicion is that the separate ownership structure, the fact the Zappos leaders were not involved in the decision to place the book in inventory, and the “love” the brand has leveraged toward it’s customers (through service) would have offered it substantial cover from the controversy.  What’s your hunch?

Finally, the “spam cruise” ended safely this week.

For all the media hype, several passengers I heard this week talked about the “playful, spirit-lifting, compassionate, care of the staff and crew.”   From a business perspective, breakdowns happen, what separates great from average businesses is how they leverage breakdowns into opportunities for customer breakthroughs. As much as the media will focus on the breakdown, those of us in customer service have to focus on the human path toward caring and customer elevation.

I would love to get your take!

For now, in the words of the great bugs bunny, “that’s all folks…”

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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