Amazon Customer Service: Let Many Flowers Bloom and Die on the Vine

November 29, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Amazon has been outputting artificial intelligence “assertions” at a furious pace. What’s clear is that Amazon is “into” the volume and variety business in my opinion. The logic of offering multiple “works in progress” and getting them to work reasonably well is going to have three characteristics: The first is that deploying and operating different smart software systems is going to be expensive. The second is that tuning and maintaining high levels of accuracy in the outputs will be expensive. The third is that supporting the users, partners, customers, and integrators is going to be expensive. If we use a bit of freshman in high school algebra, the common factor is expensive. Amazon’s remarkable assertion that no one wants to bet a business on just one model strikes me as a bit out of step with the world in which bean counters scuttle and scurry in green eyeshades and sleeve protectors. (See. I am a dinobaby. Sleeve protectors. I bet none of the OpenAI type outfits have accountants who use these fashion accessories!)

Let’s focus on just one facet of the expensive burdens I touched upon above— customer service. Navigate to the remarkable and stunningly uncritical write up called “How to Reach Amazon Customer Service: A Complete Guide.” The write up is an earthworm list of the “options” Amazon provides. As Amazon was announcing its new new big big things, I was trying to figure out why an order for an $18 product was rejected. The item in question was one part of a multipart order. The other, more costly items were approved and billed to my Amazon credit card.

image

Thanks MSFT Copilot. You do a nice broken bulldozer or at least a good enough one.

But the dog treats?

I systematically worked through the Amazon customer service options. As a Prime customer, I assumed one of them would work. Here’s my report card:

  • Amazon’s automated help. A loop. See Help pages which suggested I navigate too the customer service page. Cute. A first year comp sci student’s programming error. A loop right out of the box. Nifty.
  • The customer service page. Well, that page sent me to Help and Help sent me to the automation loop. Cool Zero for two.
  • Access through the Amazon app. Nope. I don’t install “apps” on my computing devices unless I have zero choice. (Yes, I am thinking about Apple and Google.) Too bad Amazon, I reject your app the way I reject QR codes used by restaurants. (Do these hash slingers know that QR codes are a fave of some bad actors?)
  • Live chat with Amazon customer service was not live. It was a bot. The suggestion? Get back in the loop. Maybe the chat staff was at the Amazon AI announcement or just severely overstaffed or simply did not care. Another loser.
  • Request a call from Amazon customer service. Yeah, I got to that after I call Amazon customer service. Another loser.

I repeated the “call Amazon customer service” twice and I finally worked through the automated system and got a person who barely spoke English. I explained the problem. One product rejected because my Amazon credit card was rejected. I learned that this particular customer service expert did not understand how that could have happened. Yeah, great work.

How did I resolve the rejected credit card. I called the Chase Bank customer service number. I told a person my card was manipulated and I suspected fraud. I was escalated to someone who understood the word “fr4aud.” After about five minutes of “’Will you please hold”, the Chase person told me, “The problem is at Amazon, not your card and not Chase.”

What was the fix? Chase said, “Cancel the order.” I did and went to another vendor.

Now what’s that experience suggest about Amazon’s ability (willingness) to provide effective, efficient customer support to users of its purported multiple large language models, AI systems, and assorted marketing baloney output during Amazon’s “we are into AI” week?

My answer? The Bezos bulldozer has an engine belching black smoke, making a lot of noise because the muffler has a hole in it, and the thumpity thump of the engine reveals that something is out of tune.

Yeah, AI and customer support. Just one of the “expensive” things Amazon may not be able to deliver. The troubling thing is that Amazon’s AI may have been powering the multiple customer support systems. Yikes.

Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2023

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