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Managing Our Expectations in 2013

Jan 3, 2013

There’s no disputing that technology has changed our lives – and our expectations. Nearly 20 years ago, I was living in the UK and working with a company who was, at the time, a pioneer in ecommerce for high-end kitchen, gourmet and lifestyle goods. The company no longer exists, but it did have some great products and ideas one of which was to provide speedy service and delivery to customers.

While that may seem like a given in our customer-centric world today, back in 1993 “customer” and “service” were rarely used in the same sentence let alone acted upon. One of the customer service differentiators that we employed at the company was next day and two-day delivery. Again, this is a given in today’s environment but in the early 90s (and throughout the decade), it was considered as a special service.

What we came to realize over a decade was that the more “special services” we provided to our customers, the less special they became. Instead, they were expected and we were constantly looking to up the ante in terms of faster order processing times, fulfillment and delivery.

amazon-com-logoBut there is a point when those special services become too much. Case in point? A recent article in the New York Times “Instantly Yours, for a Fee”  looks at the lengths that some online retailers are willing to go to compete with Amazon.com. Since 2009, the ecommerce behemoth has been offering same-day delivery service in selected US cities to retain its competitive advantage. After having lost long and expensive battles with California, Texas, Pennsylvania and other states over not charging sales tax, Amazon is building additional distribution centers in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco to increase customers’ same-day delivery options.

Some may argue that same-day delivery is a wonderful thing and ask “how did we ever live without it?” Most consumers, I suspect, won’t really care. In fact, same-day delivery will simply drive up the cost of goods they buy, put smaller online retailers out of business, and create another level of unrealistic expectations.

The technology may exist to facilitate such a service, but as consumers, we’re not driving this demand. Amazon is.

So how about we start 2013 as we mean to go on, and manage our (technology) expectations?  Will our lives be better or worse off by not having same-day delivery?

I know how I feel about this, but you tell me…

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