Thoughts on my Jawbone customer service experience

Over the last week I have been tweeting quite a lot about Jawbone and the really shockingly bad customer service experience that I have had. As an American in my adopted home country of Great Britain I’ve come to accept that customer service is just terrible here. It really is. From banks to mobile phone companies to restaurants, all of my experiences to date make me long for the over attentive and rather exceptional service that I expect to be a part of any service industry. In the UK, more times than not, customer facing employees make you feel like they are going well out of their way to, well, provide you with customer service. As someone who spent many Christmas holidays working part time at Crate & Barrel I can attest to the fact that customers can be just awful. But on the other hand a customer who gets good service is often very thankful – in either the US or UK. In any case, it is with this context that I will recount my experince with Jawbone that has caused me to tweet and write this blog.

My birthday is September 10th. (This will become slightly important later…) Sometime in the early summer I decided that for my birthday I wanted a device that would measure sleep, steps taken and many other things as part of what is known as the Quantified Self ‘movement’. I have a long term, non-life threatening illness which causes many problems including my never ending fight for a decent night’s sleep. One way to deal with this is to exercise. I walk just about everywhere in London and love to hike and cross country ski as well. Jawbone’s Up seemed like the best device to monitor all of this personal data as well as chart it, manage it and share it over time.

So now for the boring bit. My husband ordered me a light grey coloured Up in large for my birthday. I wasn’t sure if that would fit or not and, as it turns out, it was just slightly too big. So on the day of my birthday he phoned up to ask about the exchange process. No worries, the person said on the line, and a new one would be sent out shortly with return packaging in order to return the unused, too large one. That was September 10 and by the 16th nothing had arrived. My husband called again to find out that the original return was never logged by accident. So he went through the process again and was told that a light grey Up of the medium size was on its way. Of course it was not. They didn’t have one, but never told us! So he called on the 17th, 18th, and today (the 19th) in order to ensure that the Up would actually be delivered. Come to find out today that the replacement Up was never sent (yet again) and that it would take two weeks to get the colour that I wanted. After much consternation, lots of tweets, and a bit of shouting a replacement Up was sent in the wrong colour with the understanding that when the right colour comes in it will be sent out. I expect that will never happen. So we shall see what does indeed show up.

Regardless of what happens over the next few days, I started to think about why I was so annoyed by this. Other than wasting my time and my husband’s time – many hours he won’t get back – and other than the obvious fact that this is yet another example of horrible UK customer service I realised that the bar has been raised quite high by the likes Amazon and Apple. Jawbone is a technology company and is ill-prepared for the service and delivery part of their company. This isn’t anything new and it is often the case that those companies with the greatest and newest technology often fail futher down the value chain.

But Amazon and Apple, to a lesser extent, have raised the bar. The service that we have come to expect is product of the survivors of online shopping. Amazon has invested an incredible amout in the process of communicating about when the package will leave, when it will arrive and how to return it. They are a survivor of the first and second dot com crash and have consistently survived the competition. Not all online store died from bad customer service and this is important to note. I often think very fondly of Webvan, an online-only grocery service that paved the way for the likes of Ocado. Their failing, from what I can remember from actually being there (yes, I worked in the first dot com boom as an early employee of Y! and I used Webvan!) was not their service, but their sourcing. It seemed that they couldn’t keep fresh products fresh and under cost. However, I remember excellent customer service and on time delivery from them. It was just a shame that they couldn’t make it profitable – or the mistake of misguided managers.

So in the end it is our perceptions of what online shopping is and what it should be  is associated with the likes of Amazon whether we like it or not. But it is a lesson that Jawbone needs to learn – if you are going to ship a physical product make sure that you are both truthful and consistent about what you are doing to your customer. As of now, I just can not recommend their customer service.

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