A giant e Commerce player with a sterling reputation.

A loyal customer

An insignificant product with a low-price tag

And the much-dreaded word—failure 

Did the ecommerce player recover from a service failure? Did the loyal customer defect?

My story last week seemed to have all the ingredients that make up a Bollywood thriller.I had described my problems in exquisite detail when we hit the intermission button!

Now let me take you through the rest of this story.If you are just walking in, I recommend that you read the first part titled “ For a packet of poha

If you don’t have the patience, here is a brief summary.

I ordered some provisions from A2Z on 1 June 2019.All items except a packet of poha arrived safely. The packet of poha was expected to be delivered on 12 June.It was not delivered.So, I contacted customer service on 14 June. The chat session with A2Z rep was almost a washout and that is what the first part describes in detail. However, the day was saved by a rep who promised me that he would take care of this issue and that if I did not receive the item by next day, A2Z would initiate the process and refund the money to me.

As I said in the introductory paragraph, the issue captures several interesting features of B2C marketing and that is why it is worth discussing it in detail. Now for the second part of the story.


15th June dawned bright and chirpy. Since my wife and I were both going out of the house for some shopping, I left detailed instruction with the building security to collect the package. After all a rep from A2Z had committed delivery on 15th and I could not let him down by being absent at the point of delivery, right?

We returned home by lunch time. I called the security and asked him if the packet had been delivered. “Jee koyi nahi aaya” answered the protector of the building.

“No need to fret. Nobody is going to deliver it today” proclaimed my better half with a self-assured smile.

“Somebody will deliver it “, I grunted with a frown.  “would they..?” asked a tiny voice from the back of my mind.

The day progressed merrily and there was a procession of delivery boys from Tirupathi stores( my friendly neighborhood grocer), my vegetable vendor, the panipuriwala from the next street, medicines from the pharmacy and many others. Every time the doorbell rang my hopes went up. And every time they were dashed without exception.

The promised delivery from A2Z remained a ‘much-anticipated-but-not-yet-delivered’ item.

 16June was a Sunday and so I concentrated on getting my things in order. Lot of files to be deleted from the computer. The phone was struggling from a surfeit of whatsapp images and videos and those had to be dealt with.And if you use whatsapp, you know the curse of whatsapp..once you enter the enchanted palace of this app, you tend to forget everything else. So, the Sunday passed.

On the evening of 16th June, I booted up my PC and being the indefatigable warrior that I am, I set out to engage the A2Z reps on the hunt for the missing packet of poha.

Quick question for you: What do you think happened? What would you expect from a giant in ecommerce? 

  • Customer-one-view? 
  • Service recovery module? 
  • Empowered customer service rep?

 Make a mental mark of your answer and continue with ‘the curious case of the missing poha’

 Here is a truncated version of my chat session:


 A2Z: Hello Ram. How may I help you ? product not delivered  right ?

Me: There is an item I ordered on 1 june. I chatted with your rep

I was promised delivery in one day. please see the chat history

A2Z: did you contact the seller in this case 

this is a seller fulfilled order 

Me: No

A2Z:this is a seller fulfilled order and shipping is done by seller let me contact the seller in this case on your behlaf

Me:Palash, can you please stop repeating this story all over again?

I was promised on Friday that it would be delivered by Saturday

A2Z: I understand  However the shipping is from seller  we are unable to promise the dates 

sorry for the miscommunication 

Me: And so I order a packet of poha and I will need to keep following up with the seller?

A2Z: No I am contacting the seller the seller takes 2 business days to respond just reach back on thursday we will check the update 

Me: Those two business days are over as of today

A2Z:if the seller do not respond positively 

we will file a claim 

Me:Are you listening?

I was promised that if the seller did not fulfil the order by last Saturday you would file a claim

You can keep extending it every time by two days.

Do you eve have a transaction history of this order?

Please go through my chat history of the chat I had last Friday with your rep

A2Z:Yes we have I can see that seller has responded with the tracking id 

you can track the order too on DTDC

Tracking No. P80087535

Me: I don’t want to track the order. I know it has not been delivered, are you understanding my issue?

A2Z: yes I understand however it is not delivered 

Me: (really upset now) Help me understand what you understand

A2Z: now either I can contact the seller for getting it delivered or I can ask him to cancel and refund the moeny 


Me: I don’t want the item. I will be chatting again after two days with someone in your team about why it has not been delivered yet


I think you will get the idea of what is happening here. I won’t go into the full details of the conversation which went on for a full forty five minutes. But I was exhausted by the lack of understanding from A2Z on what was happening to a customer. I did not see any empathy.

When I asked the rep when I would get the money back, she said she would not be able to comment as it was a third party seller.So I thanked her and requested her to email me a copy of the chat session. She readily agreed.I logged out. 


My phone sang to inform me that the ever-so-customer-centric A2Z had mailed me the chat session transcript.

Thus ended my second attempt to get my money back.

And then on 18th June I received a missive from the TPS—yes, the third party seller. And this is what it had to say:


Dear Customer,

 Apologies for the inconvenience, as per the tracking details provided by the courier company parcel shall be delivered today.


No explanation for the delay. No communication on how they understand my mindset. No commitment on when the order will be delivered. Notice the wording… “as per the tracking details provided by the courier company parcel shall be delivered today.”

There is no guarantee. No commitment. No communication on what the customer should do if the parcel ‘shall not be delivered’.

I will chalk it up to a new illness that afflicts even the best organizations – bureaucracy in marketing.

So, was the parcel delivered on 18th?

No, no and no!

Was there a communication from the third party seller or A2Z on the status?

No again.

The packet of poha costs Rs105. Add the delivery and shipping charges of Rs 45 and the likely net loss for me? A measly Rs150.

I realize that it is not worth my time to keep pushing the juggernaut on the delivery.So, I inform my wife that we would buy it from our friendly neighborhood grocer.

We close “the curious case of the missing poha” and move on with life.

 And then it happens. Gods decide to look down upon me  with a kindly eye. On 24th June circa 2019, the precious packet of poha arrives.No advance warning, no emails with the customary cheerfulness giving me advance intimation. No SMS. Just the packet of poha not surrounded by the customer-friendly communications!

I am too numb to react while my wife informs me that she is going to the Shiva temple nearby to thank the lord for this boon!

Twenty four days to deliver a packet of poha! I am sure that must be some record!!

 This is a classic case of service failure. Now what do you think A2Z could have done to recover from this? What do you think was the worst part of this event?

a)    The inability to deliver on time?

b)   The TPS letting down A2Z?

c)    The lack of visibility to A2Z?

d)   The inability of the service reps to take the extra step?

e)    The tendency to ignore the problem?

I am keen to know your point of view. Do let me know.


#Customer_experience,#marketing,#CRM,#callcenters,#Training,#Complaints_handling, #experience_design, #interaction_design, #Complaints_resolution, #service_recovery, #loyalty_marketing,#customer_centricity