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The Amazon device I'm holding in the photo above is called a "Dash Wand", which cost me $21.20 USD when I ordered it three years ago. It wasn't ever made available in Canada, but I have a friend who lives in the US, so when I read about its launch, I ordered it to his house and he brought it to me the next time he came for a visit. What does it do, you ask? It was positioned as a helpful kitchen device. The white part is a little mini scanner that's activated by pushing a button on the back of the device. When you ran out of a common household item -- like milk, or bread, or anything with a UPC -- you could grab your Dash Wand, scan the UPC code of whatever it was you needed to replenish, and the item would magically appear in your Amazon shopping cart. The button also activated "Alexa", so you could ask it questions like, "How many ounces in a cup?" while you were cooking for easy conversions. And the black part is magnetic, so the device would stick to most refrigerators and be within reach when you might need it. Last week, Amazon sent me a notice informing me that my device would no longer be supported, effective yesterday. They sent me another notice yesterday to remind me that they unilaterally decided to turn my Dash Wand into an expensive refrigerator magnet. Here's how it read:

Now, odds are very good you have your smartphone on your person right now. Chances are also good that you have the Amazon Shopping app installed on said smartphone. And if you open said app on said smartphone, you might notice a little camera icon to the right of the "What are you looking for?" search bar near the top of the screen. Click that icon, and you'll be taken to a camera-like app with three options; one of them is to scan the UPC of a product you need. The decision to discontinue the Dash Wand makes a lot of sense: it's been made redundant by your smartphone. But for an organization that proudly declares itself Earth's most customer-centric company at every opportunity, the way they handled this decision left a lot to be desired. Here's what they should have done to truly live up to the customer-centric moniker:

1. Leave Alexa active on the device... or clearly explain why it's being removed. The Dash Wand is redundant as a scanner, but it still could have been useful as an Alexa interface. In fact, Alexa worked great on my Dash Wand device just yesterday. But today, when you push the button and ask it a question, the response is, "I'm having trouble understanding right now." There might be a very good technical reason why Alexa can no longer work on the Dash Wand... but since I purchased this device, and Amazon has rendered it inoperable, I think I deserve an explanation, don't you? Rational people will generally accept a rational explanation, but they rarely appreciate it when decisions are forced upon them.

2. Offer me a credit for the money I spent on the Dash Wand. Admittedly, the Dash Wand did not cost a lot of money, and offering a credit for something you purchased that is no longer supported could set a dangerous precedent. But if you're truly a customer-centric company, you don't make purchased products inoperable without offering some sort of compensation. Offering a $20 credit towards a new Alexa-enabled device of my choosing would have gone a long way towards turning this negative communication into a positive experience.

3. Empathize and Apologize The note communicated a decision and informed me of how I might dispose of my now-useless device. Do you know what it didn't do? Apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused me. What would it have taken (or cost) to add a line that read, "Technology advances rapidly, and it isn't always feasible from a business perspective to continue supporting every device. But if discontinuing support for the Dash Wand in any way will cause you an inconvenience, we want to apologize for that"? Not a whole lot.

Companies make decisions that are in their best interests all the time. And that's okay. It's good, even! But when you make those decisions, you shouldn't forget about how your customers are going to react. Especially when you claim to be the Earth's most customer-centric company. - dp


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