Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Putting the Cuss in Customer Service

     A few years back, Sears was the big store where everybody shopped.  Pretty much the way Wal-Mart is now.  You may have noticed that Sears has been having trouble- in fact, I believe they merged with K-Mart.  Now there's a marriage made in Retail Heaven.  One hundred years ago- you could buy anything from Sears- even a house.  No kidding.  My parents live in a Sears house.  Sears stood for Quality.
     Fast forward to the 1990's.  My clothes dryer breaks down.  I call Sears and they promise to send out a repairman.  After twiddling my thumbs through the customary "he'll be there between 1:00pm and 5:00pm" waiting period, the guy shows up.  He looks at my dryer- tells me it's shot- gives me a coupon for $25 off a new dryer- and charges me $40 for a service call.  That's $40 to walk in the door and tell me he can't do anything.
     I call a different repair guy who rushes right over.  He FIXES my clothes dryer and charges me $15 total.  I call Sears back and demand a refund.  I get nowhere.  I call the Sears corporate office and get nowhere again.  I get out my scissors and spend 20 minutes turning my Sears charge card into confetti.  And for years, I tell this story to everyone I meet.  I make it my business to trash Sears at every possible opportunity.
     And now you know why Sears went down the drain.  It was me.  Okay, probably not me alone.  But I'll bet it was the way they treated loyal customers.  They had a huge slice of the retail market.  And through greed, ignorance and lousy service- Sears plucked the golden goose.

     Fast forward to 2010.  My seven-year-old water heater explodes.  Oh yeah, it's a Kenmore.  My wife bought it before we got married.  The water inlet got corroded, and water seeped into the electronics compartment.  FZZZZTTTTTT.  So, I call Sears expecting the worse.  Instead, a very personable service technician was at my house in 45 minutes.  Imagine.  He plays with my dog, then spends five minutes poking around the burned out clothes dryer.  He calls Sears Central and orders me a new one- for free.  Now that's customer service!  And that's how you might win back a chunk of market share.  If you need me I'll be out back- trying to glue my Sears card back together.

     Postscript: Before I could even post this story there was some snafu in the Sears system.  They apparently thought I was going to pick up a 50 gallon water heater and transport it home in the trunk of my Honda.  So I called the local Sears store- one of the manager's (a young woman named Lexi) told me she didn't know anything about my problem- but promised an immediate answer.  She called back and told me the store has NO WAY to deliver a water heater.  (deliveries are made by a distant distribution center) But Lexi found a co-worker with a pick-up truck.  Lexi and Mark drove to my home and carted the new water heater down the stairs to the basement.  Lexi even did most of the heavy lifting.  Now if that isn't customer service I don't know what is.

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