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@searscares needs a dose of @searsfollowsup

October 24, 2012

A few weeks ago, after a frustrating customer-service experience, I blogged about Sears’ attempts to use social media to address the problem (http://bit.ly/TAmRBA). While Sears was quick on the draw – they responded almost immediately to my complaints posted on Twitter – the company was slow on the real-world follow-up.

Bottom line? None of the promises suggested by the social media attention had any impact on the overall experience.

I probably would have let the issue die with my blog post, which ended with this message: “… let’s face it, no matter how good your marketing and communications team might be, they’re discredited – and your firm is, too – if the actual customer experience is a bad one.”

However, Sears added insult to injury by responding to my blog via its @searscares Twitter account: “@johnbthomas I will forward this tweet to your case manager and request that you be contacted.” And then, guess what? No one contacted me … but they did prompt me to once again mull over the experience, and to offer up a list of lessons Sears might take away from this experience.

Connect social media and real-world service. Clearly, Sears wants to use social media to improve customer relations, and the response from the Twitter team was impressive. But the real-world service didn’t match up to the brand promise suggested by the Tweets.

  • Do what’s best for the customer. A 10-minute repair shouldn’t take two weeks. Period. For smaller, easier repairs, find some way to keep it local, get it done quickly and get the customer issue resolved.
  • Take responsibility for providing good service. Never tell the customer to call a few days before the expected completion date “to see if it gets done early.” Why should I call you? I’m the customer. And why should you waste the opportunity to call the customer and say, “Hey, great news! We got the work done faster than expected!” This would be especially good form in a case where – supposedly – the “executive office” is involved.
  • Call back. Never, never, never fail to call a customer back when you say you will.
  • Deliver the good news. Never, never, never fail to call the customer when the work is completed. My mower sat in the local shop for four days before I knew it was back in town. As a result, Sears missed an opportunity to make a good impression by having it back early AND made me angry by not letting me know it was back at all.
  • Let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. Despite promises that actions were being taken and calls were being made, at no point did the folks at the service center acknowledge any awareness of this. It would have improved my attitude if someone at the repair center said, in an informational, non-judgmental way, “Oh, I see you’ve been talking with our corporate folks about your experience … ,” And I certainly would think that, if the corporate folks REALLY were checking on things, my mower would not have been sitting a few blocks from my house for four days.

I close by repeating what I said at the end of my previous post: “… if Sears’ actual service had lived up to the promises implied by @searscares’ quick response and warm assurances, the company might have reclaimed some of the credibility it has lost with us. As it is though, our opinion of Sears went from bad to worse when actions did not match words.”

A timeline of unfortunate events

May 23: Bought mower

May 30 (roughly): Son announced that mower sucks

June 14: (roughly): I secretly agree

Late August: Mower ceases to push itself along. A few days later, I discover broken cable and call Sears to explain situation, ask about possibility of returning mower. Am told that the mower was covered by a 30-day return policy, so I am out of luck. I ask about getting it repaired under warranty. No problem: I’m directed to take the mower to the Sears repair facility in Castleton.

Sept. 3: I load the mower into the back of the van and, having misunderstood where I should take it, I take the mower the Sears store in Castleton, where I’m told I’m in the wrong place. And the right place is closed for the day. My bad.

Sept. 4: I take the mower to the Sears repair center in Castleton. Am hopeful a simple broken cable can be replaced quickly. Am told it will take until Sept. 16th, because the mower will be sent to an out-of-town facility to be repaired. However, I am encouraged to give them a call a few days before that deadline to see if maybe it came in early.

Sept. 4: I come home and post the following Tweet: “frustrated with @sears. Lawn mower under warranty needs simple repair. 10 minute job. Told it will take 2 weeks. Will they offer a loaner?”

Sept. 4: I get the following response: “Sorry for the problems with your lawn mower. Plz DM your contact info and we will contact you to help. Thx, Dianne cc:@sears”

Sept. 4: Impressed, I send my contact info. Then I receive the following Tweets: “We received your information and we look forward to speaking with you within 24 hours. Thanks, Dianne cc:@Sears.” And “We have forwarded your contact info and a dedicated case manager will call you within 24 hours. Thanks, Dianne cc:@Sears”

Sept. 4: Further impressed, I post the following Tweet: “To their credit: Heard from @sears minutes after Twitter complaint. Promised a call w/in 24 hours. Quick, smart social media awareness.”

Sept. 4: No call.

Sept. 5: No call. Jen gets involved, posting this Tweet: “24 hrs+ later, @sears hasn’t returned hub’s call.” She gets a Direct Message saying help is on the way.

The following days: I miss a call from Sears. The gentleman on the voicemail seems to make a big deal of saying he is calling from the “executive offices.” I think I must have really shaken some things up. When we finally connect, I am told by fellow who is clearly NOT a c-suite exec but who is likely reading from a script that Sears is sorry for the inconvenience. After getting the details, he says he will check on the situation and get back to me. HOWEVER, this is a Thursday, he has to give the service folks 48 hours to respond to a question, and “Friday’s don’t count” (!?) so I should hear from him by the middle of the next week. If not, I should call him back.

Sept. 13: I post the following Tweet: “Hmmm. @sears and @searscares jumped into action last week when I Tweeted about a problem. Since then, a little phone tag & not much more.”

Sept. 13: @searscares posts the following Tweet: “We are sorry for the communication issues. I will pass ur post onto ur case manager and request an update. Thx-Misty cc:@Sears” Shortly thereafter, I get another call from the “executive office” telling me they’re checking on things.

Sept. 17:  I call local repair shop. Mower’s been in since the 13th, they tell me. I can pick it up any time. I post the following Tweets: “@Sears service rant update. Mower is ready. Actually, was ready Thursday; they didn’t tell me till I called them.” Oh, and by the way, they also rebuilt the carburetor and replaced the spark plug. No charge, which is good, but it makes us further question their quality … should a mower that has been in action for only been a few months need those repairs? I Tweet: “@sears makes point of mentioning repair under warranty at no cost: Expected. Doesn’t call customer when repair is done: Odd.”

Sept 17: I receive the following Tweet in response. “Again, we’re so sorry for the trouble. We can help, but do need you 2 DM us w/ contact info –Thanks, Dianne cc:@Sears” Hmmm. Shouldn’t they have my contact information from the last time they asked me to DM it to them? And, really, what could they do now? I respond: “@searscares: Thanks. If I have any issues, I’ll DM. Candidly, your team seems to be on top of things. It’s the “exec office” follow-up that lacks.”

Sept. 17: Meanwhile, Jen Tweets: “Never buying from @sears. Wouldn’t return 2-mo-old broken mower. Repair’s taken 3+ wks & they didn’t call when it was ready. #grassiswaylong” She gets an apologetic Tweet in response, and replies:  “We’ve been in contact w/ your dept but not to satisfaction. Sorry, but Sears’ cust service end of the SM effort stinks”

Sept. 18 and thereafter: The mower works as (unsatisfactorily) well as ever. Got a call from my friend in the “executive office” telling me he considers our case closed.

Oct 8: Get another Tweet from @searscares: “@johnbthomas I will forward this tweet to your case manager and request that you be contacted. Thanks-Mike cc:@Sears”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura Miller permalink
    November 7, 2012 1:41 pm

    Interesting Twitter handle that they chose – when I first read it, I saw Sear “Scares” – which sounds a lot like the experience you had!

  2. January 10, 2014 10:52 pm

    It’s now Jan 2014. The situation is pretty much the same — if not worse. @searscare responds to tweets telling you someone is assigned to deal with it. Then…. nothing. If you tweet again, @searscares apologizes and tells you they will prompt your case manager. Then… nothing. No emails. No phone calls. I left 7 voicemails– about 1 per hour — in one cay: nothing. I sent multiple emails: nothing. No acknowledgement it was received. And so on.

    What I did to finally get parts under warranty:
    http://rankexploits.com/musings/2014/how-i-got-sears-to-send-me-warranty-parts-i-hope/

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