If what we hear from the acting CEO of Sears, Eddie Lampert, is true, then this company doesn’t stand a chance. He believes that the answer to Sears woes is to close stores, and fire employees. Yikes. This indicates a profound ignorance of what it takes to be a successful retailer.
He says that Sears is trying to “transform itself into a membership-based, e-commerce-centric retailer.” Given that the company continues to display no understanding of what it takes to create positive customer experience, there is no way on earth they will be able to compete against the powerful online competition that excels in this area. And it’s pretty clear that he doesn’t understand that customer experience is the single most important driver in today’s retail economy.
Ronald Boire, the acting CEO of Sears Canada. appears to miss the entire point as well. According to him, the company needs to “focus on high-selling products… drop products that haven’t done well…. build on Craftsman tools, Kenmore appliances, mattresses, lawn and garden products, outdoor products, core apparel and footwear items, and active wear and fitness wear” (source Winnipeg Free Press).
They’re solving the wrong problem. The real problem is that customers don’t believe Sears cares about them. Their customer service is non-existant. Their processes are horrendous, and their business practices are painful. You can cut all the costs and bring in all the products you want, but if your customers feel abused, you aren’t going to survive. THAT’s where their focus should be.
On a Personal Note
Sometimes I find that I get so caught up in the numbers and the research on customer service and service recovery, I forget about what it’s like to be a real customer. Well, Sears is reminding me. Here’s the story: My wife and I thought it would be fun to order a “Pre-lit Christmas Palm Tree.” We had a number of companies to choose from, and we chose Sears. We were supposed to get it two weeks before Christmas. We’re now told we will be lucky to get it two days before Christmas – even though they actually had it in the truck to deliver on the promised date.
Rather than go into painful detail about how I’ve tried to resolve it, let me just share some numbers around my (ongoing) experience:
By the Numbers: Trying to Deal With Sears Customer Service
9 The number of calls I have had to make to their call centre
11 The number of times I’ve had to verify my personal information
6 The number of times I was promised something that didn’t happen
2 The number of times an agent hung up on me while I was on hold as he was ‘looking for a supervisor’
48 The number of times their IVR system told that my call was important to them
249 The number of collective minutes I’ve spent on hold
I went on their facebook page, and took a peek at Google. I’m not alone. There appear to be thousands of people who have been through similar things. It is astonishing that this isn’t the primary focus for this organization