We recently needed to reschedule a repair appointment with Sears for our washing machine repair. The technician had apparently showed up but didn’t announce his presence by using the doorbell, so Sears’ reliable robot began calling us on a daily basis to remind us to reschedule the appointment, so intent were they on completing their assigned task. We were traveling shortly after the initial appointment so I sent the calls to voice mail (I could, at this point, see immediately it was a robo-call). When we returned and I deleted all the identical daily voice mails from my inbox, they called again and this time I answered. Same robo-call.

So if you were designing a system like this, you would logically enable me to actually reschedule the appointment, something like, “To reschedule your appointment now, please press 1.” But I was instead admonished to hang up and call the exact same number which was calling me. I did this and after scheduling the updated appointment, I thoughtfully and coolly explained what an irritant it was to have daily robo-calls and the inadequacy of the call itself. His response? “Ok, thank you for choosing Sears and have a good weekend.”

The very next day at the appointed time, guess who called to reschedule our repair appointment? So focused was Sears on getting the revenue from the repair and/or a new washing machine (the trees) that they lost sight of the forest (the experience their customer was having).

What could Sears have done differently (although I am grateful because they provided a great example of how to piss off your customer)?

  1. While it was convenient to initially schedule the appointment via sears.com, I could not reschedule the appointment the same way. When a customer has an existing login on your site, make it easy for them to continue working using that channel.
  2. When the technician arrived, despite two cars being in the driveway, he failed to ring the doorbell in addition to knocking on the door to see if we were home. Duh. Ring the doorbell. I work from home so it’s no lost time from work, but that’s not the case for most of us who have to wait around for an unfruitful appointment.
  3. When calling back to reschedule the appointment, call once. I got the message the first time.
  4. If using a robo-call, enable me to reschedule the appointment by connecting with a representative on the spot. Or remind me that I can do so online.
  5. Enable representatives to actually address customers’ needs and issues. The boilerplate, “Ok, thank you for choosing Sears…” was clearly a script and the CSR was uncleared to say anything but. He could have said, “I’m so sorry you had issues with this.” He could have further assured me he would ensure applicable managers were aware of my concerns. If Sears really wanted to make an impression, he would have recognized the potential lost work time I had the first time of fruitlessly hanging out at home and offered to comp the $75 site visit fee. But that would have required empowered employees to fix the customer’s problem. Sears doesn’t seem to be at a point where they’re prepared to trust anyone, let alone their employees.

People just want to be heard. When companies fail to provide that opportunity, their customers feel frustrated and inevitably take their business elsewhere.

Would you continue to give Sears your business after this experience, or would you look to an outside technician for repair services? While I was initially ok with leaving the rescheduled appointment the way it was, when the CSR replied with apathy, I decided I did not want to further deal with a company that cared so little about my needs. Organizations that do also inevitably serve their own interests. But you can’t have the latter without the former. At least not for very long.