It’s time for another rant but also a case study. This time I wanted to share a recent experience around the worst customer experience I’ve ever had and how it impacts the company. Next post, I’ll explore how things could have been done better so that they don’t destroy their brand in the future. Sit down and enjoy a tale of broken products, unanswered messages and a former customer.
My experience comes courtesy of Sears Canada (@searsca) and based on the comments from just the few people I’ve shared this story with so far I’m not the first to receive such horrible service from a company that’s clearly in trouble. I wonder if better customer service could help them pull the company out of the downward spiral it’s clearly on.
About 7 weeks ago, our Kenmore dishwasher that’s less than 3 years old stopped draining the water when it was finished the cycle. We tried to run through a cycle a couple more times and nothing changed so we checked to see if something was blocking it. As I’m not the world’s best handyman, I called Sears repair to get an appointment for someone to look at it. This is the first #fail as you would think a dishwasher should last longer than three years but things happen.
The soonest they could come was more than a week later. Could that be because their equipment keeps breaking when it’s almost new? At the time I booked, they said someone would call the night before to give me a 2 hour time frame when someone would come by, which began a series of commitments made by Sears that were quickly broken. This was the second #fail around not doing what you said you were going to do.
As I would soon learn was the norm, no one called me the night before and when I called the Sears repair number the next morning no one there had any additional info or could even confirm the appointment. Because I didn’t know any better at the time, I worked from home assuming the repair guy would come and he did show shortly after lunch.
His visit was short as he quickly said the problem was a drain pump that I would need to replace so I asked for an estimate for the repair. He then proceeded to charge me more than Sears had said the initial visit would cost, which didn’t sit well, but he insisted that there was a minimum charge which Sears should have clearly explained when I booked the appointment rather than quoting an amount that would clearly go up. This was the third #fail when they charged the customer more than they had quoted.
The next day the repair guy called with an estimate for the repair and I called him back the following one to tell him to go ahead and order the part to fix the dishwasher in the hope of a timely and cost-effective repair. At the time, he said it would take about two weeks to get the part which seemed like a long time but maybe it’s a part that doesn’t fail often. So my wife and I took turns washing dishes for the next two weeks assuming our dishwasher would be fixed in the not so distant future.
After the two weeks had passed, I heard nothing so called the repair guy back and left several messages over the next couple of weeks trying to get a status. I never heard back and on my last call to him, his voice mail box was full and I knew I was in trouble. We are now on the fourth #fail for not responding to customers in a timely manner.
Since I wasn’t sure where to turn now, I called the main Sears repair number and after being on hold for many minutes I was told they had nothing on file regarding the repair and no idea of the status including whether the part was ordered. They were going to send an email to the dispatcher who would call me with a status. I was shocked by this answer for two reasons. One was that they had no info on file which seemed like a huge gap in the systems and the fact they use email to contact a dispatcher. I’ll call this #fail number five in terms of not having systems that are updated.
I called back a few days later after no one had returned the previous call and Sears’ solution was the same – to email the dispatcher. I had also asked to file a complaint the previous time but I never got a call back from anyone regarding the complaint either. I explained the situation again and said that emailing the dispatcher was clearly not working so I was passed to customer service, after asking to talk to a supervisor, where I had to explain the situation again.
There was nothing she could do and for some strange reason she passed me over to parts despite the fact I told her I was not trying to order a part but get a technician to come to my house to repair the dishwasher. The parts person was equally confused but actually tried to help me and escalated the issues. Had I finally found someone who was willing to help?
And then, I got a call two days later from the dispatcher. Were things turning around for me? My hope was short lived as his first question was whether I wanted to approve the estimate and have him order the part. At this point, I was at wit’s end and explained the fact that I had approved the estimate over 4 weeks ago and that I expected the dishwasher to be repaired by now.
He said he would see if he could get a part sooner and called me back in a few minutes claiming he had a part but had just dropped it. At this point I’m not even sure what to say but at least he was trying to help so I’m prepared to give them another chance. He looks again and says he has a part and can come that day to fix it. Unfortunately, no one could be home so I scheduled a service call the next week.
At long last, I had hope that this would be resolved over five weeks after the first repair visit which was totally unacceptable when I was initially told it would be two weeks. However, after working from him that afternoon for three hours between the designated time, I called as no one had shown up only to be told they weren’t coming that day as the call was not scheduled and they hadn’t received the part.
This was absolutely shocking to me as I was talking to the same person I had the week before to say they had a part and that he was booking the appointment when I said I could be home. I was absolutely livid. How could someone not show up for the appointment to fix the dishwasher after all that had happened? This is #fail number… oh I’ve lost track of the number of #fails and some are clearly repeating but let’s call this #fail number six and the last straw.
That night, my wife and I went online to check out new dishwashers and bought one the next day. Obviously, not from Sears and not a Kenmore. We’ve been told it will arrive next week and they will install it the following one. Ironically, that same day I got a call from the repair guy to tell me that he was headed to my house with a part to fix the dishwasher but they had not called to schedule the appointment and I was not at home to have it fixed. At this point it was too late so I told him not to bother.
About half way through this process, I had decided that I would never shop again at Sears so they were losing a future customer. But had the repair guy shown up for that appointment I would have gone through with the repair so they would have made some additional money from me and who knows maybe I would have mellowed my stance in the future. Instead, they have lost a customer for life. Tarnished their brand and led me to post this and spread the word on social media. Absolutely a #fail in so many ways.
While this rant has clearly allowed me to get some stuff off my chest, the main goal for my post is to use this personal case study as a means to explore the wide ranging implications of bad customer service and the implications on the brand. This is clearly not the worst example of bad customer service and I’m not the only one. But it’s surprisingly to me that a company in trouble like Sears, would not go above and beyond to keep existing customer happy. In part two, I’ll look at some simple solutions that Sears or other companies will hopefully use to avoid a situation like this in the future.