Love Ya! Please Hold.

My phone just rang:

"Please hold for an important product or warranty announcement about a product you purchased from Sears."

Click. Click. (PAUSSSE) Click. Click.

"Please continue to hold for a customer service representative. Your call is important to us."

Click. Click. (Repeat)

SLAM! That was me hanging up the phone. If I am important, and this is important, why is Sears having Robotica, Queen of IVR call me to place me on hold?

Now don't get me wrong, I actually like Sears. I am quite familiar with their integrated marketing and eCommerce framework, and it's largely GOOD STUFF. I like to buy appliances from Sears. A lot! I dig Extreme Home Makeover and Ty Pennington and Bob Vila. But they really dropped the ball with on this one. Beyond having an actual person call me -- what about something like this:

Hello. This is Sears calling about the [oven] you purchased last [month]. If this is a good time for you to speak a representative for [5] minutes, please press 1 and we'll connect you. If we called at an inconvenient time for you, please press 2 to reschedule.


"Okay. We're connecting you to a live Sears representative right now! It should take about (insert time) minute(s) to transfer your call. During this time you may hear a click or experience a short pause."

IF I PRESSED 2 on the initial message.

We're sorry we caught you at a bad time. To schedule a call at a more convenient time, please press 1. To obtain a number where you may call us back, please press 2. If you'd like more information about the nature of this call, please press 3..."

Pressing option 3 would yield a quick explaination highlighting that the warranty was expiring on my oven. It would explain that the average cost to repair an oven and encourage me to learn more about a cost-effective extended warranty from Sears. In exchange for my time, they might offer me a 10% off coupon good for my next purchase at Sears, in addition to giving me a reconnect or reschedule option.

It's clear that Sears wrote the crappy script for one reason: because it works for SEARS - not for the CUSTOMER. However, it probably would have cost LITTLE to make some miniscule changes to the IVR scripting - and a few slight adjustments would probably have yielded a different attitude from me - and a different outcome from the call.

It just goes to show how the seemingly little stuff really counts - expecially when it comes to customer experience!


Anonymous said...

This is all too common. Business does not take the time to consider a Use Case for scripts, but it certainly would be a good idea. Even if they tested the scenario on a few random friends of colleagues within the department, I think they may have gotten similar, though less professional, feedback regarding how the consumer perceived the experience (i.e. It was Sears-centric and not customer experience focused).

Telephone contact is a very person means of communication these days, especially as we all seem to email to our heart's content. To make a call to a persons home and then be in all honesty...a bit inconsiderate is a costly communications error.

- Cindy Campbell, eBusiness Consultant

LivePath said...

This is a great point, Cindy. Customer Experience analysis doesn't have to be done in a pricey manner leveraging pumped up methodologies. The common sense marketer can use simple one-on-one sessions with colleagues, friends, family members, where use cases are run through are often enough to pin down 80% of the experience stumbling blocks. - Leigh

LivePath said...

Post-call notes!

After receiving this call I got a call from a person from Sears. I was on the other line at the time and politely welcomed them to call me back.

The next day, Robotica called me back, and again, put me on hold. Again, I slammed the phone down after about a minute.

The following day, another person from Sears called me back. "WHAT are you perpetually calling me about?" I asked. The rep explained that the warranty on the washer I purchased was expiring soon. I explained to the rep that I had purchased, but later cancelled my purchase of a washer - and that I had no washer from Sears in my house....

Guess this was a longer tail on a bigger problem, huh? ;-)

Carey Ransom said...

This is a perfect example of a large company not understanding and managing the customer interactions that make up the true brand identity of the company (in customers' minds) vs. the one they think they have as the inwardly-focused company. Your candor is refreshing.

Ann Handley said...

Sears has become the Poster Child of Ridiculously Applied Call Center Automation.

I was like you, Leigh -- I used to *love* Sears appliances and their service. It felt good to buy from Sears, almost like I was investing in America.

But after being at the customer end of their automated communication, which is kind of like being at the butt end of a hugely inappropriate joke, I am no longer a fan of Sears. In fact, I just bought a new washing machine from their competitor -- a local appliance store.

My sense is that Sears has tried to automate the bejeezus out of its customer service call center, to the point where it's both annoying and inconvenient to wait on hold, press 2, wait, press 1, wait, wait some more, listen to some crappy Sears advertisement, press 4.

Considering the stength of the Sears brand, I wish they'd make it easier to speak to a real and knowledgeable person...and not just try to dispense with customer service calls without any real person actually talking to a real customer. Because that seems, honestly, to be their ultimate goal.


LivePath said...


Thanks for the post - great points. I may just have to point someone from Sears to this blog so they can take a gander at the feedback.

Another addendum to this experience: Two days ago I got a letter from Sears, telling me that I really ought to purchase an extended warranty for my washer and dryer.

What part of I DON'T OWN ONE do they not understand? Five calls and a direct mailing for a futile pursuit. $$$ Cha-Ching!

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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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