Today is Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Fred's Views

How NOT to Run Customer Service

Just over a month ago, we had the Sears service man come out and maintain our lawn tractor and snow blower. As an aside, the day after the servicing, the dual pulley that transfers the engine power to the mower and the transmission broke. Rather than call the service guy again, I ordered the part from Sears and had it shipped. In years past, I could have taken a relatively short trip into the Sears store in Hamilton, waited in line for a half hour and, probably, picked up the part on the spot. But Sears closed the parts department. Now, the ONLY way to get parts is to call and have them shipped. You can't even order them over the Internet. Not very convenient. And they charge for shipping, too!. The service person said something about it taking 15 days for delivery. That didn't impress me when I was literally watching my lawn grow taller and taller. However, Less than a week later, I got a cal from UPS. They had a parcel but couldn't find my address. The road has been there for more than forty years and, while there are only four houses on it, it's easy to find on MapQuest and other mapping applications. I thought I cleared up their problem and expected the package next day. (I don't think it would be unreasonable to expect that, if UPS was at fault for not delivering he package, it would be the first package delivered the next day - no matter how that affected the route. No such luck, of course.) No package. How about the day after? No package. Then I got another call, they were still having problems. Now the package was being put on the wrong truck. In the end, I made a trip down to the UPS warehouse (about 3/4 of the way to Sears) and picked up the part. I won't go into how I had to struggle to attach it; sufficient to say the lawn mower is busy mowing again.

Back to the present. A day or two ago we received our statement from Sears. We expected a bill for around $400 including the pulley, but instead it was for well over $600. I pulled out the repair invoices and compared them to the statement. First of all, there are absolutely no reference numbers on the statement. How can you reconcile a problem when they are no reference numbers to help you? Sure enough, there was the amount for the lawn tractor, the snow blower and the part. But there was another amount for $233.00 dollars. I had no idea what it was for. After searching the statement, I learned that the preferred method of disputing a charge was to write Sears a letter. Although that would also be my preferred way, I didn't want to wait that long. I finally found a 1-800 number and gave it a try. (Altogether, I talked to four different people and got four different greetings, all different, but most of them with a long-winded message in French. Why not a simple "Thank you for calling Sears, press one for service in English." And then repeat the message in French [but press 2]. Or French first, I don't care - but keep it short.)

Next, of course, I was given that stupid list of options, none of which covered what I wanted - do they ever? I finally got to talk to a real person and started to explain the problem. I was told that she did not have that information in front of her and she would have to transfer me to the parts department. Wait. Explain the problem again. Again they had no information about the charge. They gave me another number to call. Once again none of the options fitted my case. I pressed a number. Decided I was in the wrong place and hung up. I dialed again and pressed another number. After a lengthy wait I again tried to explain my dilemma. Once again, they didn't have any of the information available. They were going to transfer me back to parts or parts and service, but I objected. They assured me it was the right place to go, so I called another number. They still didn't have any information, but at least they said they would check into it.

Later in the day I got another call to confirm the problem and a promise to get back to me tomorrow. We'll see.

This isn't anyway to run a company. I realize that Sears is a big corporation with all kinds of departments and side businesses, but treating your customers as I was treated is not going to endear any of them. Let me clarify, the actual people I talked to were very polite and apologized for not being able to help me, but THEY WERE NOT ABLE TO HELP ME. As for the automated answering service, it's the pits. I hate using phones anyway, and I rather surprised myself for hanging in so long without going ballistic, but this is no way to run a railway.

First of all, there should be reference numbers on the statement. That seems utterly obvious. Second, I should only have to call one person. If I called the wrong person, okay, but forward me to the one person who can help me. The one person with all the information at her fingertips. Anything less is unsatisfactory service, period.

Update: Sears did call and told me my account had been credited for the false charge. Everything's well that ends well, right? Except that I won't soon forget my regrettable experience with Sears' customer service. Cheers.

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