How Cherin's won my business and @sears lost December 11, 2012
Needed a new washer-dryer
My washer/dryer broke last week. I needed a new one. With a house full of kids, I needed a new one ASAP.
Cherin's, a local San Francisco merchant, won my business. Here's how.
I did a bunch of online research and narrowed the list of washer/dryers to 6 models. But I have some space constraints in my place (they have to stack in a closet that's 38x36). A friend told me that some stores like Sears and Best Buy had services where they'd come out an measure the destination and then give you a list of washer/dryers that would fit in the space. Sounded like a good idea. I'd pay $50-$100 for someone to come out and tell me which of their units would fit.
So, I started calling around. Best Buy had a local phone number. I called the number and only had to wade through 2 selections on the phone tree before I got a human. The human tried for about 5 minutes to get someone in appliances, but failed. She said they do offer in-home measuring services and she'd have someone call me back. The callback came more than 4 hours later. By that time, I had decided to buy from Cherin's.
I called the "local" Sears number. I waded through a much deeper phone tree (I think 4 choices) and got someone who was not local, but seemed to be in a call center. I explained what I wanted (someone to come out and measure my place and tell me what washer/dryer combos Sears sold that would fit in my place.) I also assured the rep that if someone came out, I'd pay and I'd most likely order a washer/dryer on the spot. Think of a customer offering $100 to send a salesperson to their home to make a >$2K sale. Dudes… that's a golden opportunity.
Anyway, the call-center person didn't understand what I wanted and couldn't connect me to the major appliances department at my local Sears. I hung up and made a testy Tweet.
Within a few minutes, the @sears folks responded. Okay… this is progress. I direct messaged my phone number, expecting a call in a few minutes to schedule an in-home visit. Phone didn't ring.
Next, I called my local Lowe's. It took less than a minute between dialing and getting to a person in appliances. He was helpful about measurements. I almost purchased over the phone.
Then I went on Maytag's site to see who else in my area sold washer/dryers. I found Chern's. I've purchased from Cherin's in the past and have had good experiences with them. I called and got through to a human on the 3rd ring. The human I got through to was very knowledgable about the space requirements for various washer/dryers, the ways that they failed (he identified problems with Samsung that I had experienced with Samsung washers in the past), and most importantly, he identified the feature differenced among my 6 final choices. I asked him to fax me a quote, which he did within the hour.
Dudes, Cherin's rocked the world with product knowledge and with simply being a human when I needed a knowledgable human to guide me through a non-trivial purchase. This is not buying a $200 printer when the biggest downside to getting it wrong is to buy a new one. This is a larger purchase that requires installation… and it's something I'm going to live with day in and day out for 10+ years. Having someone who gets it right is worth a 10% price premium (maybe even more).
The Cherin's price was competitive with Lowe's and much cheaper than Sears. The Cherin's price quote was complete rather than extra/hidden delivery charges and inventory update charges and the other junk that folks do to advertise a low price but have a higher total cost.
But Sears screwed up
So, today, 5 days later, I get a call from someone who claims to be from Sears. The guy says he's from the Sears Executive Offices and is calling about my tweet. He asks me for my address to "verify" who I am.
I ask him to verify who he is. He says, "I'm from the Sears executive offices." "But verify it," I say. He starts getting flustered… he's here to help. I tried to explain that all he's done is make a claim and ask me for identifying information. How do I know he's not phishing.
He doesn't understand what phishing is. I politely terminate the call.
So, Sears, if you're listening… this is the 21st century. Get it right.
I don't trust any emails anyone sends me. I don't trust phone calls anyone makes to me (yes, I call my credit card company back on the 800 number on the card when the security folks call to verify purchases.) Why should you expect I'm going to give you identifying information over the phone when you're calling about a Tweet I made?
So, let's see how Sears messed up:
- Not having local people on the phone who can get me to the right department ASAP (Lowe's can do it)
- Not being responsive after soliciting me on Twitter (you guys Tweet back right away… great, but call back within 30 minutes after a DM)
- Not respecting security. If the dude calling me has an extension, then he can point me to the Sears web site, tell me to call the 800 number and enter his extension
- Not knowing when you need knowledgable staff and when you need low prices. You need low prices for commodity items. You need knowledgable staff for major purchases.
I'm not afraid to buy online if I can interact with someone (IM is fine) who is really knowledgable and can provide me a total quote including tax, installation, wires, hoses, etc. But for a major purchase, I expect to get to someone quickly and that someone will know the product inside and out.
I'll shop Cherin's first
Next time I need an appliance (I'm thinking I might get a nice new stove in 2013), I'm going to Cherin's first.
Cherin's has skilled professionals and really knows how to take care of folks. Plus they are local and that counts for something… a pretty big something.
More importantly, the guys at Cherin's look like they've been there for a long time. People are not replaceable. They're not parts or cogs in a wheel. People are what makes our world go around. In providing a place where people can learn and grow and be excellent at what they do, Cherin's makes the world a little better. And that's worth a lot.