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Sears Automotive – A Chronicle of Customer Service Through Social Media

Last week, I chronicled my experience dealing with Sears Automotive over the course of the month of September.  I decided to use this as an experiment in social media to see what kind of response I would get from Sears by writing the blog and then seeing what attention I could garner by promoting it online.

While the ordeal was going on, my friend Joy was researching the names and addresses of the upper echelon of the Sears Corporation.  When I was growing up, my father was known to write such letters when he was dissatisfied with the service an organization, to the point where he and my mother were asked to be arbitrators for the Better Business Bureau, but this just seemed to old media to me and to me, old media is slow, clunky and takes too long to get results.  Instead, I wanted to take this new media.

The first step was to write the blog post.  I needed this launching point to get my story out there in more characters than would fit on twitter, facebook or any other social media service.  Once it was crafted, the next step was to publicize it on twitter.  The first tweet was simple.  No drawing attention to itself, just quite simply saying I had a bad experience with Sears Automotive.  If Sears was truly new media savvy, they would be monitoring for all mentions of their brand and be ready to respond.  To be fair, I did post it late Thursday night and didn’t expect immediacy that night.

Friday morning brought no response from Sears, so it was time for the second promotion.  I hashtagged the tweet with “#Sears #SearsSucks #FuckSears #SearsBlows.”  For the uninitiated, hashtags are used on twitter as search terms for easy reference. Again, Sears didn’t notice that someone was using their brand as a search term, as well as detrimental versions.  It got notice of those people who questioned my usage and social media customer service, but it didn’t get noticed by the one organization who should have.

The final tweet of the day was the one I thought would get the most attention.  I searched using the Twitter Search and Google to find every Sears and Sears related twitter account I could find and added “cc:” with their usernames.  Any decent brand would be able to click Mentions in their account and see that someone was sending a message with their name in it.  Still nothing.  I was amazed that Sears still had not seen a single thing I was writing, even when trying to draw their attention to it.

On Monday, I took the final steps.  I looked for every Facebook group for Sears and posted a link to my blog with a message saying “Sears Automotive lied to me, wasted 12 hours of my time and damaged my car” with a link to the blog.  Someone saw that and sent me a message on twitter saying to try the mysears account on twitter, so I sent one more tweet and suddenly my blog was being noticed by someone at Sears.  After commenting in my blog, I was finally exchanging emails not only with Denise (who commented in my blog), but with the Regional and District Managers that she got me in contact with.  After a couple phone conversations with the District Manager, in which he wanted to keep my business, he offered to replace the missing grill and give me two free oil changes.  Additionally, he was on top of it with the manager, so I was able to call ahead, have the grill waiting for me and the manager came out to meet me and personally put the grill in.

While I do feel that Sears put right what the broke on my car, I feel like they were a social media failure.  It was hard to search out the mySears to get their attention, when they should have been using the Sears account on twitter, which would be the obvious place to look for them.  They also were not looking out for what people were saying about their brand until someone actively looked for them.  I am tech savvy and it still took me a few days to find a way to get in touch (but to be fair, they did respond to my facebook post in the Sears group after Denise commented on my blog), but instead of me searching for them, they should have been watching and got in touch with me long before I ever had to go searching.

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  • Denise

    I am glad we were able to resolve your service issue. Here are the many ways customers can find us: @searscares, @mySears, @SearsAuto.
    Thanks, Denise

  • Joy

    At least they replaced the grill. I still think they are all fail though.

  • Sears should have found you right away if they were listening properly in all of the proper channels. The fact that it took you many times and different tactics just shows that their social media program is still in its infancy. While it’s good to have social media accounts, if you’re not actively listening then they’re as good as worthless.

    Monitor > Listen > Engage > Follow Up

    I do have to say one thing for brands in this time period: social media is becoming ever more necessary and prevalent so some are at many different points of adoption.

    Let’s hope Sears learns from this experience and implements a better monitoring system.

    • Sears did replace the grill but they also commented on this post. The list ways customers can find them, but are they going ot try to find the customers?

    • Damien — long time no see; hope you’re doing well.

      We’re getting better, at least on the Electronics side. We have a few pillars over here that I’ve set in place that I think just make sense: STIC. (Share of Voice, and that comes from Trust, Insight and Content).

      We’re listening and responding. We’re being proactive (asking about deals, service, products, etc.) and we just launched the Sears Blue Blogger Crew (http://blog.searchenginewatch.com/110105-073000) that we’re spreading to other parts of the business.

      I’m glad your auto issue was fixed; if there’s anything you need that’s Sears-related, or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly. (If it’s not electronics-related, I’ll pass it along.)

      Know this response is long after you wrote the post (I only started a few months ago), but I want to let you know personally that we’ve grown as a company in the SM space since you wrote this post!

      (NOTE: I’m the social media manager for Sears/Kmart Electronics)

      • Daniel, you may want to see the followups a year later where I took my car there a year later for an oil change and they caused severe oil leaks in my car.

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  • HerseyK

    I can personally attest that I am the only tech person who has not F$%ed up. You don’t know how many times I’ve had to go in an repair incompetent and just outrageous programming or complete systems !!

    Sears, Midas, Mienke, VIP or what was it – 3 Brothers – or was that a pizza shop – thay all suck at one time or another ! I recall I took my girlfriends sentra which wouldn’t start to Sears, VIP (or some Jersey chain), local guy I didn;t know , got quotes for new alternator, new generator, new battery,and maybe something else. GF going to figure how to buy new car. Finally talked to friend of friend took to small gas station – mainly repairs – charged battery for the day, tightened a belt. Sentra started ran for another THREE years (maybe 4).

    I only buy tires at Sears – lifetime rotation. Gets us back in store for several hours.