After spending all last week talking about personality profiling, why not another tangent? A couple friends of mine have encouraged me to share this story. This is a real life parable of the power of reputation and how it can benefit both parties in a transaction.
My 14-month old Sears refrigerator crapped out last month, just two months out of warranty. Sears sent a repairman but refused to cut me any slack on the warranty. After the repairman off-handedly mentioned that my fridge was surely defective straight out of the factory, I called Sears again and they offered $60 to cover the $187 repair bill. That still seemed pretty lousy, so I wrote a letter to the CEO of Sears, Alan Lacy.
A few days later I got a very encouraging phone call from Dana, who manages customer complaints addressed to Mr. Lacy and other Sears executives. She told me her game plan to argue my case to my local store manager, and explained that she could go to his boss, the regional manager, if necessary. She suggested that Sears should replace my fridge, which I said was perhaps more trouble than it was worth, given that the repairs had already been done.
The second time Dana called to tell me I was in fact getting a new fridge for free (in addition to full reimbursement for the repair work), I wised up and didn't try to talk her out of it. I don't know how she managed to turn around the local store's original position, but she has more than restored my faith in Sears customer service. Thanks, Dana!
PS -- Oh, yeah. The reason I share this story is all about reputation. Unfortunately for Sears, most people with working Sears appliances probably don't run around singing alleluias to Sears. So the task of building a good reputation can be slow. But someone with a really bad experience will be only too happy to spread the word. So recognizing potential "bad stories" and converting them to "good stories" is key. And that's just what Dana did so capably for Sears.
PPS -- You can read my letter in the first comment below this post.