December 21, 2007

Guest Blog: The Disconnect

The following post was written by guest blogger John Joss

The disconnect between advertising claims and service to customers can cause deep dissatisfaction that may take immense effort to reverse, if indeed it is ever reversible. I refer in this guest blog specifically to a company that has been using the 'snide ridicule' approach to advertising in which is denigrates competition and claims superiority. If that is a mirage, not delivered at the point of sale, it engenders deep disillusionment in customers.

Orchard Supply, a Sears subsidiary, sneers in radio ads at Home Depot and claims that they offer in-store help to customers that Home Depot eschews. This is a mirage, a hollow joke. Recently I had to shop for bathroom lighting fixtures and chose to visit a local Orchard Supply, arriving at 8 AM opening time. Imagine my surprise when the only available lights of the type I wanted consisted of two open packages (I will not buopen packages and nor should you). No help was available. Finally an Orchard Supply staff person wandered by and, at my request, paged help in the electrical department. No result--I waited five minutes.

I went to Customer Service and asked, and finally got the help: "Out of stock. So sorry." At another Orchard Supply I went to the story was identical. At the third, a clerk finally managed to place a back order. Of the six staff people involved, only one knew the process. They were untrained and unmotivated, when I could find them. I only went back because the product they offered was precisely what I wanted, not available elsewhere. This failure to provide competent customer help at the point of sale is epidemic in the retail industry, an effort to cut costs by cutting staff.

Oh, sure, people who buy on price alone deserve what they get, right? Maybe. But companies that cut services below the bone and claim good service are committing business suicide. And agencies that pander to such claims and produce lying ads are party to the evil, inept co-conspirators.


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