Single View

  • When I worked at JD Edwards, one project that seemed to be forever on people's minds, but kept getting stalled in proceeding forward was a single view of our customers. Meaning that we would compile a database that had a complete, accurate, and single view of each customer. Everything that we ever had to do with them would be accessible in one place to prevent the data mismatches that occurred with disparate systems for accounting, CRM, support, etc. It never got off the ground and lucky for us because most of us appreciated how difficult a task it would be.

    I told you that story to tell you this one.

    I bought a few things from Sears right after Thanksgiving, a garage door opener, an extension kit and a saw blade. I tried to buy things online, but for some reason it failed to make the purchase when I wanted to make it without an account. It then wouldn't let me setup an account because it said I was already registered (I hadn't). So I tried the forgot password link and that said I didn't have a hint, so I couldn't get my password reset. I called customer service and they couldn't help with the account, but they did take my order over the phone.

    So I got a call, no email, that said 1 of my items was in. I went to the store, swiped my credit card at the kiosk, my order appeared and the first item was delivered. That was pretty slick. However, I never got an email for the second item, nor a call, but I did keep checking on the web and found that item, so I went and did the same thing, picking up the 2nd item. The third item was showing as expected on 12/16, but my second pickup was on 12/20 and it wasn't in then. No big deal as Andy and Brian bought me a large table saw as a bonus and it had to be ordered, so it wasn't expected until this week anyway.

    So today I have some time and head down there to pick my saw. I also have to return the extension because it doesn't fit. A mixed blessing as we're moving in a month, so it will sit in my garage packed up until then, but at least I'll have it. So I go, scan my credit card, it appears and they start moving. I click the return buttons as well, scan my card, and it gives me a check box to return my item. The guy, Raymond, grabs my return and I'm standing there thinking this is pretty slick. Then I remember my saw blade. I swipe again and a message comes up that tells me that it's still on back order.

    The guys come out with the saw and 4 of us lift the 300+lb beast into my wife's truck. As I'm wondering how the heck I'll get it out, I ask Raymond about my old item and can I cancel it. He checks a few things and then says we need to grab the manager about it. We go up there and the manager, Rick, listens and tells the cashier to just refund all the items. She tries and has problems, so the asst. manager, John comes up and tries. He gets two decline codes on the refund, so he calls They tell him that the one item he tried to refund got refunded twice on my card.

    He's confused, so we go to the office where Rick and Cathy listen to the story and do some checking. Cathy says that it doesn't appear that anything was refunded, and she'll just reissue the refunds here. She calls, works through it a bit and then comes back and says everything is refunded.

    Cool, I can always use a free garage door opener, but I really like Sears and tell her that I still have the opener. Plus while I was waiting I found the saw blade in stock. Not sure why I wasn't called, but I can understand it slipping through. We go back out to the floor and they charge me for the garage door opener and I put the blade back since it would just sit next to the saw for the next 6 weeks or so anyway and I'll come get one at a later date.

    So now I should see, in addition to the original charge, on my credit card, potentially two refunds of the extensions, a refund of the entire order, and a charge for the opener. I'd be out ahead if that comes through, but I'll go back and see them if there are too many refunds. I'd hope they would do the same for me.

    The point of that story is that Sears has a mismatch between their online presence and their stores. They are almost operating like partners, which I understand, but it causes them issues. I found out they do a nightly batch download, which makes sense, from to the stores to synch up the orders that need to be fulfilled. But the movement of inventory between the store and allocations to in the brick and mortar presence isn't quite there, nor are the refund processes.

    I think that Sears is missing a great opportunity here to really become a force. They have a great reputation, especially in the US and have been a household name for decades. Over a century in fact, and with their wide reach through their stores, they could seriously compete with Amazon as an amazing retailer. But they need to smooth their processes and make an investment in IT. It's hard to build a smooth, single view, and there aren't many companies I think are in a position to do it, but Sears is.

    I know it wasn't there fault, and a huge thanks to Rick, John, Cathy, and Raymond at the Aurora Mall store in Colorado. They were a big help and worked hard to get things squared away. If you know them, tell them I said so. I already did in person, but it never hurts to repeat kudos.

    Steve Jones

  • I have always found Sears.Com to be an afterthought to the Sears name and reputation.  Their stores have been the building blocks many shopping malls were built around here in Illinois, and yet their online ordering process pales in comparison to Circuit City.  I agree that they're missing a huge opportunity to really become a standard. 

    On the good side, I've had similar situations to yours, and I'm pleased to report, they have always been resolved to my satisfaction.  In this day of horrible customer support (Comcast comes to mind), I feel that Sears still values the customer well.  And no, I don't work for Sears

  • A more useful goal would be to have the system architecture point properly to the people and groups that can navigate the system the best on behalf of the the requestor.

    There is an implied cost/benefit analysis that needs to be done, but proactively monitoring and connecting issues and experts within any organisation remains a critical goal of these types of systems.

    Sears itself is capitally challenged because it is both an acquirer (i.e. Kmart) and an acquisition target. Puting resource into IT might have a long term payoff, but for Sears the realities are short term.


  • I have a beef with because I live in Alaska and all of the items on are "lower-48" prices.  Yet, there's no mention of that fact on the website. 

    So when my husband and I went into the store to purchase the snow blower that we'd comparison-shopped online for, we were blown away by the fact that it was about $100 more than online. 

    I can understand the higher price in Alaska.  It costs a lot to get stuff shipped up here.  I just want the website to show Alaska prices.  I entered my zipcode so they know where I am.

  • Getting a single view of people is also a problem for oursourcing companies, especially when they manage only part of the customer's estate.

    We spend a lot of time and effort to combine our customer's domain account details (for the domains managed by our company) with some of their HR information (which comes in the form of an assorted set of weekly dumps, all in a different format). There is no common field so we resort to matching on name followed by a lot of manual fiddling to resolve nicknames and the like. And then whole job lots of users move when we "discover" our customer's reorganisations, mergers and acquisitions which are going on all the time.

    The funny thing is that we then report it all back to the customer because even they do not have this combined view of their own employees and contractors ...

    Without a standard way of representing people, rigorously enforced in all systems, I don't see much progress in this area for a long time to come.

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