What can we learn from Sears?

I’m always on the look out for some good insight from businesses who are leading the way in adopting social networking. Today I came across this article about Sears Holding Company that I thought I’d share.  Jennifer Leggio, aka Mediaphyter and popular blogger on ZDNet, recently interviewed  Rob Harles, vice president of community for Sears Holdings Corporation.  She talked to Rob about how Sears is using social media to build online communities, and wondered how it helped rebuild Sears’ brand reputation.  It’s no secret that Sears has had it’s ups and downs.  They’ve been to the brink and back, and now credit their community building activities as a vital part of their transformation.  While our customers are not necessarily like Sears, there are some nuggets in the interview that may have you opening your mind about   how to apply  social networking tools in your business.

Here’s an excerpt:

Q. [Jennifer] How is SHC using social media?

A. [Rob] We are one of the only retailers – and the only one of our size – that’s created online communities specifically for our customers (MySears.com, MyKmart.com, MyVoice.com for our MyGopher concept). The goal of these communities is to connect with our customers. We offer discussion forums to facilitate questions and answers between customers and associates, an ideas platform to hear what new innovations are most important and product reviews written by customers. The communities also offer an opportunity to address customer service issues. We offer members information about sales, deals, discounts and access to unique coupons and specials for their participation.

I don’t want to give it all away, Jennifer tells the story better.  I did learn that Sears faced one of the big corporate fears head on where someone hacked Sears’ system and defaced their product pages and used social media to help manage the crisis.

Read it and let me know if anything connects with you.  I particularly liked the customer service aspect in their approach, it think Web 2.0 tools offer a perfect way to enable those type of communications.  For example, the companies who are using services like Twitter and Facebook to monitor for customer service problems really shine when you realize they are listening.  I noticed this when I was dealing with a return problem a couple weeks ago when I purchased some promotional items at a football game  and didn’t know how to reach a vendor.   I tried all the avenues I could from calling, to emailing, to Twittering.  While Twitter did yield a response, it was not a response that was helpful to me.  I finally did get the information I needed, but it required more steps on my part.  So it matters.  All our actions matter.  Let’s always remember that no matter what industry we are in, our customers want to be heard.  And we now we have the tools available to show them we are listening.

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