Outstanding People Know How To Beat The System

beat the system1Sears has a problem: A completely non-consumer-friendly “appliance repair” system.

Systems aren’t perfect—we all know that. In the QBQ! book, we teach this idea: 

Don’t ask the lousy question, “When are we going to get better systems?”

Instead, ask “The Question Behind the Question” (QBQ), “What can I do to succeed with the systems I have?”

Now, back to Sears …

The Anti-Customer System

On Thursday, August 4th, A&E Factory Repair, representing Sears, replaced the “motherboard” in the Miller’s Samsung upright refrigerator/freezer. 

The next morning, Karen and I were up in the Rockies while our two teenagers were home in Denver. We got a call from the girls saying the ice maker in the fridge door poured a quart of water on to the floor.

Our daughters then discovered the ice cream in the freezer had turned to milk and the milk in the fridge was lukewarm.

Whatever the technician did on August 4th wasn’t working!

So, as I gazed upon beautiful Fraser Valley of Colorado, I called the Sears 800 number—and landed in Southeast Asia.

Following my explanation, the friendly and professional Filipino phone rep said,

“Okay, Mr. Miller, I now have our technician scheduled to return on Friday, Aug 12.”

Long pause.

“Excuse me. You mean today—Friday, Aug 5th?”

“No, Sir … Aug 12.”

“But but but … the machine is broken and YOUR guy broke it. Nobody is going to come for a week!?!?!?”



I hung up and rang the Thornton, Colorado Sears (store #1831) where we bought the machine a year ago. After speaking “appliances” and then “repair” into their automated phone system—BAM!!!—I’m back in the Philippines.

Not. Going. There. Again.

I hung up again.

Then, I put some old phone skills to work. Skills gained from years of selling training to hard-to-reach executives. I called the store back and said “men’s department” into my iPhone.

A moment later, a boxers and briefs salesperson answered.

Innocently, I mused, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought I was ringing the store manager’s office.”

She said, “I can help you with that, Sir”—and she did.

A manager—Kayla Marsh—came on the line. She was delightful. I informed her the Millers possessed soon-to-rot food and needed a tech to come TODAY to fix the problem their tech created YESTERDAY.

She said, “Well, I don’t want to over-promise, ‘ya know—but I’ll call you back shortly.”

I got off the call hopeful, but still thinking these negative thoughts:

Seriously?! There are no “emergency techs” roaming Colorado available to come immediately to SOLVE A PROBLEM ANOTHER TECH CAUSED!?!?

The Outstanding People

My phone buzzed. It was Spencer, a tech. He told me the original tech, Elliot, would be back to our house in an hour because, as he put it, “Our district manager said ‘solve this’.”

I asked for his DM’s name and got it: Stephanie Brooks.

Technician Elliot arrived, looked at the unit he’d worked on 24 hours earlier, called me, and humbly admitted he’d left something undone. He fixed the problem. Then he waited an hour to make sure all was well, partly because he cared and partly because his tech boss, Dona Wellington, instructed him, ”Stay at the Millers till it’s working!”

In the middle of all this, manager Kayla called back to make sure I’d been taken care of properly.

I had been. All was well.

But then, to top it off, the next day, Saturday, Elliot text me to ask if both the fridge and freezer were functioning correctly.

We just entered Outstanding! book territory! Zowee!

Sadly, the Colorado Sears team had to go “above and beyond” to beat their own system. Happily, though, none asked that lousy question, “When are we going to get better systems?” They simply solved the problem.

Surely, Sears executive management should deal with this anti-customer system they’ve built, but I am forever thankful for outstanding people like Kayla, Spencer, Elliot, Stephanie, and Dona. Not just because it’s a terrific story to share with you, but at the Millers, we still like our milk cold and ice cream frozen!

What system at work frustrates you the most? Are you outstanding enough to beat the system? Share here!

Receive our blogs by email   QBQ! on Facebook   Outstanding! on Facebook


10 Responses

  1. Love to hear these real world experiences.

    Questions for you,

    – As truly SUPERIOR customer service stories go . . . Did Sears replace the milk, ice cream, etc.? And leave you some floor cleaning supplies?

    Thank you,


  2. I love it when the staff takes responsibility to FIX whatever is not working not some distant voice who’s only responsibility is to answer the phone and log in your problem.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. I had almost the same experience with Sears / A&E Services, except that it took 8 months until my refrigerator was working as intended. They essentially replaced every major part. For 8 months we had to go to the garage refrigerator for our milk and ice cream! I will remember your approach for next time!

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. That was classic John.
    One of your best real life experiences yet
    Great to be older with that knowledge and do a work around with the system
    Have to do it with hotels all of the time too now!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *