David wrote a very angry letter to Circuit City’s CEO. The CEO responded, and used the letter as a learning point in his next staff Town Hall meeting, making David angrier than ever.
David wrote to the Circuit City CEO:
It is with great humor that I read your little whitewash note inside the cover of your circular this week. I have to admit, I had a nice long laugh, which is always welcome on a Sunday morning. It still amazes me how retail executives believe they can make up for their company’s ills by attempting to fool the public that they actually care about the customer. Circuit has proven, and continues to prove everything but that. From shoddy car stereo and alarm installations, to horrible customer service from untrained lazy store reps. to more recently, false and improper rejections of valid rebate claims and failing to honor advertised prices, Circuit City has a LONG and storied history. The customer has ALWAYS been an afterthought at Circuit City. Nothing more than a source of revenue, a statistic on your charts at the weekly meeting. It’s the corporate retail way. You know it, and unfortunately for you, we know it just as well. That, my friend, is why you are failing. Consumer across the country are dancing in the aisles at your demise. Why? Because the human spirit yearns for Karma. What comes around, goes around. Something that always seems to escape the corporate bean counters. I wish you a merry holiday season, and a nice spat of winter as you sit on the unemployment line. I know you won’t learn anything from this, it’s what keeps you what you are, but please feel free to keep this note as a memento of your failures as you journey through them
The CEO responded, and CC’d us:
I always appreciate hearing from our guests, regardless of whether it is good or bad news. Your list of very pointed comments suggests that you have had a number of unsatisfactory experiences with Circuit City. If that’s the case, I am sorry and I only hope that we will have the opportunity to win you back as a customer.
With that said, I want you to know that I passionately disagree with many of your comments regarding the belief that I or this management team is not committed to the customer. I have spent the majority of my career in retail and understand that it is all about the customer and that a company whose culture is focused on the customer experience is what separates a great retailer from one that is average and more importantly it is often what builds the value of the brand.
In my short time as CEO, I have publicly acknowledged that Circuit City has made mistakes in the past. We had lost our way recently and moved away from the customer. But we are not focused on rehashing our mistakes – we’ve got a passionate team focused on fixing our corporate culture and turning this Company around.
I am personally responding to this email because I want you to know that I don’t take these emails lightly. In fact, I received this email shortly before standing in front of over 1300 central office associates Monday afternoon where I personally read this email to all of these associates. I only wish you could have heard or seen their reaction but needless to say that they would also strongly disagree with your conclusions. Circuit City’s heritage has historically been rich in customer service and we are committed to restoring that tradition.
We have more than 30,000 employees working hard to win consumers over – one at a time. We are focused and committed to creating a different and improved experience for our guests. While completely changing and sustaining a new corporate culture doesn’t happen overnight, we have made a lot of progress in just a few short months. We are not great yet, but we are trying very hard to become better.
Thank you for your letter and I sincerely wish you a pleasant holiday.
Circuit City Stores, Inc.
Vice Chairman, CEO and President
According to this internal communique, it looks like Jim also made good on his promise to talk about this letter to a bunch of his staff:
In the Town Halls earlier this week at the Store Support Center, Jim Marcum shared a letter from an unhappy guest who challenged how sincere we really are about keeping the guest at the center of all that we do. Jim also said he would share his response with us. Below is a copy of the email and, as promised, Jim’s response.
Director, Internal Communication
However, David is only madder than ever. He really lets Jim have it this time, laying out a series of Circuit City’s failures he’s experienced over the years:
Jimbo, you must believe one of three things: 1. I was born yesterday, 2. My experience is somehow, inexplicably unique, or 3. Customers are as dumb as retailers. Let me begin by assuring you that NONE of the above are true. While it MAY have been true that, at its inception, Circuit City was a decent retailer, with a sense of integrity and consumer-focused business model, as with most retail corporations, as they grow, that becomes less and less so. Tell me Jim, would you agree that being “customer focused” means farming out customer service inquires to an Indian CS center, and following up customer inquiries with useless canned responses??? Allow me to share with you MY personal experiences with Circuit City over the past few years:
1. Circuit City installed a car alarm in my wife’s car about 4 years ago, and in the process of installing the trigger switch in the hatchback, created a hole that allowed water to leak in and flooded the rear under the mats. This was discovered by our mechanic a short time later, and despite my contacting CC several times over this, and even filing a BBB complaint, I was repeatedly rebuffed with the runaround and canned responses.
2. Many times, over the years, I have gone to a CC store to purchase a product, couldn’t find it, asked a clerk if it was available, and was told it was not in stock, only to return home, purchase the SAME PRODUCT at the SAME STORE for In-Store pickup, and returned to pick up the item. One time, and this is classic, I actually had a client of mine go to the store to pick up some software that your site stated the store had available, only to be told by the clerks standing around BS’ing with each other that it was out of stock, so with her on the cell phone, we purchased it online and she walked over to the counter and was handed it!
3. Circuit City installed speakers in my current car doors, and ever since, I have been plagued by creaking noises, loose door panels, and even a crossover cover that has fallen out. I have returned to them on at least THREE occasions, on MY time, to have them correct it, and they still haven’t.
4. On several occasions, including one just this past month, I have had Circuit City falsely reject rebate submissions. Of course, when I called, oooh, magically, it was revalidated. Yes, we ALL know the game. Randomly reject a certain number of rebates knowing full well that many customers will not follow up. Oh, and I just LOVE the lame excuses your Indian reps give me when I call. Classic!
5. This month, well within the realm of your “new attitude” I purchased a DVD online for shipment, and then 2 days later, after I received confirmation, was told, “oh, that item is no longer available from the manufacturer” It was a recently released DVD that was and is WIDELY available. Incredibly, that same DVD then appeared on your site at a higher price.
6. Several times over the past few years I have purchased items I needed for clients for In-store pickup, shown as available at the store, only to then receive a phone call that the item was not, in fact, available.
I haven’t even touched on the many instances of your stores refusing to honor valid price matches, unknowledgeable and lazy sales staff, customers standing in front of the counters waiting to pay for items, while the cashiers were too busy fooling around to wait on them, and the many, many other examples of why your business is failing.
While I am quite sure, it is your job to run spin control, and do what you can to attempt to save your business from failing, let me assure you, it is failing for a reason, and your customers are all WELL aware of why. I trust you have Internet Access, so I am sure you are aware of the thousands of blogs regaling the myriads of poor customer experiences at your stores over the years. So we’re not fooling anyone here. I worked in retail myself, in college 20 years ago, so I am WELL aware of the corporate retail mentality, and I know how to run a business, as I do so myself. However, if I ran mine, the way you run yours, I would not expect to remain in business. Jim, we ALL know how it works. Tell me, do you REALLY think firing all your experienced employees and replacing them with minimum wage morons was a customer-focused move??? Are you REALLY that stupid??? No, you just think all your customers are. Please. Save your whitewash for your weekly “let’s see how we can rip off and fool the customer” meetings. You are fooling NOBODY but yourselves.
I wonder if David’s rebuttal will be shared at the next Town Hall meeting.
Trying to be responsive to customer complaints is great, but lip service will only enrage your critics.