Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sears Portrait Studio drives away its last customers

The latest email:
You must hit 3 appointments per day outreach. The company is coming down hard on this. All associates/managers must make 10 calls per shift. If they don't. It will result in finall/termination. You must average 3 a day.
Thank You!"
Is this going to make associates fear for their jobs? Yes. Is this fear going get them to call with every spare moment (that they don't have)? Yes. Will some of that calling be off the clock? Probably.

I'm not sure how this is even possible for many studios. It was a struggle to hit 10 outreach appointments every week for us, let alone 21.

And let's say you normally have 40 appointments a week this time of year. Is calling the same people over and over again really going to raise that number to 61? Are you really going to be able to add 91 appts to your books each month this way? You may get them to come in more frequently, but you can bet that they aren't likely to spend as much (if they show up at all).

What SPS needs right now is new customers to bring them new sources of income. They aren't going to acquire and retain customers if every time you visit SPS, you have phone calls every day for a week every time 60 days rolls around. That's how you make customers angry.


SPS said...

If they wanted to do set a goal that was both challenging and easily trackable, they should have made the goal to exhaust your entire outreach list (either speaking which each customer or attempting 2 times and then leaving a message (if that were allowed)). It would show management that people were doing what they could to make new appointment and be fair as well.

SPS employees, it makes me sad that now every day you're going to get yelled at for this and for all the things that you weren't able to get done because you were making calls.

Anonymous said...

We used to make a lot of appointments through outreach, but the problem is that it ends up hurting you in the end since the people who come in do not spend enough to maintain your PRS. So then they'll be yelling at you about that. It's a never ending cycle in which there is no winning.

Anonymous said...

They will not have any employees left, like i said, we are on single coverage 99% of the time and when we arent, its because we need that other person and are busy.

Ugh, just fire me. Ill make more on unemployment than i am working. That has been proven by one of my assosciates who was let go when the hours changed. SHE makes more that I do and SHE is on unemployment.

Anonymous said...

AMEN!!! I've had it with outreach!! When I took this job, I actually thought I would be managing a portrait studio, NOT telemarketing!! That was such a minor part of the interview job description, and that was only a few months ago..I'm running my studio with NO help. 7 days a week..I'm getting behind in all of the other "tasks" I'm supposed to do, because every spare moment is spent trying to get 3 stupid appointments that two of won't even bother showing up!! I'm so frustrated and mad, I could scream!!!
The focus should be on taking care of the customers that we have actually coming into the studio (not the ones who haven't been there in two years), and bringing in new customers. So many of the old ones get those god-aweful package coupons and that is all they will buy..so long PRS!!!

I love photography and I love kids..however, CPI has ruined my dream job!!!

Anonymous said...

They will be hitting the Wal-Marts more than likely with this crap next week. We do half of it already so I guess we will have to bother customers even more. It's freaking nuts.

We have noticed when they send out orders to Sears they come to Wally World a week or two later with the same orders and emails from the DM's. I guess I won't be as mad when I personally get told since I already know it's coming.

Anonymous said...

Olan Mills also resorted to "Extreme Outreach". Just before they bit the dust. Hhmmm...

Anonymous said...

Ha..I quit almost forcefully 4 weeks ago..

I was sick.. how dare I?

I saw about 6 sps customers in the mall and grocery store..told them I don't work there anymore..here is my phone number..give me a call. Cause they are sick of the phone calls too.

I made 200 bucks the other day.

And that is after paying the online lab for prints.

I only worked 30 minutes.
Invest in a good camera.. invest in photo shop... and do it on your own.

I have 4 more appts this month.

You will be soooo much happier.

Trust me..I am. The only thing I will do is send out a flyer to let them know of my specials..or an email. No badgering here.

Ha ha...thanks for the training SPS!

Burntoutmgr said...

Well I have noticed something lately that we have not been able to replace our inventory items lately. Inventory items are really low right now and I have ordered more and they have not been delivered.

When we were owned by PCA this happened right before the bankruptcy. I hope this is not a sign of things to come.

Burntoutmgr said...

Has anyone else noticed the inventory items being low. I guess us Picture Me people will be getting the wrath of the DM's next week as far as the outreach crap.

Anonymous said...

To the former manager who is doing their own photography: GOOD FOR YOU!!! That is an excellent idea!! We all should do that and put CPI out of business, we all know the customers come in because of us, NOT the company...

Anonymous said...

I have MULTIPLE families that tell me if i wasnt there, they wouldnt be either. And i firmly believe they are telling the truth.

I too am doing this on the side so i can tell SPS to screw off once i get my clientelle built up and more $$$ for equipment. But, seing as how i work for CPI, i never have any extra money since i dont make any!!

boothis said...

wow, I just found this blog and I'm hooked!
How I found it? Making up flyers-at home...in my jammies- for the studio.
I've worked with sps for a short while, but things only get more complicated.
I was actually able to do 10 calls on my last shift -with 'no show' outreach appointments- and got in touch with a whopping ZERO!
Oh, and I've been 'bumped up' to assistant manager with no wage increase. Just can't seem to get the paperwork! Yeah, thx for that CPI.

Anonymous said...

To "Boothis"
I was the "Assistant Manager" for 8MONTHS before anyone decided it was worth doing paperwork over to make it official and get me my raise.

My advice to you. do NOT take any of the managerial duties until you get the raise or they will pro long it as long as possible.

They finally only gave me my raise because i told my manager i had to quit, i couldnt handle all that stress on $7 an hour!

Burntoutmgr said...

Just got a new email. It is about using a new tool for hiring and recruitment.

It says, "in order to ensure we are effectively maximizing the potential of new hire, we need to see how this tool works with our existing team as well."

Just wondering if any of the SPS studios were already using this "new tool" already. Since at Wally World we usually get screwed after you guys get screwed.

If any of you guys have used this assessment tool do you have to watch real close how you answer any questions. We are required to finish it in July.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe this company. I found out that we only get paid 6 hrs pay for Holiday pay if we avg less than 38 hr /week.

I just love the vacation accural as well. Don't use any vacation you have not earned yet because you have to pay it back if you quit, get fired or laid off.

Anonymous said...

so i was looking at some things at work. in the interview guide...no where at all does it ask any questions or tell any employees about outreaching. however in the job description it says the candidate must have strong TELEMARKETING skills. yet on the scripts it says "remember you are not telemarketing you are making a courtesy call to our customers" so we are not trying to call them and make them come in and buy something? isnt that the very definition of telemarketing. and if thats the case why do applicants need to have strong telemarketing skills? and if its a courtesy call then why do we have to call the same people several times a day until they actually answer their phone?

Anonymous said...

before outreaching, there was "smile-searching". soon enough CPI will get too many complaints about phone calls and outreach will go away and be replaced by something worse.

Anonymous said...

but they brought smile searching back......now you HAVE to have 10 a day

Bex said...

I have been browsing this blog for the past hour and I must say, I feel bad for each and everyone of you.

I have been with this company for 10 years 8 of which was seasonal. Yes, I willingly came back every season to endure the seasonal madness and I loved every minute of it. I loved it so much that I accepted the position of studio manager, over 2 years ago, knowing full well what to expect from this company.
It is not an easy job and you have to LOVE it. It is often easy to lose sight of why we do this. You have to keep it in perspective.
My studio is fun and our customers are great. In fact, my associates love this job so much that EVERY ONE of them accepted some form of management position in the last few weeks.
My DM is a fantastic woman that makes every effort to guide us into the right direction. She is kind, caring and easy to talk to.
My fellow managers also love their jobs and are always available to help you meet your goals. Just last week and studio that was no as busy, pulled up MY call list and helped me make my outreach. I, in turn, did session planning for a manager that was swamped with customers.
There is more to this job then SCR, outreach and numbers. Sometimes I lose sight of why I love my career and then one of my regular customers walks in and her 2 year old daughter gives me a huge hug. I then remember that I do this because I LOVE it.
I plan monthly events and customer appreciation weekends. I send out post cards and use that as an alternative to the call lists. I have a customer that attends EVERY event we plan AND spends $200+ every time. She used to be a holiday only mom.
I know that if you truely dislike the company then I am not going to change your mind. I do know that no matter what I feel for the company, I LOVE my studio.

Anonymous said...


It's actually refreshing to hear of a manager, studio, and district where things seem to be working. It sounds like a nice enabling environment where people help each other, rather than one where people are threatened, written up, and beaten down on a regular basis. I can assure you that my co-workers too love creating memorable images for our longtime customers. Unfortunately, here it's the only thing that keeps them coming back to a job that works them hard and delivers little else in return.

Keep spreading the love.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is good to hear somebody express positives, but I love my job but not the impossible. If your getting a lot of outreach your in an area of the country that does not know there is a recession. Here in the midwest it is impossible.

I like my job but don't threaten me every week with discharge if I can't get the outreach in. Even at Walmart which is the cheap part of the company people are not buying around here. I am one of the very few lucky enough to get the 80+ PRS they want.

Anonymous said...

We are driving our customers crazy with all the calls. Not only are we calling them constantly from the call list, then comes the session planning calls, and then if they don't show up for the appt we have to call and try to reschedule, and when they finally do come in, after the session they receive a survey call. Plus they want us to get referrals from customers so we can bother their family/friends with calls. Most of my day is spent on the phone and when I came on board I didn't accept a position of telemarketing. In fact, nothing was about telemarketing when I started.

I love photography and I have great customers & employees, but the huge amount of telemarketing that consumes the daily activities is becoming very frustrating.

Bex said...

I live in NY. One of the areas hit hard by the recession. My customers do not spend alot all the time. Even my events are plagued by the 9.99 or 4.99. I don't really care bout that because the way I run my business, I sell 1 platinum w/ fine art for every 3 packages. It evens out. We have been taught to think outside the box with our outreach. We plan 0 to low cost events to bring in customers and then we WOW then with our photography. We have a high custom conversion rate because of it. The way we look at it is if we take care of them now, when the hardship eases they will be back and spend money.
Outreach is not just about the call list. It is only about bringing in the sittings. There are lots of ways to do that without just using the call list.

Anonymous said...

I seen on careerbuilder.com and hotjobs.com that CPI has District Manager jobs and sales associate jobs available. Mostly in the Picture Me studios. It says that you don't really need photography experience it would be a plus though. I guess they really don't care about the quality of the pictures as long as they get the 80.00 PRS.

Anonymous said...

80 prs?!?!?!?! mine is 116!!!!! i would love an 80 goal

Anonymous said...

Our PRS goal is $120..... right now im running a $140 tho, so i dont care.

Burntoutmgr said...

Your customers are a lot different at Sears. You don't get all the trailer moms coming in.

My PRS is over a 120.00 at the first of the month. Then after that it goes down slowly. I avg. 100.00 most of the time but most of the Walmart stores don't do that.

When I drop by Sears I don't see the same type of customer what so ever although we sell a lot of the same product.

Anonymous said...

Ohhhhhhh, we SO get trailer park!!! And, we get the "I HAVE to pay in full NOW??!!" because they are used to Wal-Mart letting them pay halvsies.

So, they just $9.99 us and be on their merry little ways.

What i hear the Most is, "Its only 1 pose, but that one pose is so much better than what Wal-Mart does. So id wrather have 1 good one than a lot of bad ones!"

Apparently OUR Wal-Marts are horrible, so this isnt directed at any other PM studios!!

Anonymous said...

I like the 9.99 customers who walk out when they find out they have to pay a sitting fee...or that they have to pay the $5 additional subject fee to have multiple people in the trial package!

Its ok though...I've found the best revenge is to charge the $5 additional subject fee per person ;) so when they come in with a family of 10 and the $4.99 coupon it costs them an additional $45 in add subject fees at my studio!

Anonymous said...

i do that too. i tell them that the package is only designed for one subject and the multiple subject fee is per extra person. (that falls under "restrictions apply") i also say well half your pictures are minis those really tiny ones? usually i get them to $48 instead of $4.99 but thats still not good enough

Bryan said...

Just let me say this... I used to work for SPS from 2000 to 2005. I left because 1.the company was more worried about money then customer service, and 2. because there used to be a website from CPI where associates could leave there feedback and there opinions. Well needless to say they started to pick off people that said anything about the company that made them look bad. So I went and applied at JcPenney Portraits, and I have to tell you that I couldnt be happier. As an asst. manager I get 15.90 an hour. I've been there for 5 years and like I said I love it. I started at 10.50 which is way more then Sears starts at. I recently left Penney's to try to open my own business and it did not go. So before I went back to Penney's, I thought I would fill out an app. at SPS as asst. in a local studio. I was a little ticked when the DM said that my 9 years of expereience is nothing and they dont care about photography they care about the money. So she offered me the job as Asst. Manager for 9.90 an hour. I had to laugh. Of course I went back to Penneys. The best part about them is that it is an employee owned company. In 5 years I will be able to retire and have 100,000 from our ownership program. Now of course I wont because I'm only 26!

Anonymous said...

As a very long term employee...I have to tell you...if you don't like it - then move on. Without outreach this company will have no business! We have already cut the hours, we have already reduced the labor...frankly, if everyone had been doing the outreach before this...none of that would have needed to happen. I love the fact that I can help control the destiny of the company with my efforts. It is not easy...but it is worth it! If you are being threatened then your mgmt is using the wrong tactic....I challenge you, as I did my team...make this company as successful as it used to be!

Anonymous said...

oh please 20% of my outrach appts show and 10% of them get one sheet and a freebie regardless of how good the photography is. we're not supposed to convince the members and repeat customers to come in. they know what they want and when they are ready they will book and come in. its driving in the new customers and getting back the old ones who had bad experiences.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy I found this blog!

I've been working at SPS for 3-4 months and i was excited at first, now i'm struggling to keep my job and remain happy there. Every now and then i'll have great, happy and fun customers or i'll see how happy they are when they get their pictures..that's the only thing that makes it half worth it! :)

The constant PRS reminder and people with their lovely coupons, is the most stressful. Or my sometimes rude or inconsiderate co-workers, and customers of course. Never been cursed out by a stranger before...so one more time, i'll leave for my 7/hr.

I'm doing my best to both please Sears/CPI and the cusomters! I usually put customers first. If i haven't gotten the 6 poses, I try to sneak it in before they are too tired of taking pictures. The hard part is getting them out that horrible coupon!

The outreach calls are something no one ever wants to do, so since i'm the newest I usually have the responsibility. I also have to get the same PRS, 80-100, as the other associates, who have been there 3-5 years! Crazy but apparently the DM is worried about me,though my manager tells him i'm trying my best! They threaten to terminate me by saying "this is the last time to raise your PRS." So until then, i'll use my sales knowledge to convince them and push them to buy more! They really need me though, as they can't run on just 2 associates. We have a total of 3 at our small studio.

My stomach sinks when i sale a coupon but at least the customers are happy? right?! Lastly, what does everyone think about the 6 poses and 5-star guidelines? I agree on getting a variety of poses to choose from and safety rules, but the proper eye and foot placement? A little ridiculous to me for anyone under 5!

-Sticking it out for SPS!!

Anonymous said...

Wow....I was thinking about applying for a job....maybe not. I worked for Olan Mills when they had studios in Texas, I enjoyed it and I did really well, but this thing sounds like a nightmare. I'm glad I read the comments before applying.

Anonymous said...

I was threatened with termination recently over call list requirements not being met. I pointed out that I was the only one in the studio who even did the calls, and asked if everyone else was expected to meet the same quota or be fired themselves. I was given a nonspecific "Everyone is SUPPOSED to do call lists" and that was the end of conversation. So, we're all SUPPOSED to but only I am being targeted for termination when I'm the only one who does them. Hmm.... confusing.