It’s interesting, for example, and by the way, I think it’s clear I didn’t come from the supply chain world. And at Phillips, when they finally gave me this position and we’ve started to frame it, who do you report to Tony? Um, I don’t know. Who should I report to? Well, how about credit? What? Credit? Okay. I’ll report the credit. Um, okay. Let’s move you from credit this year to sales operations. Okay. Sales, operations, you know what? You’re kind of connected to the service group. This year we’re putting you in the service group. That’s the problem with reverse logistics and they did at one point, throw me into supply chain as well. Okay. So, they kind of worked me around, but, I’ve held one position in at least four different silos in the company.
But prior to that, when I was a sales guy at Sony, the samurai program that they had for the best of the best, and I hit that, I never thought about returns. Again, it was just a number at the end of the month as a deduction and Sony was successful because the prestigious brands actually have less returns than the medium brands. Phillips return rates were higher than Sony because Sony gives the impression of being a premium brand, people’s expectations, as long as they’re met, people think I’ve got a Rolex, why would I ever return that? You know, it’s like, I’ve got a Sony, I’m going to figure out a way to make it work or keep it.
But Phillips was a mid-tier brand, so they had a lot more returns. So, I went from sales at Sony to sales at Phillips and I handled major accounts. I was just a regional manager, but eventually I worked up to an operations manager. When you talk about roles, operations is what got me in front of the organization at Sears at the time was kind of big, training around the country, listening to the stories about, yeah, we love selling your stuff, but you got some problems here.
So when I moved into the position, and we called it the director of returns management, and importantly, they knew it had to be a director grade position. If you’re going to go walk into the biggest retailers in the world or in North America, you better have a title to go with it, or they’re going to throw your butt out. So a director of returns management you’d go into Target and say, you sent back 200 systems that were supposed to be new. Well, 47 of them were open and trash we’re billing you back. So you can imagine how that conversation went. But because I came from the sales side, I knew the buyer was going to say, we’re going to hold your purchase orders. And then I’d say, yeah, but look at these pictures and then we’d settle it.
Coming from sales and marketing and turning me into a supply chain person was a match made in heaven for me, because of my passion for the customer, for the customer experience, whether it’s the end consumer or whether it were the customers like the Targets and the Costcos or the Walmarts. So that’s what I learned along the way. Very, very big transitions.
You have to have influencing skills because you’re really trying to move a mountain. You’re going across departments and give you an example. We talked about that six Sigma nightmare. My God, the engineer’s killed me. We’d be in front of the senior team and the engineers would just flogged me for taking things back if it weren’t defective, that DVD player, it worked, there’s nothing wrong with it. Why are you taking them back? And I got flogged to pieces, but you kind of learn. Net promoter score was just starting to take off, and Amazon knew all about it. Make the customer happy, exceed their expectations. That’s the driver.
And that’s what Sony was able to do is exceed the expectations of the customers because I’m one of the few guys who actually did surveys of consumers who returned things. I did it with the University of Nevada. Students who’d call up people and say, we’re doing a student project. We’d like to know why did you return that? And then we learned 75% of them were returning things, they knew it wasn’t defective, but it didn’t meet their expectations. Or the instruction book for the clock radio was in 12 languages and they didn’t understand any of them because it wasn’t English. So, there were a lot of learnings along the way that net promoter score helped drive. And again, if you come from supply chain, no one thinks as much there about net promoter score.