Project E One Year Later
Just over one year ago, SEI introduced its reorganization program, called Project E, to their employees and the franchise community. With the announcement came promises of streamlined communication to handle payroll, merchandise accounting, and other financial accounting issues; faster response to issues and cases submitted via the CHD process; and access to merchandising personnel to resolve store issues. Franchisees were told they would have access to personnel capable of handling their issues, who will either find solutions or explain why their issue or problem cannot be resolved.
The implementation of Project E resulted in the termination of tenured employees who previously performed tasks behind the scenes that kept the 7-Eleven operation working like a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, most of these tasks were not understood or quantified, and therefore were not addressed in the reorganization. Additionally, the company mistakenly believed that other routine tasks performed by SEI employees could be incorporated within the new technology that was part of Project E.
With the introduction of any new process, one can expect a certain amount of tweaking. As the breadth of an issue or problem evolves, it is expected that resources would be reallocated to meet the needs and demands of the stakeholders. Franchisees quickly learned to bond with those individuals empowered to make the decisions that resulted in definitive answers to their issues or problems. While the answers were not always favorable for the franchisee, they were clear and concise enough for the franchisee to understand and possibly respond to for further consideration. Franchisees had a level of trust because of the clear articulation of the facts.
Fast-forward one year.
The recent incarnation of Project E has frustrated franchisees. There are many times when a franchisee is unable to adequately explain a problem using the Customer Service Help Desk within the 7-Connect framework. This requires the franchisee to call the Customer Service Help Desk directly. Previously, a franchisee could select between multiple options of merchandise accounting, non-merchandise accounting, merchandising, and operational support. Now there is one-stop shopping for ALL SEI store support.
It seems that in the pre-Project E days, franchisees must have inordinately been selecting the incorrect options to receive assistance because SEI has deemed it necessary to remove all options, and now all requests go to option three, which involves a customer service expert taking the information and attempting to encapsulate that data to pass along to the correct department. It comes as no surprise that these “experts” are not only employed by a third party contractor at an off-site location separate from the Store Support Center, but most if not all have never worked in a 7-Eleven store at even an entry level position, and sometimes it is questionable if they even shop in a 7-Eleven store.
Today it is impossible to reach a subject matter expert, since all issues are filtered by this third party group. Issues that used to be resolved in a few moments with a seasoned, knowledgeable SEI employee now require multiple frustrating conversations with uninterested contract employees. The convoluted response to inaccurately documented issues is unfathomable.
Unfortunately, these frustrations are not only voiced by the franchise community but echoed by the supplier community. Seemingly simple issues take weeks to obtain a response. Even SEI personnel will privately express their frustration with the current situation—they are equally unable to address the systematic problems of Project E.
It seems SEI has adopted the philosophy: To be sure you hit the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.