Best Buy in a Downward Spiral?

Larry Downes seems to have struck a nerve with his popular Forbes article Why Best Buy is going out of Business...Gradually.  As of this writing, he's already had over 550,000 views for the five-page, somewhat long-winded diatribe that was posted yesterday.  Larry basically lays out his reasoning for Best Buy's demise based on poor customer service while refuting the excuse that cheaper online retailers like Amazon have an unfair advantage.  He cites the recent cancellation of orders by Best Buy just before Christmas as the ultimate failure to serve customers.

As a former Circuit City employee, I can feel Best Buy's pain.  Electronics is a tough market. The products become obsolete quickly, installation and configuration can be customer service nightmares, and the Web has made competition more fierce than ever.

I haven't shopped at Best Buy in quite a while, so I don't have any good or bad recent experiences to relay.  But I did have three good customer experiences recently, so I thought I'd share:

1. We decided to do some remodeling in the kitchen so I ordered a faucet, cooktop, and range hood from Lowes.com.  They were available to be delivered from the local store in two weeks, but since we'd be on vacation I put a specific date in the comments.  Within an hour of submitting the order, my local Lowes called to verify exactly when I wanted the items delivered.  Everything arrived as planned.

2. I ordered a MicroSD card from Amazon, but the wrong type of card was delivered.  My order was accidentally switched with another Austin resident who got my product.  I called Amazon and they immediately shipped my original product via 2-day delivery with no questions asked.  I understand mistakes happen and just want them rectified quickly.

3. Lastly, I bought an expensive blender from Costco which went on sale the next week.  I called and they happily refunded the difference.  By the way, I chose to buy the blender from Costco not because they were cheapest but because they have an excellent return policy.

All three situations had a few things in common.  First, the employees I spoke with had good attitudes.  I felt they enjoyed their jobs, and it made the conversation that much better.  Second, all three retailers had the necessary systems to enable my purchase and handle post-purchase issues.  Third, the people I talked to were empowered to make me happy.  There was no runaround at all.

In this blog I focus lots on the technology that powers retailers, but in the end its the human touch that makes it work.  Perhaps Best Buy needs to get back to its customer service roots.

Comments:

Customer service or not, there's no stopping Amazon. Even if you bring eventually equal taxes in the picture, they simply don't have the brick & mortar and employee overhead. Amazon also has an edge because they don't spend all their money on overly expense closed-source "enterprise" software.

Posted by guest on January 03, 2012 at 03:55 PM CST #

Lowes.com? Seriously?

Posted by guest on January 04, 2012 at 03:09 AM CST #

Best Buy should read this article: http://hbr.org/2012/01/why-good-jobs-are-good-for-retailers/ar/1

My experience at Best Buy was not fully positive regarding the stuff, not always available nor helpful.

Posted by Juan Luis Delso on January 11, 2012 at 02:30 AM CST #

I thought I'd weigh in here as I frequently shop at Best Buy as well as many online retailers. I find Best Buy’s customer service & return policies to be excellent & based on this I’ve switched over to buying more from them in electronics vs. online only retailers. I suggest there’s a lot more than just saving a few bucks by buying online at least when it comes to electronics.

Here’s an example of excellent service: I purchased a high end car stereo from a popular online retailer along with all the installation accessories. They offered installation @ local stereo stores (including Best Buy). When I price compared I found Best Buy was cheaper & offered a better warranty so I chose to have the Best Buy in Austin do the install. 2 weeks later in Florida I had a problem with the stereo and stopped at a store in St. Pete. I showed them the installation receipt & they promptly dove in and fixed the problem – no charge and actually replaced a faulty ‘installation accessory’ that I had purchased online. About 2 weeks later I had a problem with the steering wheel control and took it to my local Best Buy. After many hours they finally diagnosed the problem as being in the actual stereo unit not the 3rd party purchased steering wheel control. They did this by taking the same model of radio which they also carried from their shelf to test and determine the problem was in the radio not the installation.

This is where exceptional service kicks in. They didn’t try to charge me for the technician’s time wasted on a faulty product purchased elsewhere but offered to put back the factory radio or install the replacement radio when it arrived in 3-5 days at no additional charge! They also offered to price match the online purchased radio which had been $50 cheaper and sweetened the deal by offering honor an expired coupon saving another $20. For me this became a no brainier decision. I bought the radio from Best Buy and sent the other back to the online retailer. I’ve had no issues since and continue to find Best Buy associates friendly and willing to help as well as offer great return policies on subsequent visits.

My message is we need to support good bricks & mortar retailers like Best Buy and make sure they are rewarded for trying to offer competitive prices and extraordinary service. They are much more than a showroom for us to inspect products and then buy elsewhere online to save a few bucks. After all if they go out of business like their former competitor Circuit City where do you think you will go actually see & listen to the products , get instant satisfaction of taking the product home as well as great after the sale service?

Posted by guest on January 11, 2012 at 04:02 AM CST #

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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