Best Buy Wants A Better Buy (ing experience)

In Forrester’s Customer Experience Index, 2007, Best Buy was ranked #34 out of 112 firms — and 23rd out of 27 retailers on the list. That’s clearly not the best buying experience. But Best Buy is doing something about it.

In a recent press release from Best Buy, the retailer described what it had learned from a phone survey of 1,008 consumers. Here’s an excerpt…

… the factors consumers consider very or somewhat important include the return policy (92 percent) and the ability to speak to someone live when calling the store rather than hearing an automated message (91 percent). Other important elements include: customer assistance to help throughout the store (89 percent) and a helpful, easy-to-use Web site (70 percent).

In response to this insight, Best Buy also announced some new initiatives like:

  • Converting 30% of its floor personnel to a new position called “Customer Assistant” that are cross-trained to help customers across all categories in the store and will work with “BlueShirts” who have deep knowledge in specific categories. 
  • Extended return policy that allows anything purchased after November 4th to be returned by January 31st. Best Buy hopes to remove the stress of holiday gifting by defining a specific date instead of a specific window (e.g., 14 days from purchase).
  • More Spanish language content in its Website (see, in its call centers, and multilingual sales associates and signage in some stores. It is also adding Spanish language gift cards.

My take: You can always learn a lot from asking customers what they need, like, and want (which is why I push firms to develop a solid voice of the customer program). I’ll bet that many retailers would find that their customers want the same type of things as Best Buy customers — a clear return policy that works for holiday gift-giving, access to helpful employees, and an easy-to-use Website. Why not give it to them?!?

The bottom line: Your customers deserve the best buying experience.

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

11 thoughts on “Best Buy Wants A Better Buy (ing experience)”

  1. Best Buy should be embarassed by its customer service and retrn policy. Recently my employees gave me a nice camcorder for the holidays. The packaging indicated clearly it came from Best Buy. I don’t need another camcorder so I tried to return it. NO RECEIPT, NO RETURN. PERIOD. I even appealed to corporate customer service who promised to email the store manager, plead for mercy and ask him to call me. He (Woodland Hill, California store) never called. After a few days I called customer service again. Again they sent an email to him. No reply. Today I called a third time and received a message back from customer service. Their advice? “Sell it on ebay.”
    Think I’ll ever shop at Best Buy?

    <Editorial note from Bruce: I removed the name of the specific salesperson from this comment, since I do not want individuals to be singled out in this blog>

  2. Ron: Interesting. You ran into this problem even while Besy Buy has a corporate strategy to make return policies more customer-friendly. This demonstrates the difference between “strategy” and “execution.” The “sell it on eBay” comment is priceless.

  3. Ron: Why would you even try to return something without a receipt? In this world today, everything has to be taken into consideration. Sure, you probably did get it from Best Buy as a PRESENT rather than your own money, so I don’t see how you lost out in all of this–and taking that into consideration versus what we know today as RETURN FRAUD, you have to think this: Best Buy is a huge retailer which still runs as a BUSINESS. When running a BUSINESS, or anything regarding the large masses of people you wish to serve, it’s going to be impossible to make everyone happy, and that’s just how retail is. If they did take back items with no receipt, there would be more people interested in exploiting this rather than those in the actual case of not having a receipt.
    Bruce: How is this an execution problem? There isn’t any other clear solution to this problem simply because it’s not possible to take that back into their store if there’s no PROOF OF PURCHASE. The sell it on eBay comment may have been uncalled for, but did carry some practical sense with it. I mean, that’s better than nothing, right?

  4. Andrew: I agree that companies can’t always do what their customers want them to do; that was the basis of my post “The Customer Is Not Always Right, Now What

    But if Best Buy’s corporate strategy is to make returns a bit easier for consumers who get gifts (which it is), then I’d expect the stores to take returns of products when, as Ron describes, the “packaging indicated clearly it came from Best Buy.” If there was no indication that it came from Best Buy, then that would be a different story.

  5. Best Buy would need proof of purchase. Unfortunately people do commit fraud all the time. And if people can get a hold of a Best Buy blue shirt and rob the store before it opens because someone thinks that person is an employee, then I am sure that someone can get a hold of a sticker that says “Best Buy.” At the Best Buy where I work, there is nothing on any of our cameras that indicate it comes from Best Buy. The only thing that differentiates ours from, let’s say Target, is the color of the restocking fee sticker.

  6. Just like Dee, I, too work for Best Buy and have been a part of returns and exchanges for 4 years..I have heard all kinds of stories. And it amazes me how many people don’t read their receipts or listen to the cashiers or the salesperson when we talk about our policies. We ask if it is a gift or not so that you the customer can get a gift receipt which shows no prices. And this will allow you to return or exchange a gift. All it is a simple push of a button and you have this receipt. And our cameras , camcords are not tagged with a Best Buy label unless it was a returned item and we put on it what we call an open-box label to let people know that it has been purchased and returned before. Otherwise there is no way to know without a receipt if it was our product. Also did you know that not all Best Buy stores carry the same products? It’s based on what type of customers shop that store the most. Ex: A customer we call Barry is usually Upscale Suburban, income easily 100,000+ or Buzz who is highly into new technologies some stores have things in them that pertain mainly to these customers. So like they all ways say we can’t please everyone…..but I am proud to work for a company that is always constantly trying to please as many as they can!!!!!!

  7. I’m really interested in the extent to which the “cross dept” customer assistants improved sales at Best Buy? Would love to hear about other examples of companies using a similar “high touch” approach to improve customer experience and thus sales. What’s interesting about Best Buy’s approach is they reallocated 30% of the staff vs hiring incremental for this position.This example also highlights the fact that its not just about putting associates on the floor, but equally critical to define what they are doing (i.e. product expert vs cross dept “concierge”).

  8. Agreed. Interesting that CEOs still love to message “we are adding more people in order to better serve our customers needs and fix the problem…” This is understandable of course since adding more people is such a visible sign…and its expensive as well so it shows the CEO is serious…and its a rapidly deployable response…but adding people by itself does not always solve the underlying issue. With this in mind, wouldn’t it be great to evolve the discussion to a point at which we would understand the scenarios in which adding more people (by iteself) would help…vs those situations which would be better solved by pulling other lever(s) or combinations of levers (e.g. reallocation of resources as Best Buy did, infusion of training, etc)?

  9. I work as a highly knowledgeable Computers sales associate. the 30% employees are incredible. I’ll explain… It usually takes me 30 minutes to start and finish a sale. During that 30 mins, customers arrive waiting their turn to find a computer that fits their needs. As soon as I finish checking out a customer, the CA (general Customer Assistant) tells me that he has found out several things about a customer, and has begun explaining all of our geek squad services to the customer. With that info, I can narrow the computer down to 2 or 3, and simply ask will you be getting any of our geek squad services.
    Answering the phone is really tough. That is something that is hit or miss when ever I work. They have an employee who answers the phone and then redirects phone calls to what ever department the question is associated with, but most of the calls I get is people looking for tech support on computers that they just purchased. Customers are crazy.

    1. John: I love the last line: Customers are crazy. That’s why it’s so important that we design our interactions from their perspective, outside-in. Customers just can’t be trusted to follow processes the way we draw them up from our perspective. We need to find some ways to account for their craziness.

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