“Customer Experience is not just about

passion. It is about profitable results.”

~Lior Arussy

My Best Buy Journey: The Six Stages of an Awkward Customer Experience

Posted: Feb 07, 2014 by Ed Murphy

It never ceases to amaze me how retailers continually struggle with the concept of customer experience.

My customer experience blunder award for this past holiday season goes to Best Buy for providing a single experience that demonstrated the worst AND best of retailer customer experiences.

1. The Mission

I needed to buy a laptop for my son. I strategically planned a Best Buy shopping trip for early on a Monday morning to beat the crowds and have more one-on-one time with a sales associate.

The plan worked great until I actually needed the sales associate to tell me the amount of dedicated video memory in several laptops.

2. The Valley of Disengaged Sales Associates

It became apparent very quickly that the sales person I was speaking with only knew how to describe the computer based upon the specification page (something I could read myself!).

I mentioned that the specification page did not show the dedicated video memory. Knowing just enough about computers to get myself into trouble, I boldly said “you need to look it up in the computer” – something the sales person had no clue how to do.

He proceeded to quickly ask his manager for assistance and was told it was on the specification page.

Upon realizing I was determined to find out the what the amount of dedicated video memory was on several machines, the manager – AND the sales associate – moved on to another customer, leaving me alone.

3. Redemption

Frustrated, I approached the customer service desk and asked to speak to the store manager.

I explained the situation and she took immediate action by offering to have a Geek Squad “backroom” tech guy (her terminology) help me with my questions.

Finally, I was provided a great experience that allowed me to select the ideal laptop. I thanked the “backroom” tech guy for his help and took the selected computer’s spec sheet to a new sales associate to complete the sale.

At this point, I was amazed at the approach the store manager took and the level of service provided by the “backroom” tech guy. The store manager’s actions saved the sale and turned an extremely negative experience into a positive one.

Once my amazement wore off, I started looking at my receipt and any sense of WOW quickly faded to bewilderment and further frustration.

4. Disillusionment 

As I was leaving the store I reviewed my receipt and realized the most recent sales associate pulled the wrong computer from inventory.

I went back to the department and took the specification sheet from the display. I approached the sales associate that processed the transaction to let him know something was not correct.

He quickly realized his mistake and apologized, found the correct computer and proceed to say “follow me to customer service – they can easily correct this.”

The sales associated walked with me to customer service desk. He told the associate to redo the transaction and abruptly walked away.  

5. How am I Still Here!?

At this point I had been in the store for over an hour and the customer service associate was struggling to process the transaction, so I asked to speak to the store manager (who happened to be different from the earlier one) and I explained my experience to him. 

He was very apologetic and proceeded to explain to the customer service associate how to process the transaction, but ultimately took over and did it himself.

6. A Reward

The store manager saw I was getting more annoyed as time went on and apologized again. He offered to do an even exchange, even though the laptop I originally wanted was more expensive.

I expressed my thanks but explained I was still very annoyed with the entire experience, because they have sales associates and department managers that can only sell to a specification sheet and know little about the products themselves.

The store manager agreed and explained that they were in the process of rebuilding the store – a story I found highly unlikely, but accepted it and moved on to finish my holiday shopping.

The Financial Impact

The financial impact of a poor experience isn’t just losing a sale, it’s the discounts given to customers who experience the poor service. 

If each Best Buy store provided only 1 experience similar to mine (I find it hard to believe the real number is not significantly higher) the financial impact would be $369,600+.

 + Based revenue lost based on my specific transaction ($350), multiplied by the number of US Best Buy stores (1,056)

The Lesson

My experience at Best Buy by far was the worst experience of my 2013 holiday shopping. It amplifies the issues with the retail customer experience:

  • Inexperienced sales associates and department managers
  • Improper training (training to basic product specifications and not how to use the product)
  • Apathetic employees and department managers

Could this speak to why many retailers are struggling for survival?

In April 2013 I read an interesting article from April 2013 in the Wall Street Journal by Ann Zimmerman on how Shawn Score, head of US Retail at Best Buy Co. said the chain had “let its customer service atrophy.”

The article also mentioned that Mr. Score was tasked by Chief Executive Hubert Joly with turning the stores around.

The article quoted Gary Balter, a retail analyst at Credit Suisse, describing Best Buy as “that blue and gold store where the salesperson usually can’t help you.” Unfortunately, from my experience, this appears to still be the case.

The article mentions Mr. Score’s white binder of “pain points” that led to customers not purchasing from Best Buy. Identification of “pain points” is the first step in rebuilding the customer experience, but identification is only the first step. There is no quick fix. 

For many executives, customer experience is merely a customer service issue. Hire the right attitude and the rest will work up. 

In reality – this is not the case.

Customer experience is a careful planning and execution of a delightful customer interaction across ALL touch points. The experience at Best Buy was fluctuating depending on who I was speaking to: sales person = bad, store manager = good, customer service = bad, geek squad = excellent. 

The journey I had to take was not planned and the employees in it were not empowered across all interactions. It was a culture of few heroes, not a consistently delightful organization. 

The fact that managers saved the day was not impressive. Every employee should be able to do it.

What was missing from the experience?

  1. Careful planning and dissemination of the ideal customer experience
  2. Selecting employees who care
  3. Training employees to know their products
  4. Training employees to care for customers
  5. Empowering employees to deal with tough situations
  6. Measurement of and rewarding of employees who deliver excellent customer experience

I would bet you that the performance I experienced was an outcome of the wrong measurements. If you measure employees on the quality of the experience and provide them with the tools to do it right, the results will follow.

Incentivize employees to sell, sell, sell and that is exactly what they will do – treating the customer as an endless wallet without care for anything else.

Ed Murphy is Research Director of Strativity Group. Ed has over 25 years of global experience, helping companies understand and communicate with their customers by providing actionable consumer and business insights.

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This blog is part three of our Customer Satisfaction Series – to be continued!

For more on customer satisfaction:

The Importance of Creating Consistent Customer Experiences

Want Improved NPS? Not So Fast – First, Perfect Your Performance

Engaged Employees Deliver Higher Customer Satisfaction and Greater Profitability

Case Study: Igniting the Love of the Customer: A Journey to Number One