A Letter to Best Buy

A letter to Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly:

The distance from the vision of the board room and the store floor is often great.

On November 27, 2013, I picked out a new computer I wanted to buy. Normally I buy items from Amazon, but for major electronics I like to talk to someone with expertise. I had seen you on TV and read about your transformation at Best Buy in the newspaper. I decided to go to Best Buy.

I entered the Minnetonka store at about 10:15 AM. The story was near empty. I went to the computer section and walked directly to the computer I wanted. I stood in front of it and waited. And waited. And waited some more. I waved at clerks, paced the floor, complained to other customers, and looked irritated, because I was irritated. Two clerks walked by and told me they would send someone to help me. No one came. I did not see a clerk in the entire section the entire time I was there. Finally I pulled a box out from under the counter, carried it to the front of the store, and the man at the door said, “Sir, can I see your receipt?” I replied, “Hell, I can’t find a clerk to talk to me and tell me about the computer I want to buy.” He said, “Do you want to see the manager?” I said I did. The manager came, and I told him my story. He apologized. I paid for the computer and left. I never did speak to a clerk about the computer. No one ever talked to me about an extended warranty, or the Geek Squad. I could have purchased the computer at Amazon for less cost, less time, and much less irritation. I posted my story at the Best Buy Face Book page. A customer service person wrote me with great scripted empathy. When I posted my story on my Face Book page, I immediately received horror stories from nine friends.

I worked in management and executive positions in the Circulation division of the Minneapolis Star Tribune for many years and led a transformation there in the early 1990’s. I then completed my Ph.D. in Leadership and Organizational Change and consulted with leaders on transformation for 13 years before I retired from consulting. I recently published an e-book: “Value Driven Leadership: A Story of Personal and Organizational Transformation” on Amazon.

A couple of observations:

1.      Your message is undercut drastically by such poor service, recovery from that service, and scripted empathy. I walked into Best Buy expecting your enthusiasm and promise of a great customer experience. I wanted that expertise. I got none of it.

2.      The manager looked stricken. He apologized. But if he really understood customer service, he would have known the importance of a strong recovery when the store falls short. He might have said, “I will get my most knowledgeable clerk to go over this computer with you until you are totally satisfied.” He didn’t. The person who wrote the Face Book response was being empathetic from a script. That’s not empathetic; that’s being a trained reader.

3.      The behavior of the clerks showed they had not internalized customer service: had they, one of them would have taken responsibility for me until my needs were met. None did.

4.      Maybe many clerks were in training, in a meeting or doing something else. Then the manager should have interrupted them and said, “Customer service is our top priority. Our customers are not being served. Everyone get out on the floor and take care of the customers.”

5.      The last data I read long ago said that every unhappy customer tells 14 other people. I told hundreds via social media, and I’ll probably blog about it too.

6.      You might consider a “secret shopper” program to use as a positive method to recognize, reward, and coach employees.

Best wishes,

2 thoughts on “A Letter to Best Buy

  1. As an IT professional, I am often asked for advice about computer purchases. It is tempting to set up a business of meeting customers at Best Buy to determine, hands-on, which laptop or device is best for them, offer my own support plan, then purchase the item from Amazon. There’s a clear need for improved customer service at Best Buy, and motivated people should step up to fill it.


  2. When businesses began to deliver automated customer service via IVR’s and auto-attendants, it seemed like leaders across all industries started slacking on customer service. They were no longer interested in investing in customer service and cutbacks were seen everywhere-shorter hours for call centers, fewer floor personnel at retail outlets, “closed on weekends”, etc. And when something bad happens (e.g. security breach at Target) their customer-victims are told “oops we made a mistake…better watch your accounts”. And us customers continue to patronize them so we are rewarding them for very bad behavior. Customers need to unite and demand a return to a strong focus on customer service.


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