Lessons From Best Buy’s Online Order Fiasco

Best Buy recently announced that it was canceling a number of orders that it took on its website on the weekend after Thanksgiving because of “overwhelming demand of hot product offerings.” This move comes after aggressive promoting and discounting to draw consumers to its online channel.

So what is Best Buy doing besides just canceling orders right before Christmas? According to one of the affected consumers, Best Buy tried to get him to take an older model or a more expensive model, both of which wouldn’t arrive until after Christmas.

According to Susan Busch, senior director of Best Buy’s public relations

What was wrong is that there was an unacceptable delay between order confirmations and cancellations, and for that we are very sorry. It’s important to note that this was a rare situation based on a high volume of orders over a short period of time.”

My take: Sorry Ms. Busch, there’s much more wrong than that. The problem started at the point when Best Buy actively promoted products that it couldn’t fulfill. Then the problem continued when it took orders for products that it couldn’t deliver. That’s the point where it gets to the problem of an unacceptable delay in notifying customers. But, the Best Buy problems don’t even end there. Best Buy completely failed to recover from the service miscue.

Here’s how I’d rate Best Buy against our C.A.R.E.S. model for service recovery:

  • Communication (clearly communicate the process and set expectations): D
  • Accountability (take responsibility for fixing the problem or getting an answer): D
  • Responsiveness (don’t make the customer wait for your communication or a solution): D
  • Empathy (acknowledge the impact that the situation has on the customer): D
  • Solution (at the end of the day, make sure to solve the issue or answer the question): D

Here’s how Best Buy could have better handled this situation:

  • Put together a plan for each element of the C.A.R.E.S. framework
  • Communicate immediately with affected customers
  • Give everyone a Best Buy gift certificate (amount based on order size) to acknowledge the inconvenience
  • Provide a coupon code for free expedited shipment, so they can order something else and get it on time
  • Setup a toll-free number and a special support site (with chat representatives) to deal with any special issues
  • Get the CEO (Brian Dunn) to communicate the apology, don’t offload it to PR
  • Explain what you are doing to make sure that it doesn’t happen again

The bottom line: Companies need to plan for major problems BEFORE they occur

About Bruce Temkin
I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, marketing, interaction design, customer service, and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey. Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum. My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers. I am also the co-founder and chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

3 Responses to Lessons From Best Buy’s Online Order Fiasco

  1. Sam Klaidman says:

    To me this whole things sounds like bait-and-switch! I really think that Bruce’s suggestions are appropriate but even they won’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

    I think Best Buy screwed up big time!

  2. Anticipating potential problems before they happen is the only way that a company can truly provide a great customer experience. I think Bruce has demonstrated this factor very well with this case study on Best Busy’s Christmas 2011 order cancelling fiasco.

    This mistake will only fuel the fire beneath Best Buy as Amazon continues to encroach on its market share. Customers are getting sick of dealing with Best Buy’s service when they have a clear alternative in Amazon that offers a top customer experience on all levels. Brian Dunn better strap on his work gloves and prepare for a complete make-over of the Best Buy Customer Experience process before it is too late or Best Buy will become a distant memory of the past.

  3. Bruce Temkin says:

    Sam and Brandon: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I am hopeful that BestBuy did not do this on purpose. If so, then there are even more fundamental problems to deal with. But you’re right, Best Buy is in trouble if it doesn’t pull dramatically improve its customer experience. Remember Circuit City…

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