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

Employees Are Key To Electronics Retailing

Here’s how Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn ended a recent blog post on CNBC:

You should be happy with what you purchase. This means that the product works the way you expect it to before you walk out of the store, or when you get home. If not, you’ve overpaid at any price.

Dunn’s post discusses the importance of knowledgeable staff in the consumer electronics space. He points to a study by The American Consumer Institute that shows how often consumers selected different attributes as being important for their electronics purchase:

  • Product quality (85%)
  • Knowledgeable staff (77%)
  • Finding someone to help (74%)
  • Lower prices (70%)

My take: True! Dunn’s comments are consistent with my previous post about Wal-Mart’s new tech support as well as my research which shows that customer service trumps price across most industries. When consumers chose a retailer, the need for higher customer service increases with age. There are 2% more Gen Y that want good customer service than those that want low prices. For Seniors, the gap between customer service and low price is 14%.

That’s why retailers need to focus on the 4th law of my 6 laws of customer experience: Unengaged employees don’t create engaged customers.

The bottom line: Don’t sell electronics, help people chose and use them.

Best Buy Is On My Mind

I’ve been thinking a lot about Best Buy lately; for a number of different reasons. First of all, the recent announcement that Brad Anderson will be retiring as CEO and replaced by Brian Dunn caught my eye. I’ve been thinking about writing a note to Dunn (in my blog) with my recommendations. Look out for that in a future post.

Next, we just got word that Best Buy’s CMO (Barry Judge) has agreed to speak at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum in June. It should be a great event because we already have some wonderful speakers including USAA’s COO and CIGNA’s Customer Experience Officer. Sohrab Vossoughi, design visionary and founder/CEO of Ziba Design will also be speaking. And I’ll be kicking it off with an opening keynote. Keep an eye on the agenda as we continue to plan content for the event.

Finally, I just bought a flat screen TV from Best Buy. It was a very positive experience. The sales person in Dedham, MA was great (here’s a shout out to Juan Julian Purdy). He was knowledgeable, friendly, and attentive. It’s not done yet, so I may add another post after the TV is delivered and installed.

The bottom line: I’m (currently) feeling good about Best Buy.

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