Best Buy’s Growth Plans Neglect Customers

Mike Vitelli, executive VP of the Best Buy’s customer operating group, outlined this five point plan for the retailer’s growth

  1. Continue to benefit from the CE industry’s steady growth of 6 percent over time.
  2. Open new stores and develop categories where it presently has limited share. These include Apple computers, a relatively recent brand addition; major appliances, which are benefiting from a differentiated assortment and a dedicated sales force with increased training; and mobile phones, which have been reinvigorated by a new business model developed with Carphone Warehouse.
  3. Introduce new categories, such as musical instruments. While all Best Buy stores carry a smattering of keyboards and guitars, the company is experimenting with extensive, “top-shelf” collections in several locations around the country.
  4. Develop completely new business models, such as the planned national rollout of Pacific Sales, the company’s West Coast chain of premium appliance stores.
  5. International growth. Best Buy has already established itself in Canada, China and Europe, and soon plans to open its first stores in Mexico and Turkey.

My take:  None of these 5 points focus on customer experience.  So I am very concerned about a degradation of Best Buy’s customer experience.

Later in the article it says: “Separately, Vitelli said the company is working hard to engender more personalized service on the store level in order to combine the scale benefits of a national chain with the hands-on attention of an independent dealer.” But if Best Buy does not see customer experience as one of the core components of its growth, then it will under-invest in this critical area. As it says in the 6th law of customer experience: You Can’t Fake It.

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. So the retailer needs to adopt the 1st principle of Experience-Based Differentiation: Obsess About Customer Needs, Not Product Features.

I’d like to see Best Buy invest in several areas as a core part of its growth strategy: (1) Product training for employees (similar to The Container Store’s commitment to training); (2) Voice Of Employee systems (to capture and attack problems and issues at the front line); (3) Product selection tools (to help customers make product decisions in major categories); and (4) Improved Web-Store cross channel experiences.

The bottom line: Customer experience needs to be a core objective.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
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, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding 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 Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

4 Responses to Best Buy’s Growth Plans Neglect Customers

  1. bruce, i couldn’t agree more; in fact, i’d add that customer experience needs to have a clear direction, or purpose, or it risks becoming an end unto itself…and i think it’s possible to focus on customer experiences and still miss the greater deliverable of more profitable, repeat sales.

    for instance, a ‘great experience’ in a chronology toward purchase may range from something substantively and consciously rewarding, to the most seamlessly quick and easy interaction. focusing on each touchpoint as an end-unto-itself can miss this interplay.

    best buy is far off the mark in this regard, and i write about it in my forthcoming book ‘branding only works on cattle.’ customer satisfaction certainly needs to be a core objective, and experience is the way you get there…

  2. Best Buy’s strategy seems pretty consistently aligned with their priorities. Although I agree that it would be nice to see CE become part of their values list, to do so without truly meaning it would simply be ‘faking it’ as you know. the experience of shopping at a Best Buy exactly reflects their lack of conviction on thip topic.

    As a client experience consultant I am often torn by wanting to be part of helping companies like Best Buy turn the story around. However, I have more than enough experience to know that without executive commitment to clients, it’s a Sisyphean task.

  3. justin says:

    Uhhh, has best buy ever provided a good customer experience. Some of the worst experiences I have had as a customer have been at best buy.

  4. Thomas Walsh says:

    I rarely go into Best Buy any more; they are definately my last choice. I have spoken to my local store managers three times about the customer-indifference I have experienced and they have nothing to offer. They should go out of business.

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