Monday, December 03, 2007

Best Buy to wow customers this holiday, but the right way?

On the one hand, this press release from electronics retailer Best Buy detailing the results of their annual holiday survey seems to make plenty of sense. Faced with making a big-ticket electronics purchase, the vast majority of survey respondents indicated that a good return policy, attentive phone service and lots of customer assistance available on the sales floor would be the most useful changes that Best Buy could make this season. So, not surprisingly, these are the areas that Best Buy has been focusing on. They've extended their return policy for holiday purchases through January 31st. They've converted a third of their sales floor staff to "Customer Assistants" who will hopefully provide knowledgeable, reassuring service to bewildered buyers. And they enhanced their phone support options by letting callers connect to live store operators that can consult on purchases, check product inventory, etc. These are all good things, right? Surely they'll impact the firm's bottom line (in a good way) while improving the in-store experience, right?

Well, maybe not. At least not necessarily if you believe what the Integer Group found (according to this AdAge article) recently when it came to making consumer electronics purchases. Specifically:
[A]mong all shoppers, almost one-third bought electronics based on an offer or promotion, the most popular being rebates and sale prices. Also, most of the buyers (75%) browsed on the web before purchasing. Shoppers went online an average of more than three times to do research before buying, and it was "not uncommon" for the shoppers to make 10 or more internet visits.

...However, even more important are effective in-store displays. When the buyers in the survey rated the in-store displays as effective, their purchase satisfaction went up by almost 300%.
So essentially what Best Buy's survey found to be important doesn't seem to jive with what Integer's survey found to be important when making a sale. Normally I'd say that improving the in-store experience and driving sales aren't mutually exclusive goals, with the former often driving the latter. But these results are pretty weird. The availability of trained sales staff on the floor did little to promote sales, whereas it was #1 on the list of things customers hoped to see from a new and improved Best Buy performance. On the other hand, nobody in the Best Buy survey was clamoring for new or better POP displays. Nor did they mention they wanted lower prices or better promotions (though that was probably due to the way the survey questions were presented). Yet Integer's survey indicated that these devices were best at driving sales.

So who's right here? Are people assigning some mental value to items on a survey page that don't translate in the real world? Or is it simply futile to try and compare the results of two different surveys, one trying to improve customer satisfaction and the other trying to understand the sales process and key triggers?

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Anonymous said...

Best Buy should be embarassed by its customer service and retrn policy. Recently my employees gave me a nice camcorder for the holidays. The packaging indicated clearly it came from Best Buy. I don’t need another camcorder so I tried to return it. NO RECEIPT, NO RETURN. PERIOD. I even appealed to corporate customer service who promised to email the store manager, plead for mercy and ask him to call me. He (Dave Pena of the Woodland Hill, California store), never called. After a few days I called customer service again. Again they sent an email to Dave. No reply. Today I called a third time and received a message back from customer service. Their advice? “Sell it on ebay.”
Think I’ll ever shop at Best Buy?

Bill Gerba said...

I'll agree, words must be backed up by actions, and Best Buy does have a pretty bad reputation when it comes to returns.

The press releases and article coverage seemed to indicate they were on the path to redemption, but your (recent?) experience would seem to suggest otherwise.