Best Buy Going out of Business?

Last week I read this article from Forbes which discussed how the mighty electronics retailer Best Buy is on track to potentially go out of business. I feel like I am pretty familiar with the store as  they got their start in my home state of Minnesota and I have made many purchases from them in the past.

The author Larry Downes raises some good points.  Best Buy’s customer service is horrendous.  Their “Geek Squad” will set up your new PC for you…. (a relatively simple task) for a price!  Try buying something there during the holidays.  I remember last year I waited in line for about a half hour to purchase one item.  Notice how there are no express lines at Best Buy.  If you get stuck behind someone buying a television or other high priced item, be prepared to wait while the typically green cashier attempts to up-sell a warranty.  Don’t fear, however, once it is your turn to check out, you’ll get to hear the same pitch for a warranty for your headphones.

He also compares the terrible service at Best Buy to what customers experience shopping with Amazon.com, which appears to be Best Buy’s polar opposite.

CEO Brian Dunn responded to the article acknowledging the huge holiday blunder of not fulfilling orders in time for Christmas and notifying their customers only three days in advance.  However, I noticed, as did other commenters on the article on Forbes.com, that Mr. Dunn made no attempt to refute the claims of horrible customer service.  Perhaps he knows this is the company’s Achilles Heel.  Yet, if he knows this, shouldn’t he have acknowledged it and let readers know what he is expecting to do about it?  If he doesn’t know, then that is inexcusable.

So, what can the retailer do about this problem?  I have a few suggestions-

1) Fix customer service.  Now.

If you mess up, just acknowledge it, apologize, and make it better.  Don’t point to some lame policy because it is your policy.  Since it is yours, that means you can change it!

2) Make it fun to shop at your stores.

Have a greeter or something similar….and no, the security guard watching customers on surveillance cameras doesn’t count.  Take a page from Apple here.  Have friendly and knowledgeable people talking to customers and welcoming them to your stores.  Don’t push things on them they don’t need.

3) Make the website the same as the store or better!

Perhaps some of Best Buy’s business model changes can be made immediately on the web. The great thing about the web is if you try something on your website and it doesn’t work, you can always change it.  Right now, it’s not working.  Perhaps copy Amazon and have daily deals on hot items.  Don’t just make it a way to advertise stuff in your stores, make it a compliment to your stores.  I know they do this a bit with in store pickup, but there are a lot of other ways they could push the envelope.  Perhaps they should get into the music download business rather than outsourcing it to iTunes.  Doing so on the web would also compliment sales of music in their stores and help in improving brand loyalty with their existing customers.

-Chris

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