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Have you been to Best Buy lately? If you have, you’ve seen a store that is going to go out of business, sooner than later. And it’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to happen.
Last Saturday I dropped off a computer at Best Buy because the “J” key had come off and I could not get it back on. The problem is that I had to go online to make an appointment to drop the computer off. Best Buy was very clear about the 15-minute window I had to drop off the computer.
I made it very clear that this was my spare computer, and I was not going to wait for it but just drop it off. It didn’t matter. So, between 2:30 and 2:45 pm last Saturday, I dutifully dropped the computer off. I did so with a solemn promise to my dear wife that I would stay calm and not get mad and cause a scene. And yes, I kept that promise. Even when the member of the “Geek Squad” took the computer, processed some paperwork and then told me it would be two weeks because they will be sending the computer out for a new keyboard! What do these Geeks do anyway? This guy could not even fix a key that had fallen off? Really?
Then last night (sorry, I’m a glutton for punishment), I went to anther Best Buy looking for something. I was not even sure what I wanted but I wanted to talk to someone and get some advice. I waited 10 minutes in the Apple department while I watched a number of blue-shirted employees hanging out with one another like it was one big party. When I finally crashed their party, they told me that Apple was not their department and the person should be back soon; he was probably at lunch.
That’s when I left. Enough was enough and, yes, that’s why Best Buy is going out of business, or at least one of the reasons. The thing is, when they do go out of business there will be cries of injustice as people lose their jobs. There will be complaints about the Internet killing live retail and there will be much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.
But it does not have to be. Best Buy does not have to go out of business. They have no doubt studied the Apple stores, which now yield the highest revenue per square foot in the world. Yes, that’s right. All Best Buy would have to do is take a page out of the Apple book.
First of all, they could train their people in the basic art of customer service. Then they could train them to be “experts” in their areas. Whether the area is computers, washing machines or TVs, the staff could be trained to become “trusted advisors” to customers who want to learn more about what they are buying. How refreshing would that be?
Once the customer is expertly guided to the perfect buying choice, he can get the product he wants and be able to explain exactly why it is perfect.
And then here is the best part. Because they cannot possibly have everything they sell in stock on the premises, they should be set up to sit down comfortably with the customer at a computer and order whatever they want to buy. By the way, this would be a great opportunity to upsell as well. They could make this customer experience so pleasant, informative and memorable that the customer would want to come into to the store to order their product, instead of skipping the store all together and buying directly online at home.
Oh, and another thing. Besides the wonderful experience of buying the product online while being advised by an expert, the buyer would be rewarded with bonuses like free overnight shipping and some sort of discount on a future and related products. These would be products that Best Buy knows would be great for the buyer based on the all the information gleaned by their friendly, accommodating Best Buy expert.
All in all, a win/win. Best Buy would stay in business. Their associates would keep their jobs and probably be a lot happier doing something worthwhile, and the customers would be delighted.
And by the way, this type of hybrid customer service could be applied to just about any brick-and-mortar retailer in danger of going out of business, from Barnes and Noble to Dick’s Sporting Goods. Any company that is willing to go to any length to truly enhance the overall customer experience can benefit from this model. Just treat the customers as number one, and elevate them to where they should be in the first place. It’s only common sense.