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Continued: Best Buy seeks to boost revenue without hard sales tactics

  • Article by: THOMAS LEE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 10, 2013 - 3:42 PM

Some analysts wonder whether Best Buy has outsourced its customer service to outside parties, citing Best Buy’s recent partnership with Samsung. The retailer agreed to host Samsung Experience store-within-a-store concept at all 1,000 Best Buy stores in the United States. The shops, however, are staffed by Samsung employees, not Blue Shirts.

“Samsung is essentially saying, ‘We’ll get it done ourselves,’ ” Kennedy said.

However, Best Buy thinks improving the in-store experience, including customer service, could yield immediate results. Two years ago, 40 percent of the 600 million annual visits to stores resulted in a sale. Just adding one percentage point to that figure could generate an extra $200 million in operating income, the company estimates.

“[A sale] is just an outcome for having done a good job with the customer,” Score said.

A ‘cultural shift’

One of Joly’s first priorities as CEO was to advocate a back to retail basics approach that would stress customer service not just in stores but throughout the corporate culture. To set an example, Joly even donned a Blue Shirt and worked at a store his first week on the job.

Since then, Best Buy has implemented a Retail Immersion Program in which even corporate officers receive customer service training, interact with store general managers, and listen to customer calls. Lisa Smith, Best Buy’s vice president of enterprise customer care, said the effort is a “cultural shift” for the company.

“We are all stepping it up in terms of our level of engagement,” she said. “To make sure that foundation is good, the role of customer service has been elevated over the past 10 months substantially.”

Getting recommendations

Last fall, Best Buy started to retrain its Blue Shirt employees, using the same techniques developed by executives behind the company’s highly successful Best Buy Mobile format. Perhaps more important, Best Buy adopted the Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a way to measure customer satisfaction and employee performance. First developed by Bain & Co. consulting in 2003, the system, based on customer surveys, seeks to determine which customers are likely to recommend a retailer to other people.

The company is using NPS to evaluate its employees. In the past, Best Buy paid commissions to Blue Shirts, which resulted in employees aggressively pushing products on customers regardless of whether they needed them or not. Today, Best Buy compensates employees based on NPS scores assigned to their individual departments and the entire store.

Overall, Best Buy wants to measure the entire shopping experience, including why a customer didn’t buy something, Score said.

“[NPS] gives us guidance on where we need to get better,” he said. “Maybe they walked out of the store and didn’t realize we had our low-price guarantee. Maybe they were looking for a certain product and couldn’t find it. Maybe the person who helped them wasn’t knowledgeable enough, they needed more info and we can get them more info.”

Stepping up the pace

Best Buy’s stores may be a work in progress but behind the scenes, the company is already an industry leader, particularly its social media efforts. Using sophisticated software that can monitor more than 200 million sites a day, Best Buy can detect and respond to customer questions or complaints 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The pace of retail and pace of society have accelerated,” Smith said. “It’s a new world. We need to address things in the moment.”

A recent study by Conversocial consulting firm of the top 100 retailers determined Best Buy’s average response time to social media queries was 14 minutes compared to an average industry time of 11 hours and 15 minutes. In fact, Conversocial rated Best Buy No. 1 in social customer service, the only retailer to receive its highest rank of five stars.

Smith said the company has built an internal Google-like search engine in which employees can quickly access information and answer customer questions. Best Buy is also collecting customer questions and the company’s answers so that it can develop content to share with consumers online in the form of videos and blog posts.

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