The Usability Blog
A Practical Guide to User Experience Insights

Customer Journey Nightmare: Best Buy

Forrester has just come out with another of its exhaustive guides to personas, scenarios, and the customer journey. While I consider Forrester’s approach to personas to be dated and simplistic, they invariably exhibit a keen sense of market need. My recent experience at Best Buy affirms the need for multi-channel retailers to pay far more attention to cross-channel customer journeys. If, indeed, the experience IS the brand, what does the following narrative tell us about Best Buy? I recently bought a condo. A decision like that often sets in motion a train of major purchases. In my case, this included a washer and dryer, a refrigerator, and a TV. Best Buy stores are a great starting point to physically research these products, since Best Buy (as opposed to Lowe’s or Home Depot, for example) carries all three lines. I embarked on what is now the typical customer journey – visit the store, look at interesting products, narrow the price range, take photos of the product numbers, look them up later and read reviews, reject those with poor reviews, look for the lowest internet prices, then go back to the store armed with all this data and get the lowest price for the model you want. That part of the journey worked fine. It’s time-consuming to go back and forth to the store, but I enjoy it and the store employees often lend insights that may not always come to light in the solitary progress one makes through the digital channel. After having committed to the purchase in-store, I got out my debit card, which is my usual form of payment. The sales guy asked if I would prefer to charge it to my Best Buy account, since it offered no interest over two years. I said: “Fine.” And that was the point at which the journey took a detour into a level of Customer Service Hell visited only by the forsaken. To begin with, the sales guy was able to bring up my account, even though I had no idea what my Best Buy ID was. (It had been years since I had charged anything to the account.) That was a good start. But he could not modify the account to update my address. Since the payment information would need to come to my new address, not the address on file, I asked how we could modify it. He told me I could call or go online and do it myself. So back in the office later that week, I go to the newly relaunched My Best Buy site, an entity from which I receive frequent marketing emails. Recently, however, Best Buy has changed its financial services partner. Citibank now handles consumer credit matters for Best Buy customers. This change (for reasons yet to be determined) invalidated my existing account and its attendant email address. So the site does not recognize me as a registered customer (even though it can obviously still send me marketing emails). An on-screen message tells I have to set up a new account. This I do. The new account, naturally, had no history and no “points” credited to it. There is a link called out allowing the addition of purchases not recorded. I try that. One of the required fields is a PIN number associated with the transaction. This can be found only on the paper receipt. I keep email confirmations for my purchases so that I don’t have to keep paper receipts. The PIN does not appear on the email confirmations. I have no other way to add my recent purchase history and get the associated points. So I now have an account, but since I have not apparently bought anything, there is no way to set up a payment. There is, however, a contact number provided. I call it. The IVR, of course, does not offer a selection as granular as setting up a payment schedule. So I press the key for “other”. I wait two minutes for a connection. I explain to the call center gate keeper what I need. I am transferred and someone picks up within a few seconds. I explain my predicament. I am asked, first, for my Best Buy ID. I read it off the screen in front of me. I am asked for the description of my most recent purchase. I provide it. I am asked for my address. I give it. I am told that I need to be issued a new Best Buy credit card. That will have the information I need to set up payment. They need to send it to my new address. I am then told that I need to be transferred to consumer credit (or whatever it is called) because only consumer credit is authorized to update my address (which has, of course, already been recorded in the store for purposes of delivery). I wait on hold — in total silence — for four minutes. The line comes back alive just as I am about to hang up. I am transferred to the consumer credit lady, Claire. She asks my name. I ask her if the rep from My Best Buy had told her anything about who I am or why I am calling. She says she had, but that she needed to go through her procedures. She asks my name. I again give it. She asks for my address. I again give it. She asks for my phone number. I give her my cell. She asks for a home number. I tell her I don’t have one. She tells me she has to call me back on my cell phone. I ask why. It is procedure. I hang up the business line on which I have called. My cell phone rings. I say: “Hello, Claire.” She asks me if I am who I am. I say I am. She says that my address has now been updated and that she is transferring me back to a My Best Buy representative, so they can send me a new credit card. I ask her if she is serious. I say: “You can’t possibly be transferring me back?” She says she has to follow procedure and this is how it had been set-up. I am put on hold — total silence for another three minutes. (I log these calls.) The new call center rep, of course, knows nothing about how I have spent the last fifteen minutes of my life. To whom is he speaking? What is my address? How can he help? While excusing him from personal responsibility, I launch into a tirade against the absurdities of the Best Buy “process”. He has been well trained and goes through the usual scripted apology routines and offers yet another explanation that the problems have been caused by the transition to Citibank. He assures me that the card will be sent to my new address within five to 10 business days. I ask when the first payment is due. He says: “The eighteenth.” I ask what happens if the card doesn’t arrive in time. He says I can pay by phone or go to a store. I say: “Let’s make sure the initial payment is not late. I’ll pay you right now.” But that, of course, is not possible because I don’t have my bank account number and the routing information available. I don’t use physical checks any more. I pay bills electronically or use my debit card, which they won’t accept as a payment vehicle over the phone. And they won’t give me my new account number over the phone (so I can set up electronic bill pay) because it’s not secure – even after they have verified my identity a dozen separate ways. What was I thinking? I ask the rep if he can think of any way in which Best Buy could make it more difficult for a customer to do business with them. I tell him that I hope Best Buy gets its procedures worked out in a hurry because I, for one, am certainly not going to give them any more of my business while this chaos continues and this completely obstructive mindset prevails. (I still had to buy a washer, dryer, and refrigerator, so it was not a completely toothless threat, and I have, indeed, bought them elsewhere.) So let’s assume my recent journey is not an isolated experience. Let us assume that other Best Buy customers currently in the market for high-ticket items have been similarly affected by the change in financial partners. How much business has this cross-channel nightmare cost Best Buy? They lost at least $2,000 of additional business from me. Even if only 1,000 other customers had similar experiences and reacted in a similar manner, that’s $2 million in lost revenue. But what if, given the size of Best Buy’s customer base, the number is closer to 10,000 customers? Does not a revenue loss of that magnitude scream for an immediate investment in persona-specific, journey mapping and process re-engineering? So here’s the question: How intimate is your brand with your customers’ various journeys? P.S. Best Buy Credit Services ended up sending my statement to the old address! P.P.S. I want Best Buy not only to survive but to succeed. So I sent the link to this blog post to Best Buy’s CEO, Hubert Joly. I told him that I hoped he would use it to trigger an investigation into the causes of the cross-channel journey problems. I sent off the email with little expectation that it would actually reach him let alone influence him. I dispatched the email at eight thirty on a Monday morning. A very professional young man by the name of Dan Saunders called on behalf of Mr. Joly just after three o’clock that same afternoon. I was as shocked as I was gratified to receive the call. Dan asked me if there was anything he could do to rectify the issues described in the blog. And he assured me that he would be passing the link along to the business leaders, so that they could use the story to uncover flaws in their process design. The speed and the sincerity of the response impressed me. Let us hope the folks responsible for diagnosing the problems and crafting the solutions are as responsive and decisive as Mr. Joly and Mr. Saunders.


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