Best Buy’s new customer satisfaction survey shows no respect for customers

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How do you know when a company’s on the ropes? Some observers watch cash flow. Others look at turnover. Me? I look at how a company treats its customers. When a company’s customer experience starts to drop, it’s time to sell the stock. I’m afraid that may have happened at Best Buy, especially when I look at their new customer satisfaction survey.

Customer satisfaction surveys are critical for creating your customer experience. A great survey puts your customer at the center of your customer experience design, allowing you to learn and improve as you go. But this only works when you design the survey from a perspective of customer respect. When your customer satisfaction survey design assumes your customers aren’t paying attention to the survey, then why bother? In the past, Best Buy’s culture was centered on the customer experience. But their recent update to their customer satisfaction survey shows that at least one group thinks their customers are unworthy of respect.

What do you think when you read this survey question?




  • Huh?
  • Is this a mistake?
  • Wow, Best Buy is using advanced market research techniques to ensure the quality of their data
  • This survey designer clearly assumes I’m a doofus (technical term), and wants to trick me into admitting it.

I visited Best Buy for Black Friday and wanted to share my subpar experience (2 hours in line AFTER I entered the store!) on their customer satisfaction survey. Although I didn’t “credit” them, Best Buy’s previous survey made it into my customer satisfaction survey hall of shame (http://www.heartofthecustomer.com/3-principles/). In that post, I argued for three customer experience survey principles:

  1. Make your survey short;
  2. If you ask a question, use it;
  3. Never ask a question when a query will do.

Best Buy’s previous survey had over 50 required questions, including more than a dozen on areas that had nothing to do with my customer experience (“30: “I cannot live without the Internet”). I was pleased to discover that their new survey improved on principles 2 and 3, focusing more tightly on my customer experience.

But then I hit the “Please select the number 4 below” question.

This is a survey design trick to ensure respondents are paying attention. If the answer is not 4, you ignore their results. And it works. But why resort to tricking your customers in the first place?

This lack of respect for the Best Buy customer is apparent throughout the survey. It still fails on principle #1, as it is 24 pages long! I didn’t count questions this time, but it is easily 50. Even worse, there was a link asking me if I would take even more questions!

Where did this go so wrong? It seems like the approach was to ask everybody for survey questions. When the list kept growing somebody said, “Wow, this is really long. We need to do something to make sure that people are paying attention, and not just selecting 5 for each question.” So they added this.

Rather than resorting to tricks, doesn’t it make more sense to question your approach in the first place? A true customer-centricity approach questions the survey, not the customer.



When you respect your customer, your surveys are targeted to main topic – in this case, the customer experience in their stores. We can debate the proper survey length, but few would argue for 24 screens of questions.

It’s sad, because Best Buy introduced the customer-centricity concept to retail. But that’s what happens in times of turmoil – teams focus more on accomplishing the task at hand (“We need a survey. Let’s get some questions”) than focusing on the reason for conducting a customer satisfaction survey in the first place: to serve the customer.

Customer satisfaction surveys are not about collecting data. They’re about creating a great customer experience. Unfortunately, it appears that Best Buy has forgotten this.

8 COMMENTS

  1. If you are getting bad customer service one of two things are happening, there is either a bad store manager at that store, or the policies are making the troops unhappy. You can’t hide the fact that retail is now underpaying their associates, and expecting them to work harder. They under staff, attrition-fire, and expect the surviving associates to pick up the slack. Good customer service is achieved through respecting those that are in direct contact with the customers. Instead of seeing these people as drain to the system, maybe a little show of respect will put a smile back on their faces, and make them more willing to promote a company that cares for them. I personally have had no problems with Best Buy, but you get no help at all in Target, or Kmart, and for the home improvement stores like Home Depot or Lowes you can smell the attrition in the air. All of these stores are paying around $8.00/hr now. Who wants to be kicked around and abused by an unqualified, and ill-trained management, or customers who try to get you fired if you do not return their air conditioner after the season’s over, or give them a discount for no reason. The only way these retail giants are going to prevent future “Walmart-style” walkouts is to start treating their worker with the respect they deserve.

  2. ON NOV 30, 2012 I WENT TO BEST BUY IN KALISPELL, MT TO INQUIRE ABOUT A NEW LAPTOP. I AM NOT COMPUTER SMART AND SO I WAS A LITTLE NERVOUS ABOUT GETTING INCORRECT INFORMATION. SO I GOT YOUR EMPLOYEE BY THE NAME OF CHRIS IN THE KALISPELL STORE. HE WAS ABSOLUTELY GREAT—“HELPFUL, NOT MAKING ME FEEL STUPID AND DID NOT TRY TO SELL ME ANYTHING HE THOUGHT I DID NOT NEED”. WHEN I PURCHASED THE HP, HE OFFERED TO SET IT UP FOR ME AND I WAS JUST SO HAPPY ABOUT THAT. SO–CHRIS IN KALISPELL NEEDS A PAT ON THE BACK SO HIS WONDERFUL CUSTOMER SERVICE I KALISPELL. THANKS, JUDENE JEDLICKA

  3. In my area Best Buy stores are located in the same shopping center,if not next to a Staples. I was recently in the market for a wireless router. I visited three such combinations of Best Buy and Staples stores and I found in each Best Buy that employees were more concerned about rearranging inventory or talking with associates then servicing the customer. In Best Buy I felt like I needed to have a medical emergency in order to be noticed as an interested customer. In each Staples I entered I was greeted by several associates and treated as a potential buyer not just a tire kicker. Bottom line is I visited Staples on Black Friday at 5 AM and purchased the router and 2 additional items. The store was busy however one of the associates actually walked me to the location of an item I wanted to purchase. They had several cashiers available for a quick, friendly check out. The complete shopping trip including 20 minutes of travel took me 40 minutes roundtrip. I spent over $150 and am now a satisfied Staples customer. In my opinion Best Buy doesn’t need to do a survey they just need to walk next store to Staples and experience the service.

  4. I agree that employee respect is very important – just as important as customer respect.

    I’m currently interviewing a retailer who has an average sales floor retention of over 80% – unheard of for a big box retailer! It is possible to drive growth through investing in your people. Unfortunately, as I detail here (http://www.heartofthecustomer.com/shopper-education/), most organizations focus on the short-term, leaving shoppers in the lurch.

    Look for the interview with this retailer who invests in their people in the new year!

  5. Judene,

    That’s great that you had such a good experience! Although you may not get that from my post, I do love Best Buy, and spent 4-5 hours there on Black Friday.

  6. Denny,

    I definitely agree. The survey is a symptom of what happens when you lose respect for the customer. But I see the same thing you do – the passion for the customer that once dominated Best Buy is gone.

    On the other hand, I am very interested in their new CEO, and hopeful he can restore the brand. I love that he spent his first week selling in a store – a good sign!

  7. You are speaking to a topic near and dear to my heart because the current “survey” tools companies use today do not connect the right dots for the store manager to be able to directly manage this situation. As an FYI, we did research on several companies and completed screen captures on multiple companies and Best Buy was one – their survey is 25 pages long! What person would do that! If Best Buy is relying on that survey data to make marketing decisions, shame on them because I could not design a study with a more unrepresentative sample than people willing to complete 25 pages.

    I have a couple of rules of thumb we rely on which are in addition to your 3 above:
    – Stop using “MBA Marketing Research” questions – K.I.S.S Method is best for customers
    – Can I complete the customer feedback immediately after purchase meaning simple question in a smartphone friendly format
    – If a first level study can’t be completed in 60 seconds, save the money and don’t ask for customer feedback
    – After a simple feedback study, ask for permission to get deeper feedback

    I’m completely down and out with the flu today and this article pumped me up enough that I commented which I never do. You hit the bullseye which few companies do when seeking customer feedback.

  8. We purchased two Video door pro doorbells. We for ourselves and one for our daughter and son in law in Alberta. We wanted some security in our homes if we were away. We purchased the product with no problem. As we were about to install the door bell in our home, well, low and behold, all instructions were in FRENCH. Off to Best Bury we go again. Spoke to some person in customer service and she However, just prior to going back to Best Buy we did call them and told them what our problem was. They said to come back to the store and they would look at the rest of the inventory they had and would pull out the ENGLISH instructions. Speaking to the young lady at customer service, who I believe, had no idea what we were talking about. Anyways, she photo copied the instructions for both purchases in the ENGLISH version. Now we are home and about to install our doorbell. After an hour of frustration, we realized she gave us instructions to the wrong product. I called the store to speak to a manager. Well, I might as well talked to a wall and saved myself alot of aggravation. I was not about to make a FOURTH trip to the store. His suggestion, go onto U-Tube and get the proper instructions or call the geek squad. Its only $75.
    SERIOUSLY, I MEAN SERIOUSLY. A product that BEST BUY is selling and absolutely no customer service. We did suggest the third trip to the store that they check all the inventory for that product and make sure the instructions were in English. They could not care.
    End result, we are making our fourth trip tomorrow, returning the product and shopping at Advance. Great customer service and they do care about the customer and the product they are selliing.
    SHAME ON BEST BUY… THIS ALL TOOK PLACE AT THE ST.JAMES STORE IN WINNIPEG.

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