Better Best Buy–and Why Circuit City Keeps Losing Ground


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As those of you who’ve read previous blog entries know, the new customer service culture at consumer electronics behemoth Best Buy has really rung my bell. But a recent incident has pushed me past being a happy, loyal customer into “outspoken advocate” territory. And it’s also created a striking comparison between BB and its leading U.S. competitor, Circuit City.

Here’s what happened. We recently had an excellent experience buying a home theatre set-up. But, as can happen, the audio system started experiencing power surges loud enough to wake up the dead. But they were very intermittent, and of course refused to happen when the service techs were there. But BB’s support folks checked everything possible. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find the source – which could have been the electrical feed, speaker feedback or the amplifier. So rather than argue that they had to find the problem first before going further, which we’ve come to expect, they just ripped out the amplifier and replaced it – including eating the cost differential between what they put in and what we bought, which they didn’t have in stock. That worked. We came out ahead of the game, with an upgraded amp. And BB came out ahead, because we’ll actively steer friends installing or upgrading home theatres to it, far erasing the deficit they ran sending service folks out several times and eating the replacement surcharge. That’s exactly how things should work.

And now for the comparison. BB just reported quarterly numbers – and profits are up dramatically, I believe because customers are attracted to the new BB experience. But Circuit City’s numbers are in the toilet. So what does CC do about it, aside from closing stores? Unbelievably, CC is cutting its experienced sales staff members, who are “getting paid too much,” and replacing them with inexperienced “cheap labor.” Exactly the opposite of BB’s successful strategy.

Remember the song, “When will they ever learn?”


  1. Agree, that good customer service can have a siginificant impact. However, your experience is just from one store and a set of people who could have been the best of the breed. This culture has to be exhibited throughout the organization for it to have such a dramatic effect on profit numbers. Not sure if a such a direct corelation to profits can be made based on a few experiences.

    I am not discounting the importance of customer service but maybe there are some other factors behind those numbers which we have missed.


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