As product features and quality become easier to quickly replicate, companies' real differentiator increasingly
is service. At Best Buy, providing a top-notch customer experience and continued service excellence is part of
the company's overall strategy.
"We're working to become a more customer-centric company," Rich Christensen, Best Buy's vice president of services platform, told the audience at
Aberdeen Group's Chief Service Officer's Summit in Boston. "We're using service as a differentiator."
At its core, Best Buy's customer-centric strategy involves different treatment strategies for different types of
customers, and we've written about the store's approach before. That concept is still in full swing, Christensen
"We do a tremendous amount of customer research -- demographics, behavior, and psychographics," he said. "We have grouped customers by common needs and traits." For example, the "buzz" segment (young technophiles) has different service needs than the "Jill" segment, which represents suburban moms. One group will want a technical expert who can work fast, while another may look for someone with patience who can diagnose and explain the problem. Employees know that, and will treat these different types of customers differently. "We look at customers through a variety of lenses and try to meet those needs."
Best Buy's service division is composed of electronics and computer installation, repair, delivery, product
integration, and management of subscriptions-based services like online computer backup and product updates. The
Geek Squad repair service, which Christensen oversees, has more than 140,000 employees worldwide serving individuals and small businesses; they zip around town in their quirky Volkswagen Beetles or Smart Cars, complete with short-sleeved white dress shirts, black skinny ties, and glasses. It has become a cultural phenomenon while adding to the customer experience -- a deliberate move on the part of Best Buy.
Geek Squad is successful because of the person-to-person approach to its culture. Founder Robert Stephens recognized that service is personal. (Best Buy acquired the company in 2002). Its entire strategy revolves around customer intimacy. "You're looking behind a customer's TV, where they probably haven't vacuumed in a while," Christensen said. It's a personal relationship, and the feeling is that the "geek" and the customer are in this together to solve the problem. Employees receive both product and customer service training regularly, he said.
The company tracks its success through a variety of metrics. Christensen employs a customer satisfaction index based on quality of service interaction, resolution time, and re-do rates (returning to the customer more than once). He also measures internal efficiencies, such as revenue per labor hour, and ties the information back to other customer insight collected elsewhere in the company, though he declined to reveal specifics.
He added that Best Buy's brand reputation starts on the sales floor and must continue into the service arena and
elsewhere where customers are. "We keep moving closer to the customer, but we're still very early in the journey,"
Christensen said. The company recently opened a 500-employee "Geek Squad City" in Knoxville, TN, where customers can ship computers and electronics for overnight repairs. And in the works is a partnership with
FedEx Kinkos as another way to reach customers.