Given the array of sophisticated marketing analysis tools out there today, Best Buy might seem a little old-fashioned in its latest customer service effort ramping up to Black Friday 2010. It wants to hear from you. Right now.
Best Buy has implemented a new national instant feedback system that encourages employees to enter customer feedback and their own instantly via an on-screen widget in stores. That data is then crunched immediately and decisions made about changes needed. The new offering as a funny name, VOCE, which stands for Voice of the Customer Through the Employee.
"VOCE is our radar — it's always on, always listening, and data gets processed on a daily basis," Steve Wallin, Senior Director of Consumer Insights for VOCE at Best Buy, told dealnews in an interview. "The employees have a proprietary tool on the intranet to (communicate) not their ideas but what they hear from customers."
"It's like our internal version of an app — we call it a widget," explained Wallin. "It's sitting right there on their terminal and entering a comment takes 15 seconds."
Why should shoppers care?
"I know other companies listen to their employees, I would't suggest that's not true, but we're listening in real time now versus just going around to stores," said Wallin. Customers can now expect that comments and suggestions will be passed on directly to decision-makers, rather than the age-old procedure of just hoping the employee will tell their supervisor, who will then tell their manager, and so on, and so on.
Best Buy has used the feedback to correct confusing wording in a store policy was corrected — a change that was literally made overnight.
Employees at a store in South Carolina who noticed that customers were confused about where to go for computer servicing – the customer service and Geek Squad service desk were right next to each other. Employees used the new system to get the point across. Best Buy changed the signs and added more Geek Squad informational desks throughout the store. The result was a 30% increase in that store's customer service ratings. So now the company is also rearranging store signage and placement of service counters nationally.
And when Best Buy launched in-store pickup of items purchased online, store employees in Michigan noted customer confusion about where to go. They quickly adjusted the line queuing process and within a month had a substantial jump in customer ratings. The changes made at the Michigan store are now being rolled out chain-wide in advance of Black Friday.
It's always been a conundrum for large chains to react quickly and respond to customers in the same intimate way an independent, or "Mom and Pop" retailer would. And with nearly 1,100 stores in the U.S., Best Buy is a long way from it's Mom and Pop roots.
It's also unlikely that a giant company could ever so completely empower store level personnel in way that pleases everyone all of the time, but according to Wallin, VOCE is having a measurable impact on customer satisfaction.
Nor is VOCE the end of Best Buy's efforts to improve the store experience, it's just one tool being used and a good example of how technology is changing the way we shop, even when shopping for technology itself.
Laura Heller is a freelance writer based in Chicago who specializes in mass market retail trends and consumer electronics industries. You can follow her on Twitter @lfheller. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.
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