We know most every organization has an underbelly. Hopefully, customers never get to experience that dark and dysfunctional place where unlucky customers get tossed about by incompetence and indifference lurking underneath the polished veneer of the branding campaign. This is the corporate Twilight Zone where well-intended customer service comes to die.
Best Buy has had a recent and notable resurgence. Kudos to the management team who pulled it off and made Best Buy a go-to retailer. The very-good-to- great reports about the home entertainment experiences within the store and the vaunted Geek Squads have earned Best Buy a warm place in many hearts. Shiny, flashy and profitable. Stock prices are up. Too good to be true?
As customers, we know that when something goes seriously wrong in a transaction with a big company, it could be seen as a small chink in their smooth armor. But it’s also a harbinger of things that may undo success in other areas. Or, maybe this story is just one of those one-off comedy of error experiences…but I doubt it.
My Field Report
Let’s put aside the flat screens and woofers for a moment and get down to basic nitty-gritty home appliances. Washer and dryers. Unsexy for sure, but we Americans pride ourselves in American-made appliances that work well, supported by effective customer service, delivery and installation. This is a formula as reliable as apple pie and Apple computers. Or one would think.
When we bought our New York City apartment 20 years ago, a washer/dryer combo was located in a little storage room off the foyer. It was a great convenience for New York City living to have your own washer/dryer. Our little laundry room has no exterior venting and the previous owners figured out to jerry-rig the dryer so that it worked well if you kept the door open. No problem. It was a Whirlpool set-up and that old beast gave us 20 good years.
But all good things finally give out. My wife dove into the laptop and clicked her way to Best Buy, promptly spoke with a customer service rep and ordered another Whirlpool washer/dryer – all within 20 minutes. Best Buy had exactly what we needed to fit into that itty-bitty space. A date was set for installation. This was February. The delivery date was set for three or four weeks out, well into March.
The day before the delivery date, Best Buy called and said the appliances were back ordered — they would let us know. Winter stubbornly plunged ahead without regard for the calendar. Finally, Best Buy set a new date. April showers just barely brought May flowers. On the day they finally set, I waited at home for the delivery guys.
One guy showed up to survey the situation while the other guy double-parked downstairs. Our super joined the parry to make sure everything was copacetic. The delivery guy scoped out the room and said there was no venting which been had been fully disclosed during the ordering process. He said he didn’t know anything about that and said he couldn’t do anything about it. The super tried to explain how the other machines were vented but Best Buy Guy said it couldn’t be done. I asked naively, “How this could happen?” Best Buy Guy said he didn’t know; he doesn’t work for Best Buy he’s only a third-party delivery vendor. Newly identified Vendor Guy leaves.
We decided it would be best to visit a genuine Best Buy Guy in person and so we visited a store. We found an old-school salesman, like your Uncle Frank who knew all the makes, models and accouterments Terrific Best Buy Guy. He told us how the venting could and should be done. He told us to buy a venting hose he picked out, and urged us to go across the street to Lowe’s to buy another key part, just to make sure we were properly prepared for the next Vendor Installation Guys.
Before we called Best Buy customer service to reschedule the delivery, we had a question that we needed to ask Uncle Frank. But you cannot call a Best Buy store directly, you can only call an 800-number and they will redirect the call to the store you want. We asked the Best Buy Store Phone Answering Person to speak with Uncle Frank in the washer/dryer department. Answering Person said they would give Uncle Frank the message to call us. We never heard back from Uncle Frank. Went back to see Uncle Frank who said he never got the phone message. Then, we rescheduled a new delivery date for two more weeks out. Now we are in late April and heading toward May. My lilacs were still holding out for warmer weather. All set for delivery until Best Buy calls the day before and says they don’t have the unit and would let us know when they would have it in. No new delivery date in sight.
Then we visited a very reputable appliance outfit in downtown Manhattan and they figured everything out lickety-split, spoke to our Super, configured a unit, set the date, showed up at the time they said they would and installed it. It was all good. These were the real professionals. The lilacs came out and made life especially wonderful those few days.
I would like to ask the Best Buy Guys and Gals: Tell me why we should ever order from you again? Is this the kind of customer service that represents your best efforts? How many other customers have experienced such frustration over a period of nearly four full months? No apology, no attempt to make it right. Is this your best, Best Buy? Is this the last time we order from Best Buy? Absolutely.