Best Buy Seeks Redemption Through Training

Once the poster child of innovative electronics retailing, Best Buy has fallen into hard times. Their new CEO is now staging a turnaround and his weapon of choice is training. According to Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy, “There’s a great deal of similarity between retailing and hospitality. The role of the general manager in a store is very analogous to the role of the GM in a restaurant or hotel.” You can read the article that appeared recently in Business Week here for more on this development.

I wouldn’t ever think of comparing my experience in a Four Seasons Hotel with that of Best Buy. Here is an extract from an article that appeared in Forbes earlier this year that demonstrates the training gap in Best Buy (and many other retailers).

Walk into one of the company’s retail locations or shop online.  And try, really try, not to lose your temper.

I admit.  I can’t do it.  A few days ago, I visited a Best Buy store in Pinole, CA with a friend.  He’s a devoted consumer electronics and media shopper, and wanted to buy the 3D blu ray of “How to Train Your Dragon,” which Best Buy sells exclusively.  According to the company’s website, it’s back ordered but available for pickup at the store we visited.  The item wasn’t there, however, and the sales staff had no information.

But my friend decided to buy some other blu-ray discs.  Or at least he tried to, until we were “assisted” by a young, poorly groomed sales clerk from the TV department, who wandered over to interrogate us.  What kind of TV do you have?  Do you have a cable service, or a satellite service?  Do you have a triple play service plan?

He was clearly—and clumsily–trying to sell some alternative.  (My guess is CinemaNow, Best Buy’s private label on-demand content service.)  My friend politely but firmly told him he was not interested in switching his service from Comcast.  I tried to change the subject by asking if there was a separate bin for 3D blu rays; he didn’t know.

The used car style questions continued.  “I have just one last question for you,” he finally said to my friend.  “How much do you pay Comcast every month?”

My friend is too polite.  “How is that any of your business?” I asked him.  “All right then,” he said, the fake smile unaffected, “You folks have a nice day.”  He slinked back to his pit.

As a sometime business school professor, I could just imagine the conversation with the TV department manager the day before.  “Corporate says we have to work on what’s called up-selling and cross-selling,” the clerk was informed in lieu of actual training on either the products or effective sales.  “Whenever you aren’t with a customer, you need to be roaming the floor pushing our deal with CinemaNow. At the end of the day, I want to know how many people you’ve approached.”

I am going to walk into a Best Buy store in 2013. Hopefully, they will be around and I will have great things to report!

Srinivas Krishnaswamy

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I love to read and share thoughts on technology, enterprise learning, mobile and any thing cool that impacts enterprises.

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