Monday, April 21, 2008

UCD and Employee Empowerment at Best Buy

When Best Buy decided to use personas to drive their entire retail experience, the marketing world gasped in awe. It's pretty impressive, really - take market research and design separate experiences for each group that you serve. Now that I look at it, I see that the three Best Buys near me (one near my work, my house and my mom's house - I'm not so obsessed that I need to go check these things out), I see it in action. There is more Maria and Rico near me (lots of El Salvadorian and Bolivians in my hood - the Best Buy is down the street from Pollo Campero), more Empty Nesters near my mom, and slightly more Buzz and Carrie (urban trendsetters) near my office (lots of new condos and a hipster neighborhood)

You can read all about it in detail, but what I think is impressive is the way I found out. Not from one of my academic geeked-out mailing lists, but from an employee. He told me with pride about how his company is dedicated to serving customers and educating their employees so that they can make decisions to serve employees. All managers are now empowered to layout their stores as they see fit, offer discounts and services within certain guidelines, and are encouraged to ask customers about their experience.

I found all this out when I was buying a floor model high-end washer and dryer. It the manager a long time to sort out all the details, but by the end, he explained a lot of what he was doing was an effort to win the loyalty of people like me: Carrie, the trendsetter who researches, knows what she wants, and will go where ever it takes to get it. He was able to offer me a discount and express installation, even though it's not store policy, knowing my profile and how I was likely to behave.

It worked - Best Buy is still my first stop, even after some missteps. It's going to take a lot for me to stop going there, because they provide an experience that's pleasant more often than not. On some gut level, I feel like the store "gets it."

Here's the bigger morals of the story:

- Don't just use all that data you harvest from your analytics for your website. Expand your practice to all your collateral, your customer service, your service offerings and your outlook. Experience goes across all mediums, and all contacts. Loyalty is won or lost with the little things.

- Teach your employees about your customers, empower them to serve and reward them for making independent decisions. If you could have seen the pride that the appliances manager puts in his bottom line and satisfaction scores, you would immediately run right out and start doing this research. This gentleman was so savvy that he not only knew how to approach me with excellent service, respect and expert knowledge, he also knew enough to tell me that the store was dedicated to preserving this experience. Relinquish control, and get out of the way of the success.

- The people who buy from you are not your only customers. As a manager and a business owner, you have an important group to serve - your employees. Without content, independent, empowered employees, your customers will have a consistently bad experience. Your customers may pay the bills, but you can't serve the customers without your staff. Treat them as well as you would anyone who writes you a check, and you'll never have to worry about another disgruntled phone call.

No comments: