Struggling Best Buy Deletes the Email Option From Customer Service

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Best Buy Email Customer ServiceBest Buy is in the midst of a tailspin, with same-store sales falling for the the last eight straight quarters. Acknowledging the struggles, new CEO Hubert Joly has been touting the "Renew Blue" program, which aims to revitalized the consumer electronics retailer's fortunes through an emphasis on great customer service.

So we found it a bit curious that the company just eliminated one of its customer service channels.

STELLAservice, a "secret shopper" provider for online customer service, reported on its blog last week that the email option had disappeared from Best Buy's customer service page. Best Buy confirmed to the company that it had dropped email, apparently to refocus those resources on its live chat support. Email, it said, was "unable to offer the same level of in-the-moment assistance," and added that 20% of customers in an online survey said they preferred live chat. A Best Buy spokesperson confirmed the change to us, saying that live chat is faster than email and that customers prefer it.

But will cutting out email leave some of Best Buy's customers behind?

"There's been somewhat of a discussion around whether it's an effective method of communication with consumers," says STELLAService CEO Jordy Leiser. "But the reality is that customers are still emailing companies."

That's partly a matter of convenience. Even though social media and live chat can both get results sooner than email, they also require more of a time commitment for the consumer, and may not even be feasible for some customers.

"There are workplaces that don't allow you to use social media, and some people don't have time to wait on chat," points out Leiser." A customer may similarly be unable to spend 20 minutes on the phone with customer service while at work.
Which channel do you prefer to use when you have a customer service issue?
Phone4103 (60.2%)
Email1619 (23.8%)
Live Chat1064 (15.6%)
Social Media27 (0.4%)

Email Loyalists

Despite this, Best Buy is not alone in cutting out email -- Apple, which is widely praised for the quality of its customer service, does not offer email as an option. So we decided to speak with one company that has made email a centerpiece of its customer service operation: Bonobos, an online men's apparel retailer that prominently displays its email address and touts the helpfulness of its customer service "ninjas."

John Rote, vice president of customer experience with Bonobos, says that email is far and away its most popular channel -- he estimates that half of all inquiries come in via email, with the rest split evenly between phone and social media. (The company does not currently offer live chat, though he says they're experimenting with it.) And he suggests that the popularity of email has a lot to do with convenience.

"A lot of our customers are busy, and don't want to take time to hop on the phone, or even on live chat," says Rote. "A lot of the emails say at the bottom 'Sent from my iPhone.' They're on the move, they're busy, and they have better things to do with their time. And email is best for them."

Comparisons between a small apparel retailer like Bonobos and an electronics giant like Best Buy are obviously difficult, with the two companies facing very different logistical realities. And we can understand why Best Buy might feel that it needed to consolidate its limited resources into its more popular channel: STELLAService says that during Black Friday weekend, live chat was unavailable 95% of the time, and only 15% of emails sent that weekend were responded to within 24 hours.

Faced with two overtaxed channels, the beleaguered retailer clearly decided it was better off focusing on one thing and doing it well. It's just unfortunate that some of its customers will now have a harder time getting in touch.

How to Write a Good Customer Service Request Email

If you decide to get customer support by email, then you'll want to make sure your opening email contains as much pertinent information as possible . After all, you don't want to fire off an email in the morning, then come back to your computer that evening, only to find that the customer representative needs several pieces of information before he or she can proceed with helping you.

To that end, we asked STELLAService to provide a few tips for crafting an effective customer service email.

• If you have multiple questions, number them.
• Provide links to specific products you're asking about.
• If your question is about an order you've placed, it's best to just forward your confirmation email, which should have most of the important information.
• Be straightforward (but not profane) in your subject line. If, for instance, your swimsuit order hasn't arrived, then STELLAService suggests "Where's my swimsuit?" as a good subject line.
• If possible, include your phone number in the email in case a representative wants to get in touch with you for a quick resolution.
• Leave out your credit card number.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.



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86 Comments

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fasteddy10

The live Chat on the phone will be great, if not put on an hour long canned music hold mode, and then getting a Representitive that can understand and speak American English, would be fantastic!!

December 21 2012 at 3:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pharry752

They have the worst website for searching a particular product. Ask for one simple item and it shows 6600 items. I emailed them and got a response that I must be doing something wrong. Yep, wrong company. ABBB. Anybody but Best Buy.

December 21 2012 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ED

I sent their customer service an email 2 years ago. It took them 6 weeks to respond, and that was to tell me they were turning the matter over to the local store manager, and I would be hearing from him. It never happened. So, I have never gone back. Good riddance. These idiots don't realize there are too many places to shop.

Oh, the reason I wrote to CS? The local store would not take my check for $1,000 in purchases. They use the same check cashing company as Sam's, Home Depot, and Lowes. I never had a problem at any of these places. Apparently it wasn't important enough of an issue for Best Buy to be concerned with.

December 21 2012 at 11:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jmtaney

Best Buy customer service is great! If Best Buy werent around, the electronics industry sales would drop bigtime!

December 21 2012 at 10:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mikekojima1

Wow..looking at the comments, if Best Buy is to create a recovery plan, it requires a marketing strategist who understand large scale accounting (VP finance level) as well as customer service, not 3 different individuals or groups who have no clue about the other issues, otherwise they are doomed by their own lack of effective policy and controls.
To sell a $2,000 or $200 item, you need a representative that respects that it is a major purchase and you need after-sales service that reflects that a good customer just spent that much with you. Any deficiencies can't be made up with extra sales, more advertising or discounts. Never try to fix an ongoing problem with a finite resource.
Yes I am a top marketing strategist but I'm afraid I can't help them unless they figure out where their nose is located. I wish them best of luck but might suggest the executive either adapt or buy lottery tickets, which will likely have a greater chance of success.
Never, ever lose a proven good customer if possible. Customers are a finite, not infinite resource.

December 21 2012 at 10:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BigBrian

I was in Best Buy a couple of days ago. There were two workers on the floor in electronics and two cashiers in electronics. It took 25mins. for someone to get me an ipad. Would not hand it to me. He brought it to the electronics cashier. Ok, waited on line for 30mins. because people were treating it like a help desk.

December 21 2012 at 10:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Al

I bought a 60 inch $2000 Tv at Best buy. A Sharp product. It was defective, Best buy delivered another one to me in 2 days. that also was defective. A Sharp tech informed me there was a run of software problems with their new TV's. Best buy took the second back and i then purchased a Samsung. If i bought this at any othere retailer, i would still be waiting for a repairman. Best buy has a great return policy!!!

December 21 2012 at 10:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
R

Karma is a b1tch, Best Buy. I work at a hotel where Best Buy exec's used to stay. They gloated when Circuit City went out of business, now they are on the verge as well. They bragged about how they were the "only guy in town" and how great they were. Now, they can't afford to stay at our hotel when on the road. They probably stay at a Super 8 or Motel 6. What comes around, goes around. Plus, it doesn't help that most of their staff are tattoed, earing-wearing, long-haired college hippies who look down on you and can't give customer service. We're all not computer gurus, kids... Bye Bye Best Buy. Hello Amazon.com.

December 21 2012 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pumpkintail

best buy is not longer the store they us to be now in folrida altamonte spring the sales people all are mexicans since the manage was replace whit a mexican and the servise is going from bad to worse the spoken dialect is mexican you can hear all over the store to bad america is going to be a 3 word country what happen to the americans are unable to defend this country from the invacion i bellive only god can save america amen

December 21 2012 at 9:13 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
fluffynipper2

I made a 2012 New Year's resolution not to shop at Best Buy anymore . . . . and I plan to renew it for 2013. I was ripped off one time too many, e.g. I got a $10 rebate through their customer loyalty program in my email. When I went in to use it several hours after receiving it I was told it had already been used!!! I was given an 800 number to call to correct this "problem" but the 800 number was eternally busy . . . . anyway, I have eternally taken my business elsewhere since then. Costco, Amazon, and NewEgg are some good alternatives for computer stuff.

December 21 2012 at 8:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to fluffynipper2's comment
jmtaney

Good luck with that! Costco has limited electronics, NewEgg and Amazon has NO customer service and if something happens to Best Buy, prices will skyrocket! I actually think they will go private in February.

December 21 2012 at 10:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply