Brick and Mortar Stores Aren’t Enough, You Also Need Customer Service

Customer Service

This morning on the news, I heard a report of a retailer who has thus far been an online presence only. Now they are opening a brick and mortar store because they understand that customers like to see, touch and compare the actual products. Fortuitously, an experience I just had at Best Buy served as a reminder that bricks and mortar are just the beginning. What really makes the difference is… customer service.

That was what was lacking during my recent shopping experience at Best Buy, and it is why got the sale.

No Sale

I went into Best Buy to purchase a Sony NEX mirrorless camera. When I walked up to the camera area, there were four or five different customer reps standing there speaking with each other. I looked at the cameras, but then when I looked up to ask some questions there was no one to be found. I stood there for five minutes. Then I stood there for another five minutes. No one was to be seen. So I walked up to a Best Buy salesperson and asked a question. He replied it wasn’t his department, and they really couldn’t help. So I walked up to someone who had appeared in the department but was looking at the computer. I asked him something, but he never even looked up.

15 to 20 minutes had passed by this point. Someone finally walked over and said, “Can I help you?” I said “Yes, I’ve been standing here for about 20 minutes, and no one has come up and been available; I’m looking to make a purchase.”

His response? “Okay.”

“Okay?!?!” I thought … and I started to walk away, but decided that there was a point to be made. I walked back to him and said, “I’ve been standing here for 20 minutes, and no one came up to help me. I tell you that, and your response is, “Okay”? It’s not okay. The proper response is ‘I’m sorry, can I help you with something?'”

His reply? “Okay I’m here now, can I help you with something?”

“Yes,” I said, “you already did. I wasn’t sure if I should buy here or through Amazon. You helped me decide.”

My camera arrives from Amazon tomorrow.

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.

11 Comments on "Brick and Mortar Stores Aren’t Enough, You Also Need Customer Service"

  1. It’s amazing how a simple bit of customer service makes a huge difference. I will happily head to brick and mortar stores when they treat me well, and I will happily shop at amazon because I know they will treat me well.

    More importantly, enjoy the camera!

    • lol I will. I have gone back and forth on the NEX series and finally decided to make the leap. The good thing about the brick and mortar is that I went in thinking about the entry level version of the line but had a chance to hold it and found I didn’t like the grip… at all. That was enough to push me up to the NEX-5R. A good bit more but I can easily hold it in my hand with the fused wrist and that makes all the difference.

  2. Of course Best Buy is an easy target with documented ills … but the point is valid, and one I have seen way too many times. Too often shopping we feel we are an inconvenience and interrupting people who have better things to do (like chatting or texting), or that the sales person is depending on our sale and is constantly badgering us to the point we quickly leave.

    A good store with good salespeople will make you feel stalked but never harassed – you should always be able to find help quickly but not feel pressured.

    • Elana pointed out that I really should have asked to speak to a manager but he/she likely would not have cared any more than the non-sales rep. Dumb since it would have been as easy a $600+ sale as they made all day.

      • The manager probably would have cared at least a little-but if the structure is like it was when I worked there, the odds of finding a true manager (as opposed to a key holder with a modicum of authority but no real power) were much higher.

      • I just woke up. Reverse that. The odds of a manager instead of a keyholder were much LOWER. Sorry about that.

  3. TMEhrlich | May 15, 2013 at 7:25 pm |

    I almost never shop brick and mortar anymore for this very reason. Best Buy is among the worst!

  4. David Min | May 16, 2013 at 8:28 am |

    Sorry you had such a terrible experience at Best Buy. My experiences at that chain haven’t been amazing, but they certainly haven’t been that awful. In fact, I was just there yesterday looking at some Motorola Bluetooth stereo headphones and the salespeople actually were helpful (although they didn’t have the model I wanted in stock).

    I will say that in the matter of customer service, the Apple stores are head-and-shoulders better than just about any tech store I have experienced. We had a local Microsoft store open and they are actually doing a pretty good job as well. I was pleasantly surprised by that.

    • Agreed on Apple Stores but I am getting the sense that that too is changing. The reports on the shift with AppleCare come the fall are a good indicator that the days of Apple being amazing in this area- they fixed my MacBook air when I dumped Crystal Light into it and TOLD them it was all my fault- may be numbered as Apple moves closer and closer to just being another big company. I would love to be wrong about this but I don’t think I will be.

  5. Doug Miller | May 16, 2013 at 10:19 am |

    I’ve had both good and bad experiences in Best Buy before. Several months ago I was looking at keyboard cases for iPads and an associate came by to ask if I needed help, then hung back as I said I was just looking for now. As I was looking at a few models, another shopper came by, asked me what I knew about them, and I went over the differences between several models. The associate had come by and listened, and when asked if she had anything to add, she smiled and said, “No, he’s doing a great job!”

    Most of my recent experiences have been good, actually, though I don’t often shop there anymore. We also brought my mother-in-law in to a different BB to look at the iPad Mini vs. the Kindle Fire HD in December and the saleswoman there was also great – close, answered questions, let us “play”, but not hovering, interrupting – waiting to answer questions when asked.

    Honestly, the only bad BB experience I had was when I was trying to buy a camera a few years ago. Just a disinterested high school aged kid who didn’t seem to care about answering my questions or whether I actually wanted to buy the camera. Perhaps there is something about the camera department that’s bad? 😉

  6. Several years ago, I bought a flat screen tv and a wall mount from Best Buy. Also paid to get my tv mounted on my wall. They sent some kid to do the wall mounting. By himself. I sat and watched him drill more than one hole in my wall above my freshly built desk/bookcase that my dad had had built for me. He couldn’t find the studs. Claimed I didn’t have any. (brand new house, and I know the studs are 16″ on center and should be easily found if you know how to measure if your stud finder doesn’t work)

    He decided that he didn’t need to put the mount into the studs and was about put the mount up just screwed into the drywall. I stopped him before he could do any more damage to my wall, and told him to leave. Called BB and told them I wanted my money back on the install. Then I called someone else and paid probably more than the tv was worth to have it mounted to the wall. They had to screw MDF into the studs of the wall because the kid had massacred the drywall and also because he had walked off with all the screws to the mount. (plus the back of the tv had the plugs sticking straight back instead of to the side, and the tv would not fit on the wall with the mount I had because the plugs stuck out too far back)

    That ended my love of shopping at Best Buy.

    About a month ago, I needed a new printer. I went to Office Depot. I wasn’t even in the store 30 seconds before someone asked if I needed help. I was getting more than just a printer, so I went to get my other stuff and then went to look at printers. I had probably 3 more people ask if I needed help before I got to the printer aisle. The kid who helped me decide on a printer did great. Actually listened to what I wanted, and instead of pointing me at the most expensive one, showed me a printer that had everything I wanted, and was not super expensive. He made sure I had everything I wanted and assured me it was Mac compatible. It prints, it’s wireless, it copies. Probably the nicest printer I’ve ever had. Easiest ever set up too.

    It was probably my easiest ever electronics purchase. I need a new computer monitor now, and a new computer chair. I’ll be shopping at Office Depot later this week for that.

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