Employee Communication Breakdowns

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2004-10-25 Print this article Print

So far, so good. But heres where employee communication starts to break down. Best Buy has been doing this—at various levels—for three years. The 30-minute goal, according to at least one employee involved in the early planning stages of its site, has been in place since the beginning. So why, one asks, was the Best Buy Web site—as of late Friday—still claiming a two-hour turnaround? Thats a lot less compelling, especially given the fact that its not true. In preparing a story about the technology last week, eWEEK.com went so far as to have reporters in multiple states test the system. Sure enough. The average was easily within the 30 minutes that a senior vice president of Best Buy touted.
To read more about Best Buys RFID strategy, click here.
Its not just the Web site, though. We called several customer-service reps to ask about the time issues. Every rep we spoke with said two hours, and most said "at least two hours." (For the record, this is limited to hours when the stores are open. Anyone buying online at 11:30 p.m. is going to have to wait until the next morning to have someone check the shelves, which seems fair.) It gets worse. One of the key advantages of being able to do the pickup in-person is so that the customer can see the product and feel it before making a final purchase decision. The executive position is that the customer can simply decline the purchase. Unfortunately, customer service yet again didnt back them up. One said the customer must phone customer service, wait on hold and then cancel the order because online and in-store systems dont talk with each other. Another said the customer must spend the time to completely purchase the item and then stand in another line to do a standard return. Someone else had the best approach, which was to leave the package and walk out of the store. Ultimately, it would be returned to inventory without a customer charge, he said. But that screws up inventory and isnt the way this is supposed to work. So, we went back to Best Buy to give them a chance to clarify. A PR person called back to say the reps may not be aware of the latest system upgrades. But this raised a non-academic question: Store employees, customer-service personnel and a host of in-field managers are the ones who execute policy, not PR people or senior vice presidents. To read more about how the retail e-commerce battle lines are being drawn, click here. Who will be making the in-field decision? We called some Best Buy stores and spoke with the managers who actually handle the Web pickup areas. Sure enough, they said they didnt know how to handle "refused merchandise" and would likely take it back and then call the online people and wait on hold themselves to reverse the charge. With some 25,000 temporary workers coming on board, its hard to imagine that this confusion will improve much as the holiday-shopping insanity intensifies. Please dont get me wrong. I give Best Buy a standing ovation for its technological execution, but when what it does is not properly communicated to the field, it truly raises the question of whether the company will be getting its moneys worth out of the technology investment. Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman has tracked high-tech issues since 1987, has been opinionated long before that and doesnt plan to stop any time soon. He can be reached at Evan_Schuman@ziffdavis.com. To read earlier retail technology opinion columns from Evan Schuman, please click here. Check out eWEEK.coms Retail Center for the latest news, views and analysis of this vital industry.

Evan Schuman is the editor of CIOInsight.com's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

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