Appliance Shopping – Customer Service Challenges at Best Buy

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine purchased $2,500 worth of appliances from Best Buy in Gurnee, Illinois. We’ll call him Bill. Bill bought a microwave, gas range and dishwasher. All appliances were scheduled to be delivered on Friday, February 11, 2011. Best Buy waited until Thursday evening to tell him the appliance would be delivered between 4 and 6 pm on Friday. Unfortunately, because he received the call late in the day, he was forced to take a vacation day on Friday to be on hand when the appliances were delivered.

Even though Bill is handy and very comfortable with tools, he wanted Best Buy installing the appliances. I should say Best Buy’s contractors as the appliance  installs were part of the total price.

According to Bill’s story, before the gas range could be fitted to the gas feed, the installers had to remove a 3-inch pipe. According to the installers, their insurance prevented them from removing that type of pipe. Hence, the gas range could not be installed. My friend was not happy and couldn’t believe his ears. His thinking was that he just paid cash for these appliances and installation and the Best Buy’s contractors couldn’t finish the last piece of the process.

Best Buy Image from Treehugger.com

Because Bill is principled in his approach with the service and retail industry, he refused to accept the merchandise and told the installers to put the appliances back on the truck. At first, the installers didn’t believe he was serious until he again told them to load everything back on the truck, as he’s not going to do business with them. As they were packing up, the contractors did say that other clients get upset too when the installers can’t install some appliances due to insurance guidelines. Some customers accept it and others eventually complain. One key question, how many complain to Best Buy where they were promised installation and later hear the installers can’t install due to insurance guidelines? How many don’t?

Look, Best Buy sets the expectation that they can do the job from start to finish. In other words, after the 4 to 6 pm install window, Bill was going enjoy, admire and use the installed appliances. Certainly, his initial plan did not involve having to go without a gas range for up to a week and having to visit the store and complain! 

Obviously, my friend went to Best Buy that night (Friday) to complain. Frustrated with the appliances not being installed and then being put on hold for too long, he felt the best approach involved complaining in person. After a number of interactions, he dealt with the manager on this issue. The manager tried to help Bill come to some agreement. After realizing how upset and frustrated he was, the manager offered to remove the $400 microwave charge from the bill. It was enough to appease Bill though he was still upset.

I can appreciate installers adhering to guidelines – perhaps Best Buy needs to hire contractors who have more leeway and flexibility to handle at least 95% of all installs. There will be exceptions, by redesigning the process, many of these exceptions could be eliminated. With 9.6% unemployment, I’m sure Best Buy can find flexible, competent and customer focused installers who can handle the majority of all installs. If auto mechanics have the aptitude and experience to work on a variety of cars with varied systems, appliance installers can certainly follow suit.

If I worked for Best Buy or managed the store, my main concern would be determining how many appliance installs don’t go well. How many of the unsuccessful installs are reported to Best Buy? How many consumers just get disgusted, don’t complain and vow not to deal with Best Buy again?

Regardless, Bill’s still upset enough about this issue – I have proof as he spent 10 minutes today telling me. In addition, he said he will write a letter complaining about their service and doesn’t want to deal with them moving forward. I’m sure he’ll also tell his sons and friends. What does this do to Best Buy’s reputation? Recent business news reports Best Buy’s business is down as there’s a lot more competition in the electronics market. Could not ‘improving their service’ help distinguish them from their competition and improve their brand?

ADDENDUM:  Bill went to the store on Saturday to reschedule the delivery and found that apparently he had misunderstood the discount. Instead of waiving the cost of the microwave, Best Buy was offering 10% off the entire bill. However, when he accepted and asked for a Saturday delivery, they couldn’t arrange it. He proceeded to tell them he could not afford to take another day off of work and cancelled the order.

Bill has since ordered his gas range from Abt Appliances in Glenview, Il. They had no issues installing the gas range with his current setup. Interestingly, Bill learned that the delivery guys from Abt are employees so they take a vested interest in installing the appliances thoroughly and correctly. They even spent extra time showing him how to use his new gas range. Interesting spectrum of service from two separate providers.

Kevin Schwarm

I have over 25 years of professional experience in business, information technology (IT), and customer service. Industry experience in retail, medical insurance, higher education, non-profit, financial services, and property and casualty insurance. Customer focused professional interested in providing value (save time, money and aggravation) by evaluating and analyzing information, services and products with a unique perspective.