How Best Buy’s Bet on ‘Employee First’ Helped Engineer a Turnaround

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And, they’ve been doing it with a significant investment in one of the most important assets: their employees.

Investing In Your Greatest Asset

In many instances, you can’t talk about how a business succeeds without first laying the foundation for customer service practices designed around a measurement of employee satisfaction and engagement.

In customer service circles, employee engagement leads to strength in team solidarity -- a critical component to a brand that can help satisfy its customers with exceptional customer experience.

Yet, in order to have that piece, you need the willingness of employees who are happy to see your brand achieve the success it deserves. There’s no arguing that if employees are the greatest assets, then the business should do all it can to invest in them -- hire the best and brightest minds, and in the words of customer service expert Adele Halsall, “make your team happy, healthy and well.”

There are ways to create that foundation:

  • Creating a Positive Workplace
  • Empowering Employees
  • Promoting Team-Bonding
  • Investing in Tools
  • Understand Your Employee Goals Are Your Own Goals
  • Make Work More Collaborative
  • Apply Insights Via Employee Interactions, Interviews

Best Buy thoroughly understands that.

Last year, during the Miami conference, they outlined the efforts of a multi-year initiative that sought to reimagine the tired, clunky corporate technology that has eroded the tenets of customer experience.

To do this, executives would provide dedicated resources to their staff from divisions involving change management and retail user experience.

Gone went giant, word-packed binders of documents, and the faceless training, and mindless programming. Instead, the investment from Best Buy went full-throttle into redesigning systems, finding new technologies, and spending countless hours interviewing team members one-on-one to learn about frustrations, and find where the gaps were.

The learnings were revelatory for a retailer entrenched in an industry where one of the biggest challenges is getting employees to come to work, and stay working. Efforts helped Best Buy crimp employee turnover “well into the double digits,” Timothy Embretson, director of retail user experience told the attendees at the Future Stores Miami conference in February of 2018.

Using Big Data to Make Leadership Advances in the Workplace

These days, big data, cutting-edge analytics, and machine learning are helping business leaders interpret information about their business, and increasingly, how they can adapt and better understand how to offer next-generation employee training -- things like classroom training, interactive sessions, and all of these trainings have a digital footprint which contain measurable analytics that can help leaders understand how to improve.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 13 percent of employees are actively engaged at work. Compare that to 24 percent who are actively disengaged. While surveys that lead to these results are historically what we’ve had to understand engagement metrics, analytics are far more important.

By ditching employee surveys, Best Buy was able to use its own analytics and learn that by boosting their employees engagement, they could see big results. They were absolutely spot on. They determined that just a negligible increase in engagement netted a specific store a big boost in sales. Just a .1 percent increase in employee engagements is equivalent to an $100,000 increase for a specific store’s annual income.

Don’t Walk Customer to Product -- Meet Them No Matter Where They Are


Back to Best Buy’s learnings they presented at the Future Miami convention earlier this year, they showed that in addition to dropping employee turnover, they also wanted to focus on retaining their best employees with newer styles of training.

For Best Buy executives, the key to keeping them engaged and excited, was moving beyond even some of the more common aspects of the customer experience spectrum. Instead of simply taking a customer to product in the store, it’s now about meeting the customer where they are, no matter where they are.

Call it a bit of surprise and delight, mixed in with understanding the nuances and complexities of the modern, mobile consumer.

Today, that means teaching employees in-store that the customer experience isn’t as predictably linear as it used to be. "I want to meet the customer where they're at. That might be in the home, our store and hopefully a transition between the two. It's super important for our employees to feel like they have a place in the future of where we're going,” explained Shari Rossow in an article from Retail Dive, vice president of retail operations at Best Buy.

This is a becoming a much more important retail tactic that influences when, how, and where customers are looking for products they need. In a hardware store, it could be helping supply component parts that would better assist a home project, or re-introducing them to the supply chain by following up with them after they’ve left the store, or suggesting product before they arrive.

For Best Buy, the biggest part of better training and engaging in-store associates has helped as the electronics retailer has completed a triumphant metamorphosis from a “showroom” retailer. Would-be customers would use Best Buy’s ample locations to scout out merchandise and even lean on associates to help answer questions -- only to leave and pursue the product online.

With the recent announcement that Amazon would be partnering with Best Buy, there’s proof that there’s no longer quite the fear that Best Buys’ brick-and-mortar world would be completely disrupted by that of the digital divide of Amazon. Sure, they’ll still continue to act as a sort of secondary delivery point and distribution network for Fire TV products, readers, and tablets -- but, they’ll also be proving to Amazon that people still yearn to see big-ticket items in person. Take the increasingly technical wizardry of the smart television. A few years ago, it would make little sense for Amazon to cannibalize sales at in-store locations. Today, Amazon realizes that they can rely on the incredibly smart and engaged associates who are able to deliver exception customer service about the products and services Best Buy sells, while gaining a big footprint in the ever-competitive world of smart home devices.

How Branch Keeps Best Buy Associates Engaged, Excited

We talked to a handful of Best Buy associates who are leading the efforts to turn around Best Buy. As part of the store’s efforts to focus on engagement, they also have had a big impact on helping turn the tide of retail industry’s biggest concerns: Turnover.

According to the National Retail Federation, the rate of retail employee turnover is higher than 60 percent. That comes at a cost equivalent to 230 million productive days and more than $19 billion in staffing costs, according to Human Resources Today.

Being engaged goes beyond in-store training. It also impacts employees when they’re able to leverage their own digital devices to take the lead on some of the key things Branch Messenger’s platform accomplishes: scheduling, swapping shifts, communication with colleagues, and even tracking their wages.

For Alanna Bannister, a Best Buy associate from Dedham, MA, Branch helped her stay in contact with her fellow co-workers, and never miss another shift.

Branch “Gives me a reminder a few hours in advance every day. Some days, I forget (about a shift) and Branch reminds me with plenty of time to spare,” she says.

“The first time I needed to do a shift change and I could see when which coworkers were working so I could see who to contact / which ones would be available,” she recalled. And, more importantly, it helped her stay in touch with her coworkers and “build relationships.”

Sophia Mendoza, of Waterford, Connecticut, leverages the Branch app before she even goes into the store, abolishing the decades-old time-waster that was heading into the store on off-days to check binders with schedules in the crew room. Now, she’s “Able to look at the app at home and figure out what shifts I need to fix as a supervisor when someone calls out or has something come up.”

This leads to better scheduling patterns for not only herself, but also her colleagues which has a huge impact on associates who are engaged, ready to interact with customers, and delivery of the high levels of service that Best Buy is known for.

“Makes communicating shifts easier. Keeps people accountable to their shifts. Helps people cover shifts when life happens. Improves morale and communication,” Sophia says.

While it may seem simple, BYOD apps, and technology like Branch Messenger are also having a huge impact in how Best Buy associates are improving their morale, coming into work on-time, and helping lead the company’s big turnaround in the retail space.

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