For businesses everywhere, this is becoming an increasingly relevant question.
Not long ago most business could just ignore Amazon and say to themselves that’s fine for them in retail they are not operating in our industry.
Well, times are changing, and Amazon is competing in not only retail but consumer electronics, entertainment, enterprise cloud services and is eyeing opportunities in healthcare and payments.
The question for all businesses to ask themselves is how would we respond if Amazon entered my marketplace?
Well, one company did not have to wonder for too long, in fact, they have been competing with them for the past 10 plus years. With the rise of Amazon, many analysts predicted the demise of Best Buy, the US brick and mortar retailer.
So how to Best Buy fight back? They applied the same approach as Amazon – customer obsession.
In fact, under the new CEO, Hubert Joly, they undertook a transformation from a transactional retailer focused on store traffic and closing sales to one focused on building customer relationships for life.
Where does a customer-obsessed transformation start?
It begins with your customers and employees when a business is under attack as Best Buy was around 2009, a new vision and purpose for the business’s future needs to be articulated.
Joly launched a turnaround plan called “Renew Blue” in 2012 that was designed to address all critical stakeholders in the business beginning with customers.
To gain insights on what was happening at the frontlines, Joly spent a week working in a store and talking with employees. They told him the website sucked, it was slow and difficult to navigate, and the employee discount had been reduced recently by previous management. They also described how customers were “showrooming” coming in to see products then buy them somewhere else online.
Joly began with some quick wins, restoring the employee discount and taking price off the table by guaranteeing to match online prices.
This showed he was listening and more importantly acting on feedback, a critical trait for a customer-obsessed leader.
He then focused on customer experience, redoing the website, investing in search and matching Amazon on free fast shipping.
By focusing on their unique strengths, the in-store personal experience, they have been able to focus and start winning again.
Joly shifted the employee mindset by instilling a new purpose. In his words “we’re not in the business of selling products or doing transactions, we have our purpose, which is to enrich lives with the help of technology.”
“We don’t see ourselves as a bricks-and-mortar retailer. We are company obsessed about the customer and in serving them in a way that truly solves their unique problems.”
What does this mean in practice?
For Best Buy that means introducing new service offerings such as the “in-home Advisor” which involves best buy employees going to people’s homes for free and providing expert advice on how to better select, buy and install technology to enhance their lives.
A second example is “Total tech support” which involved Best buy taking ownership of any technical problem in the home and fixing it, all for $200 a year.
The third example of their innovation is a focus on aging seniors with an emphasis on helping them stay in their homes independently for longer. Through the smart deployment of technology they can detect if something is wrong and people need help, they can then intervene to make sure people get the help they need.
Customer-obsessed leaders don’t just say they are focused on customers they act on it and make decisions with a customer lens every day.
A great example is Best Buy’s relationship with Amazon, although fierce competitors on many fronts, they also see opportunities to collaborate and work together because it is the right thing for their customers.
“A lot of other retailers have been reluctant to sell their products. The reason we’ve sold their products is because we’re customer-driven.” says Joly.
In fact, recently Amazon chose to launch its Fire TV Smart TVs exclusively through Best Buy.
“Every management meeting we have, we don’t start with the financial results. We start with people. Then we talk about the customers, and last we talk about the financial results”
“I don’t believe that the purpose of a company is to make money. It’s an imperative. It’s a necessity. But it’s not the purpose”
The turnaround strategy with its reinvigorated purpose and customer obsession around enriching people’s lives through technology are paying off. The ship has turned, and the future looks bright for this retailer once thought to be following Circuit City into bankruptcy.
How can you instill a customer-obsessed culture in your business? It starts by understanding your current culture and charting a path based on purpose, people and delivering great customer experiences.
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