Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Best Buy Case Study: How to Lose Customers and Referrals for Life

Just when you think you've heard and seen the worst customer experiences that you could possibly imagine, a company and it's representatives prove you wrong. My last post spoke about my disappointment with how I was treated at Best Buy, but that was nothing compared to what they put me through today.
I have just returned from a full week of travels where I met with great clients, got to work on fantastic projects and attended the Tunica Manufactured Housing Show. Today I spent the morning working with Champion Homes of Texas and one of their retailers. Champion understands what customer service is all about, and that's why I love working with them. They understand if the client is successful we will all succeed, and we are all in this journey together. I got to help put together a new model home that is going to be incredible, and also got great feedback as well. Be sure to stop by at Trinity Homes in Abilene and see our beautiful new home!
While I was in Tunica I had heard from Best Buy corporate. They apologized for all of the confusion and promised to call the store where I purchased my projector and have them resolve the issue. I was feeling good about things and thought Ryan handled the issue and my concerns well.
Then I made the mistake of ruining a perfectly good day by going up to the store to change out projectors. I thought it was only going to take a few minutes so I was going to call in my dinner order before I went in - fortunately the person that was with me wasn't as optimistic and she was right. We went to wait in the return line - there were two people in front of us. After standing there for about 5 minutes I asked the other people in line if anyone had been working there and they told me the woman who was working there walked away when they got into the line. I walked to the front of the store and asked if anyone could help us and he told me that three people were working in that area and I needed to just "go back in line and wait my turn".We gave up and ended up sitting on the floor - Tunisha who had left before I guess finally got the hint. Guess what - they had nothing in the system about my issues, and the manager said that no one from corporate had called about my issues and they couldn't do anything. I had Ryan's phone number with me and they called - not there. Then they informed me that what was on my receipt wasn't what I was bringing back, and the projector I brought back only sold for $349.00 and my receipt was for $649.00 so it couldn't possibly be what they sold me.
But wait! It gets even better. James the manager (who said that no one up there had talked to Ryan) calls corporate and puts me on the phone with Katie who was in Ryan's department. She informs me that it's impossible for what I bought to have been rung up wrong, I didn't buy the projector there and pretty much called me a liar. So now I have a 7 month old product that doesn't work that I paid for an extended warranty for that they won't honor. I wasn't sure what made me angrier - finding out I paid $876.00 for something that they said should have cost $349.00 or being called a liar.
So I come home, look up the suggested retail on what I have and it's actually $699.00 not $349.00. So sucker for punishment I am I call the Best Buy store. When I press 3 for sales help, no one answered the 2 times I tried so I called back on the Geek Squad line and got James. I told him the pricing he had for my machine was incorrect that it matched what was on my receipt, and he said that couldn't be right because their system showed it at $349.00. Trust me, there is pretty much no such thing as a $349.00 home theater projector, especially made by Epson. So the system that is never wrong was wrong, but Best Buy refused to even entertain this notion.

The moral of this story? The person with me found something she really wanted and was in line to buy it, and I told her that she would be walking home if she spent a dime there. I purchase a lot of electronics for my clients homes plus our Lifestylist® Designed recommends products for the home. You know that I will be very clear where anyone who asks should not make their purchases.
Then we have the other end of the spectrum where companies like Champion treat their clients how they like to be treated and respected. I had a million things to do today, but when Champion asked me to come and meet with their client I did because I appreciate their business and I want them to succeed. I will always be referring Champion Homes of Texas, Youngs Manufactured Homes in Hobbs, NM and Trinity Homes because I know that whomever I refer to them will be treated with respect, and they will get a great value for their money.

I would love to hear your customer stories - good and bad - and I'll share the best ones here. And if anyone would like a great deal on a projector that doesn't work, give me a call :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Being Appreciated: Best Buy vs Apple Stores

There is a very simple way to earn my dollars and loyalty as a customer - simplify my life and I'll be a customer for life. With as hectic and time challenged as we all are, our time is one of our most precious commodities and something I don't like to waste. Helping to make my life easier and less complicated is what a great Lifestylist, marketing program or customer service department should be all about. To show this, I want to talk about two competitors and how they handle the customer experience.
Best Buy has spent a fortune advertising how they understand the customer and their lifestyles, and they are there for us to help us make the right decisions in our electronics buying dilemmas. They started their "Geek Squad" which is supposed to help customers in their homes or online - for a fee of course. To be honest I had stopped buying at Best Buy because of their sales teams lack of knowledge, and every time I went in and needed help there never was anyone in sight to help. But my grandkids were coming to visit and my television projector that I had bought through NewEgg and have had for years died. I ordered a newer model online and when I received it found out it was a projector, but couldn't be used with cable. Called them, they were wonderful and immediately issued a refund and a call tag so I could ship it back. This didn't leave me with enough time to replace before my company got here so went to my local Best Buy to see what they had. After looking at them and trying to decipher what my options were I made a decision and of course - it was mis-marked and the price was actually $200.00 more than the tag said. They wouldn't honor the price shown, but again I was time challenged so went ahead and bought it. By this time I was working with the manager trying to get them to honor the price, no luck on that but he did talk me into the extended warranty which included one bulb replacement which I knew was an issue. Bought it, got it home in time to hook it up, all was well with the world.
Fast forward 7 months, and the bulb is going out. I call the number on my warranty policy and was given to the parts department after 4 attempts to get connected to the right department, and they didn't have and couldn't get a bulb for my model. The warranty is supposed to be "repair or replace" so they try and connect me to customer service where I get disconnected 3 times. At this point we are going on over 2 hours on the phone trying to get this resolved, and remember I was looking for a way to simplify my life. When I finally ask for and talk to a manager... wait for this... they tell me I have to find a place to buy the bulb, pay for it and install it myself, then send them the receipt and they will reimburse me! The only other thing they would do is I have to take the unit into the store, they will ship it off, then they will try to find a bulb, and it could take up to three weeks. Even though they know the part number they won't look for it until I send the unit to them. Best Buy, and Kevin, Mary, and Daniel who totally wasted my time on a beautiful Saturday - you failed me and every other customer who walks through you doors.
Now let's look at the Apple Stores. If you have never visited one you need to - I just can't say enough good things about them. The people who work their are obviously treated well and love their jobs because they couldn't be nicer, and more helpful. My favorite example is when I was in there having a lesson the other day a gentleman rushed in and asked one of the sales guys for help. Said was from out of town, had an iphone that he hadn't even purchased from Apple and it had crashed. Oh - and the store was packed like it always is. The  sales person said not a problem, leave it with us for 10 minutes or so and we'll see what we can do. The customer came back, the phone was fixed, no charge to customer and Apple picked up another Customer for life. Apple is there to simplify your life, and they sure have been able to do that for me. I have the confidence to know that when I buy from Apple I'll have a team of geniuses ready to help me succeed in my marketing and life tasks.
It really doesn't have to be that hard - if you show that you truly care about your customers it will show. Not once did I get a "sorry you are being disconnected", "let us try to find that for you", nothing from Best Buy. They took my money and ran.
The great lesson for me and if there is a silver lesson in all of this it's that everything should start and end with the customer. I do appreciate the customers that support Lifestylist Design and I consider them a critical part of our success. I know Apple understands this as well which is why if it's a product I can't buy from Apple, I'll be buying online and not from a company (Best Buy) that doesn't appreciate my business.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring Forward With Your Home Design

The start of daylight savings is the perfect time for your home to "spring forward" with lighter accessories, accents and even window treatments. Slip covers for furniture and accent pillows are an easy way to change the look and mood of a space. Use a duvet on your bed and get a lighter color and fabric for the warmer months, and a darker, dramatic color for those cooler fall and winter days. These are easy to change out and store, and you'll feel like you are living in a new space!
Pottery Barn and West Elm always have great covers for pillows, and they are often on sale. They are sold with or without the pillow insert so when you aren't using them they don't take up a lot of space. I am also big on having my dining table set, and a pretty spring arrangement and fun napkins, placemats and plates can really put you in the mood.

Friday, March 12, 2010

When to Hire a Professional

You would be amazed how many times I'm asked this. Not because as a Lifestylist I am a professional, but because if you are going to make the investment to build a model home, advertise and market it, and have a sales professional there to sell it, why would you trust your model home merchandising to someone who isn't trained and doesn't do this for a living?
The times are a'changing. In years past many merchandisers only bid doing homes by charging according to the square footage of the home. As someone who teaches merchandising for the National Association of Home Builders IRM courses we tell our students in every class this isn't the way to bid or budget a job, and at the Home Idea Factory we don't. Until we do a study figuring out who the buyer is, what the demographics are and how much that buyer can and should spend, and of course what their lifestyle is we won't give a quote. The other big question that many builders are reticent to give up is budget - how much the builder can or will spend on merchandising. They think if they give a budget the merchandiser will spend every penny even if it isn't necessary. I was amazed when I builder that I'm currently working with told me that I was the only firm that was willing to work with him and his needs not on a sq. ft. budget, and even though he doesn't have a lot to spend we are doing innovative things that will save his company money while still giving a home that will stand out and sell homes. Doing some partnership merchandising with the Ashley Homestores is one of the ways that we will achieve this and also help him with his marketing dollars.
This has been a really busy week and I love it! Color selections were made for 3 different builders and communities, and we were also finally able to finish up interiors selections for one of our builders. This was when I realized how working with firms that understand professionalism, have a system that works and are able to guide not only the builder but their customers through the process seamlessly can make all of the difference. This particular builder was a new to this market so we were deciding who the other partners were going to be on his team as we went. And I love this builder - American Custom Builders - because they understand the value of a strong team and include all of us in the decision making. Mike Land of Plans by Land designed amazing homes that I couldn't wait to get started on, and getting his feedback on what he envisioned these homes looking like has been a huge help. But when it came to partners that would supply flooring, tile, etc we hit some roadblocks.
So you know, one of my biggest pet peeves is people who don't return phone calls. Especially when they have bugging you for your business for months, then you give them the opportunity and they disappear. Or they are 9-5, even though that may not work for your homeowners who need to make selections. We wasted almost two months making selections with companies like these that once you offered them the business they suddenly became too busy to return your phone calls.
Enter the perfect missing link to our team - Creative Touch Interiors. Shame on me, I hadn't heard of them before, but I promise that won't happen to anyone else because I'm going to spread the word! Paul of CTI found the owner of ACB Homes and contacted him making promises he kept! When prices were needed we got them by the next day (if not within the next hour!), when appointments were needed they happened - at our convenience, not necessarily theirs. They wanted the business and made us feel like they appreciated it.
When it came time for me to make and finalize the interior selections on the four homes ACB had started I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Shannon who works out of their beautiful design center in Dallas. She made it so easy, knew her products and gave me the opportunity to design amazing homes for my builder and stay in budget - I didn't have to sacrifice a thing! It was an absolute delight to work with another professional, and as I told the builder I am comfortable putting his customers into Shannon's very capable hands.
So back to the original comment - when to hire a professional. Why would you not hire a professional? When working with the other companies I was working with sales people who sold carpet, and tile, and wood, but they didn't seem to grasp the fact that we were working on something that could not only make or break the builder, it also could make all of the difference in the potential buyers lives. There was no way they could work with potential home buyers, and I wouldn't want them to - it might have jeopardized the sale. I'm thrilled that we now have Creative Touch Interiors, Paul, and Shannon on the American Custom Builders team. I'm comfortable with the fact that their professionalism will make a difference in the homes they help my builder's buyers with and now I can concentrate on our model homes! We are shooting for a May 1 grand opening so I have a lot of work to do!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Savor Dallas Strolls through the Dallas Arts District

One of my favorite foodie events that I attend every year is finally here! Savor Dallas started last night with the wine stroll and it couldn’t have been more perfect - perfect weather, perfect locations, perfect food and of course perfect wines!
My favorites were the Cakebread Cellars wines, Fedora, and the food and team at the Dallas Museum of Art.  People go to events like these for different reason, but I see it as a great opportunity to get to meet the different winemakers and chefs and really get to know what makes their creations special.
The Cakebread host was amazing. So gracious and willing to share his knowledge. They brought 5 different wines to try and I would have loved to try them all, but with the wine stroll being only 2 hours with over 60 participating companies sadly I had to keep moving. But he did share a DVD that is a Virtual Visit from Vine to Wine with me that I can’t wait to watch and learn from. And the Cabernet that I tried? Stellar!
Fedora is one of my favorite restaurants, and I was thrilled to see them on the stroll at the Nasher Sculpture Center. A beautiful backdrop to beautiful food. I still remember the dish they brought last year because it was a work of art with pomagranate sprinkled on it and tasted great as well! This year they brought a Bruschetta that was divine and I would have loved to have had more than one but I’ll just have to go back and sample them at the restaurant.
Fedora has been very generous about giving back to the community, including HomeAid / HomeBuilders Care. One of the owners was at the wine stroll serving - loved getting to visit with her and being able to thank them for all that they do.
I also absolutely loved the chef and team at Seventeen Seventeen in the Dallas Museum of Art. I wish I would have gotten teh servers name because she was so helpful, and when I told her I wanted to get some photography she brought out fresh food and helped us guard the goodies from all of the participants who couldn’t wait to sample! But what really won me over is when Executive Chef  Jason Ferraro came out and introduced himself. I’m not sure restaurants understand how much of an impression it makes when the chef takes the time to come out and greet you. It makes you feel so special, and it makes the dining experience personal.
There is so much more to talk about, but I need to get ready to head to some of the seminars and the Grand Tastings this evening. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How Social Are You?

It's hard to believe some days how quickly the world is changing. Am I just getting older or is technology changing the way we live and do business? Social media is changing the way we get our information and how our customers shop. If you don't have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Blogger and Buzz you are missing out. If you think I'm writing in a strange foreign language when I talk about these it's time to do some Google searches and find out what the buzz is all about!
Some of the greatest reasons to join in the conversation with these groups are that:
1. They are free!
2. Information is shared immediately - no lag time for what you want to share to be published.
3. These are great places to listen as well as share your thoughts.
How do you get started? Join us at MHI Congress April 13 - 15 when Lifestylist® Suzanne Felber  will be sharing her experiences and resources with this marketing tool. We have also stared a Facebook group for PreFab Housing to help share between our community as well as get consumers excited about what we do. Please join us and help change the image of our community!