Best Buy Swaps Email Out for Live Chat

Dec 22, 2012 12:10 AM  By

The face of the contact center is ever changing, but more and more retailers are no longer offering every possible contact channel to their customers. Many, such as Best Buy, are opting to create dialogues with customers the way they want to be spoken to.

Best Buy recently eliminated its email channel under its customer service page and replaced it with a live chat feature. The change, Lisa Hawks with Best Buy’s External Communication said in an email, “is based on customer feedback. Customers prefer chat and it is faster.” But she declined to comment further citing the busy holiday season.

Consumers with any questions or concerns can now only contact Best Buy through a 1-800 number, writing to a physical address, or live chat.
The contact center revamp, according to Jordy Leiser, CEO of STELLAService, “speaks to a bigger trend we’re starting to see in customer service.”

STELLAService is an independent company that rates the customer service performance of online businesses. Leiser said the company has been testing Best Buy for the past year and found that all of a sudden the customer service email address had been removed from the site.

Although his company hasn’t seen a trend in retailers removing the email contact on their ecommerce sites, Leiser said he is seeing more and more retailers focusing on what they can do efficiently rather than offering every possible contact channel to its customers.

To some retailers, the future, Leiser said, is about having real time conversations with consumers.

Retailers, he said, are now creating a dialogue with customers however they want to talk. For instance, he said, Amazon just recently started using Twitter as a way to talk to customers and answer any questions or concerns they may have.

But Leiser said he is not so sure the removal of email at Best Buy was a wise choice in terms of what the customer wants. In a Boldchat survey, which was supplied by Leiser, 20% of shoppers prefer live chat above all other communication methods, 22% prefer the phone, and 58% said email. He also said he wasn’t sure the decision was solely based on customer needs.

While Best Buy declined to comment further to us, according to the STELLAService blog, the performance company “found that Best Buy’s live chat performance struggled during Black Friday through Cyber Monday, as live chat was listed as unavailable on the site for 95% of attempts. Data was collected by attempting five interactions each day during five separate time blocks. STELLAService also captured screenshots of those failed attempts.”

“I don’t think Best Buys decision was based on the customer, I think it was probably something that was based on performance,” Leiser said.

Erin Lynch is the associate editor at Multichannel Merchant. Erin can be reached by emailing her at erin@multichannelmerchant.com. You can also follow her on Twitter at @LynchMCM or on LinkedIn.