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Best Buy Cuts Email Hosting Functionality: Is it a Disaster in the Making?

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December 26, 2012

Best Buy Cuts Email Hosting Functionality: Is it a Disaster in the Making?

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

Best Buy (News - Alert) hasn't been having a good run of things as of late, as evidenced by declining same store sales. Although that decline isn't a recent phenomenon as it's been going on for each of the last eight quarters, it's making Best Buy look in some rather drastic directions for improvements. In fact, the "Renew Blue" program could ultimately do more harm than good as it doesn’t encompass any email hosting capabilities.

The "Renew Blue" program was designed to bolster the company's failing fortunes on the strength of boosting their customer service, which had been seen as less than optimal by many customers in the past. But in so doing, it redesigned its customer service programs to remove the option to contact consumers via email. Yet, the company has a seemingly valid reason behind the change, revealing that email was "unable to offer the same level of in-the-moment assistance" and moreover 20 percent of customers said they preferred live chat in an online survey.

However, email hosting has some very specific advantages that few other contact methods can offer including the fact that it requires comparatively little time to operate. While indeed, it's not as "in the moment" as Best Buy might like, email platforms allow users to leave their issue in a message and carry on with the rest of their day, getting an issue resolved later on. While phone calls may require an active delay like in situations in which users have to be on the phone and have to stay there until there's an answer to their question, email is generally available most anywhere, and rapidly.

What's more, a recent study from Loudhouse shows that email, though falling out of favor at the corporate level, isn't falling out of favor with users. Findings show that email is preferred over social media by a wide margin for a variety of tasks, including 91 percent preferring it for documentation exchanges, 89 percent preferring it for arranging meetings, 88 percent preferring it for requesting information and 72 percent preferring it for sharing opinions. Information workers spend as much as 50 percent of their day, an even half, completing email related tasks. So if employees are using e-mail, why wouldn't they use e-mail to get a customer service-related question answered?

What's more, it's quite clear that email is an effective marketing tool as it's handily beating out Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter, so why not use a customer service channel that uses the same medium as a marketing tool that's so clearly trouncing the competition?

The long-term ramifications of Best Buy's decision of course won't be fully known for some time. One thing is for sure though that this is an extremely risky move on its part, and one that seems to cut out a major source of contact for a lot of consumers.

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Edited by Jamie Epstein

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