Best Buy’s new customer satisfaction survey shows no respect for customers

How do you know when a company’s on the ropes?  Some observers watch cash flow.  Others look at turnover.  Me?  I look at how a company treats its customers.  When a company’s customer experience starts to drop, it’s time to sell the stock. I’m afraid that may have happened at Best Buy, especially when I look at their new customer satisfaction survey.

Customer satisfaction surveys are critical for creating your customer experience.  A great survey puts your customer at the center of your customer experience design, allowing you to learn and improve as you go.  But this only works when you design the survey from a perspective of customer respect.  When your customer satisfaction survey design assumes your customers aren’t paying attention to the survey, then why bother?  In the past, Best Buy’s culture was centered on the customer experience. But their recent update to their customer satisfaction survey shows that at least one group thinks their customers are unworthy of respect.

What do you think when you read this survey question?

Some possible answers:
  • Huh?
  • Is this a mistake?
  • Wow, Best Buy is using advanced market research techniques to ensure the quality of their data
  • This survey designer clearly assumes I’m a doofus (technical term), and wants to trick me into admitting it.

I visited Best Buy for Black Friday and wanted to share my subpar experience (2 hours in line AFTER I entered the store!) on their customer satisfaction survey. Although I didn’t “credit” them, Best Buy’s previous survey made it into my customer satisfaction survey hall of shame (  In that post, I argued for three customer experience survey principles:

  1. Make your survey short;
  2. If you ask a question, use it;
  3. Never ask a question when a query will do.

Best Buy’s previous survey had over 50 required questions, including more than a dozen on areas that had nothing to do with my customer experience (“30: “I cannot live without the Internet”).  I was pleased to discover that their new survey improved on principles 2 and 3, focusing more tightly on my customer experience.

But then I hit the “Please select the number 4 below” question.

This is a survey design trick to ensure respondents are paying attention.  If the answer is not 4, you ignore their results.  And it works.  But why resort to tricking your customers in the first place?

This lack of respect for the Best Buy customer is apparent throughout the survey.  It still fails on principle #1, as it is 24 pages long!  I didn’t count questions this time, but it is easily 50.  Even worse, there was a link asking me if I would take even more questions!

Where did this go so wrong?  It seems like the approach was to ask everybody for survey questions. When the list kept growing somebody said, “Wow, this is really long.  We need to do something to make sure that people are paying attention, and not just selecting 5 for each question.”  So they added this.

Rather than resorting to tricks, doesn’t it make more sense to question your approach in the first place?  A true customer-centricity approach questions the survey, not the customer.

When you respect your customer, your surveys are targeted to main topic – in this case, the customer experience in their stores.  We can debate the proper survey length, but few would argue for 24 screens of questions.

It’s sad, because Best Buy introduced the customer-centricity concept to retail.  But that’s what happens in times of turmoil – teams focus more on accomplishing the task at hand (“We need a survey. Let’s get some questions”) than focusing on the reason for conducting a customer satisfaction survey in the first place: to serve the customer.

Customer satisfaction surveys are not about collecting data.  They’re about creating a great customer experience.  Unfortunately, it appears that Best Buy has forgotten this.

3 replies
  1. Donna
    Donna says:

    I completely agree with using a survey to guide your customer experience versus to just gather data.
    I too use three guiding principles when designing surveys for my customers.
    1. Every question has to have an owner of the responses
    2. Only ask questions you can take action on
    3. If you can find the information another way, don’t ask the customer

    • Jim Tincher
      Jim Tincher says:


      I love your guidelines! #2 and #3 are very similar with mine, but whereas I don’t have an equivalent to your first rule, I definitely agree with it. You’ve probably experienced an issue similar to one I’ve encountered. You ask a question, you determine an issue – but nobody is willing or able to take action. Having an owner makes certain action is taken. Good job!

  2. Richard R G Grate
    Richard R G Grate says:

    I recently was at a Best Buy store at PGA Blvd. Bad mistake, every time I go there, I keep telling my self, never again, but this
    time I mean it.
    I was going to buy the Sony Blu-ray player BDP-S3700, I was the only customer in that department. I walk over to two employee ‘s ,
    at the desk,one was out of uniform, eating his lunch, the other was counting product in a box. I wanted to ask them a simple
    question, but they said they were too busy. I put the Blue-ray player back on the shelf, went to the Target Store, found the very
    same Blu-ray player, for the same price.
    If your going to buy a product from Best Buy $500.00 or more, you might get some help, and I repeat might. Every time I’ve been
    there, it’s always the same service,none. I’m done with you Best-buy.


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