Has Best Buy’s Twelpforce Already Failed?

Is this who you want representing your brand?

Last week, Best Buy (BBY) launched an audacious online engagement experiment in allowing hundreds of employees to man their Twitter feed. “Twelpforce” aggregates rank and file employee contributions into a single Twitter account. However, unlike say a Sprint (S) or Comcast (CMCSA) who utilize communications and service professionals, the results have been hit or miss for Best Buy.

The primary Twelpforce issue seems to be continuity. Whereas Best Buy sees strength in numbers, I see value in relationships. With so many contributors coming and going under one name, Twelpforce has no individual personality… beyond ‘disjointed conversation’, the second and far greater, continuity issue. Twitter conveniently allows you to follow a thread via “in reply to” links. Which the Twelpforce feed lacks. Meaning, to track down an original question you may end up clicking through to a Best Buy employee’s Twitter account –  which is how I stumbled upon that gem above, posted within a few minutes of a #twelpforce comment. And then there’s the matter of pumping leaked products over existing inventory or promoting one brand over another (wonder how Dell fees about this?).

So while corporate Best Buy and the vast majority of participating Blue Shirts are good intentioned with their tweet cloud, I wonder how this is going to play out. Thoughts?

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10 thoughts on “Has Best Buy’s Twelpforce Already Failed?”

  1. Best Buy had their chance to use Laconica’s Identi.ca and build their own in-house version of Twitter,that resides on the Best Buy servers. But they were either too lazy, too stingy or in too much of a hurry to do so.

    http://identi.ca <— open source, free

    …once up, incorporating the employee database would have been trivial.

    The opportunity for tighter control of the "Twelp force" was there, but they opted not to take it.

  2. I’m tempted to ask them questions about policy to see what sort of responses I get back. Things often vary by store. This one might allow for price matches with Fry’s while this one won’t. If I get an unequivocal response from an employee saying, “Yes, we’ll match!” can I print that up and take it into my local store? What good is this service if it is not universal? Surely someone across the whole twelpforce program will give the wrong answer. Heck, the DeLorean stopped production in 1982 (the movie was set in 1985) and it was gigawatts, not jiggawatts. I can only assume a “jiggawatt” is what Will Smith uses to power his car.

    I don’t see how this program doesn’t result in manufacturers getting upset at responses or paying for preferential responses. And then it’s just a complete wash.

    As for Chadbby1428, I want us all to remember that it is not uncommon for co-workers to sabotage. If he’s tweeting from his phone or a work computer and he leaves his account open, I don’t think it’d be much of a stretch of the imagination to suggest that someone tweeted for him. Or maybe he’s just loud and proud. Go him.

    How long until the only way you can get an answer in a store is by standing in an aisle and tweeting your question off into the ether?

    Reminds me of the best moment of technology interrupting progess EVER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5uPHr65QV0

  3. Most social media sites are intended to maintain a 1:many relationship by design. It’s why Facebook’s TOS specifically forbids a user having multiple accounts. Even though a user might have good intentions, like say wanting to keep a personal and a professional profile, doing so wouldn’t really be practical or necessary.

    I give Best Buy credit for trying to be innovative but they probably should have just gone with implementing the best practices of other companies on twitter by:

    * have a few key customer service people with individual accounts (like comcast) or,
    * go with an app like co-tweet for a small group of workers.

  4. Personally I would love for Best Buy to concentrate on their in-store experience. I can never find someone on the floor and when I do, they are a usually a moron (or are using the “this isn’t my section” line). Would it hurt to hire one person for each section that keeps up with daily tech news?

    Here’s how I treat Best Buy: Go in knowing what you want, if it’s competitively priced and available, buy it. Don’t ask for help, don’t ask for an opinion.

    As for an associate posting to Twitter, I’d never take anything they say seriously.

  5. My #1 rule for a sub-par brand trying to improve: find out what the leader is doing and copy it exactly.


    In the case of image, customer service, and Twitter, all roads lead to Zappos. So why oh why would Best Buy make it up seemingly from thin air. Innovate when you’re great, not when you’re Best Buy. Good post, Dave.

  6. As a BBY employee I can say that price matching decisions are made by managers. While some managers don’t mine price matching online retailers, some do. One of my managers insists that the retailer must be local, others don’t care. Some employees might even lie to managers to get price matches for their customers. As far as customer service is concerned, I agree that sometimes as a company Best Buy is terrible, however these people are employees who are paid minimum wage or close to it. While I would love to learn more for my customers, I have a life outside of work that doesn’t allow me to spend lots of time a day learning everything I can to intercept the next random customer question I might encounter. (And I have had some completely random questions.) While you guys know what you want, many people don’t. Until you work at a store, don’t judge the employees, many of them are doing the best they can for you. I know that I do.

  7. Employees are allowed to say what they want on their own personal twitter accounts. Most of the twelpforce posts you posted were BBY employees’ attempts to add levity in response to some of the retarded questions we get. And at BBY we are honest about brands. I’m sure if Dell didn’t want us promoting other brands, they would make better products.

    Nobody gets in trouble for promoting one brand over another, and nobody gets in trouble for talking about leaked products either. BBY is very clear about what we can’t talk about, and neither of those are on the list.

    In the few days so far I have worked with twelpforce, I can say that I have seen some amazing customer satisfaction. Some people who were having a terrible time with their product or even experiencing poor customer service at a store were assisted immediately and their problems were resolved within minutes. Twelpforce is a revolution in customer interaction.

    @Todd: Wtf is Identica? Who in the world would ever use it? Nobody. Who uses Twitter? Millions.

    @Jeff: The official price match policy states that we will match the price of local competitors carrying the same model, and only if they have it in stock. Other than that, it’s up to the managers at the stores.

    @Big John: Try going to a different BBY store. I’ll bet you things will be different. Every once in a while there is a store where the managers don’t care about the employees, and this makes the employees not care about the customers, and it turns into a Wal-Mart. Vote with your feet, but please don’t write off the whole company because of one or two bad stores.

    @Todd 2: Wal-Mart’s prices are higher than ours 86% of the time for the same products. And we all know Ebay is a superb place to get electronics.

    @ted coine: Sub-par? To whom?

    @Jill: I don’t know about your store, but at mine (362) we are threatened with early retirement if we don’t take all of our trainings and pass all our certifications. I have been written up twice for being late with cert tests, and I’m probably the most knowledgeable on my department.

  8. @RedBenBBY: First, I will say that I have been impressed with many of the BB teams I have met. I have worked with the Geek Squad, but the Blue Shirt are friendly and helpful.

    Ignoring all of the rants, I will say that BB needs to be careful that a wonderfully innovative idea doesn’t give them a black eye for the wrong reasons. There is probably a better way to implement Twitter for Twelpforce that includes both process and technology. I worked at Sun Microsystems years back and launch a few online communities as well as being one of the people that help Sun through the adoption of blogs, etc. It’s a good thing when done right, but unpredictable when not thought through.

    I’ve tried to talk to Barry about this, but he’s a busy guy. Ping me if you’d like some advice.

  9. RedBenBBY you’re a total fanboy of a terrible company – but don’t feel bad, I’ll still come through asking relatively simple quetions and roll my eyes when you say it isn’t your section and then promptly leave.

    If I worked at BBY I’d troll twelpforce so hard; also th “tw” prefix obsession is reaching “i” levels… I see it hitting record Y2k “e” levels very soon.

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