The Last Mile

New York Times bestselling author Ramit Sethi sums up his article about “the last mile” by referencing the peak-end rule: “…we judge out past experiences almost entirely on how they were at their peak (pleasant or unpleasant) and how they ended. Virtually all other information appears to be discarded, including net pleasantness or unpleasantness and how long the experience lasted.”

Sethi wrote about the last mile nearly five years ago and his thoughts are even more relevant today. The importance of the last mile – “the last point of contact to a customer” – truly cannot be overstated, and failure at the last mile can be exponentially more expensive to correct than maintaining last mile excellence.

Best Buy must have learned this lesson the hard way. While Best Buy stores may be meticulously designed and stocked, customer service was not considered a strongsuit. For the better part of a decade, customers ranted about Best Buy’s failure at the last mile in droves using websites like BestBuySux.org. At the time Sethi wrote about the last mile, “BestBuySux.org” was still in the top Google search results when searching for “Best Buy.” As Sethi points out, “without logistics, Best Buy wouldn’t have products to sell in the first place,” but Best Buy certainly paid for its failures at the last mile.

Best Buy’s most recent negative publicity came after cancelling a number of online orders days before Christmas (one full month after orders were placed around Black Friday). Here, Best Buy learned from their previous failures at the last mile and made the most out of a logistical issue. After cancelling less than 1% of orders, Best Buy reached out to the effected consumers to apologize and offer electronic gift cards. This action proves that Best Buy now understands that while all errors cannot be prevented, that last point of contact is oftentimes more important in the eyes of the consumer than the original error.

Few will argue with the fact that customer service is important, but just how important can often go overlooked when focusing on the other aspects of doing business.

Read Ramit Sethi’s article here (http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/the-failure-of-the-last-mile/) for more examples of success and failure at the last mile and read more about Best Buy’s order cancellations here (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/23/best-buy-black-friday/).

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