IABC CHICAGO 2002: Best Buy boss urges, 'measure everything'

CHICAGO: Retailer Best Buy values employee communications so much, that twice a year it undertakes a massive survey process, polling each of its 90,000 employees to gather their thoughts on the company.

CHICAGO: Retailer Best Buy values employee communications so much, that twice a year it undertakes a massive survey process, polling each of its 90,000 employees to gather their thoughts on the company.

The information is made available to founder and CEO Richard Schulze by location so he can discuss concerns when visiting stores. He loads the data onto his electronic organizer, and views it before each visit.

"Don't under-invest in communications, Schulze told the opening general session of the IABC's annual international conference.

Employee turnover costs Best Buy $53 million a year. Schulze said that effective employee communications can cut that number, and thus prove a solid return on the amount he's investing in communications.

He wouldn't comment on communications spending at Best Buy. The $20 billion-in-annual-revenues company does most PR internally, but uses local agencies when opening stores in new markets, he said.

In addition to surveying employees, Best Buy does a monthly survey of 1,100 consumers to see how they viewed their shopping experience.

"We measure everything, absolutely everything, he said.

Best Buy also communicates with employees through weekly meetings in every store with local managers and employees, an employee website, and a monthly video magazine.

Best Buy's major PR challenge now is integrating three acquisitions it has made in the US and Canada over the past 16 months. It left PR people in place at the acquired companies, but is passing down communications guidelines from corporate headquarters in Minnesota. "All communicators at Best Buy need to speak as one company with one clear voice, Schulze said.

Best Buy has also been working to streamline its internal communications after discovering that stores were getting company information from as many as 80 sources a day.

"We had too many voices in the pipeline, and we were getting stuck," Schulze said.

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