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Consumer Reports: Buy Your Electronics On The Internet

This headline, and many others similar to it, recently appeared online and in newspapers across the country, summarizing the findings from the latest (December 2011) Consumer Reports (CR) retailer satisfaction survey.

No doubt, many who do not subscribe to CR, but who saw these stories, would never have heard of the survey were it not for the brief synopsis appearing in their newspapers and online. Good news if you sell online, not good if you don’t, but as is often true there is much more to the story than was reported.

To begin, the sample was quite large — just short of 30,000 people who had purchased one or more CE product within the last 12 months. Respondents rated retailers on a variety of things, including price, customer service, product quality, selection, buying ease and returns, all of which were then combined in one rating ranging from 0 to 100.

I’ve conducted a few surveys in my time and can tell you that interpretation of data can be very subjective. You want good news? I can give it to you. Bad news? No problem. Is the glass half full or half empty? Absolutely! So what’s the bottom line for the CR study? You decide.

Based on the 0 to 100 ratings, there is a 16 percent difference between the highest (an online retailer) and the lowest (walk-in), a 2 percent variance between the best online and best walk-in stores. Does either gap justify what is to me a headline that leaves little to the imagination? I don’t know, but of greater importance if you are a retailer, brick and mortar in particular, what do you do?

Invest in your sales force. Find, train and reward the best people, and that, more than anything, will set your store apart from those who don’t — the Internet included. You happen to be selling consumer electronics, but regardless of the product or service, there will always be demand for quality one-to-one, face-to-face selling.The Oct. 22 edition of The Economist included an opinion piece entitled “The Art of Selling” ( Toward the end, they summarize what is to me the heart of the matter, and I couldn’t agree more:

“Whether they are called ‘rainmakers’ (an investment banking term) or ‘peddlers’, whether their feet are on the street or in the door, whether they are pushing metal (cars) or slamming boxes (photocopiers), salespeople are the unsung heroes of business.”

William Matthies is the CEO of Coyote Insight ( and can be reached at [email protected] or at (714) 726-2901. Visit Business Wisdom at