They knew they didn't have much time. The world of retail was about to change for the foreseeable future. Employee and customer safety had suddenly become a concern. At the same time, with employers asking countless employees to begin working from home, there was a sharp uptick in demand for products that would allow them to do so.
Barry and her team had to act fast. And act fast they did.
Best Buy recently released its first-quarter results, and the company was able to retain over 80 percent of its sales during the last six weeks of the quarter.
Under normal circumstances, that wouldn't be such great news.
But under these circumstances, it was phenomenal--especially considering not a single customer set foot in a store during that time.
So, how did Best Buy do it?
In a recent interview with Fortune, Barry revealed some of the details and thinking behind her team's recent decisions. In those lessons we find a brilliant combination of corporate strategy and emotional intelligence.
Here are just a few of the lessons for entrepreneurs and business owners.
As it became evident that more and more consumers were going to be working and learning from home, Barry says the company began to "double down" on stocking the products they would need to do so.
But how would they get those items to consumers, who were growing increasingly anxious about their safety?
In a very short time, Barry and her team decided to change their stores to an operating model of curbside pickup, which allowed consumers to order online or over the phone and then pick up their items without physically entering a store.
According to Barry, within a matter of 24 hours, employees were able to convert the front section of many stores to staging areas, to ready purchases for customer pickup.
Takeaway: As a business owner, it's tempting to get stuck in thoughts of the way things were pre-pandemic, or hoping that things get back to normal as soon as possible.
But the quicker you accept that the world has already changed, the quicker you can adjust your strategy and processes to fit current and future needs.
Listen to your people
Just because Best Buy was able to make changes quickly doesn't mean things went off without a hitch.
"It was a very heavy lift for the organization," says Barry. "We had only rolled out curbside at 200 stores. So, you can imagine the technology lift that was required, the training ... and the buy-in from our employees, the ability even just physically to make signs and tell people where to go and what to do."
So, how did the company get employees to buy in? The key, says Barry, was in trusting store managers and listening to their feedback.
"Every single one of [the general managers I spoke with] has a slightly different solution for how curbside works in their store," explains Barry. "And it works, because they all just flat out decided, that they will use the tools and their own knowledge in order to make it work."
As some stores begin to reopen, Barry says the feedback loop continues to be important: hearing from managers what's working, what's not working, and what tweaks can help.
Takeaway: Remember that your front-line employees are the ones who know their situation best. Make sure to speak with them when developing your strategy.
Then, after finalizing and providing direction, trust them to implement it in the best way possible for their circumstances.
The hardest decision Barry had to face so far in the pandemic? The need to furlough 51,000 employees. But even this decision was made with careful consideration.
For example, Barry explains, the company decided to pay employees for four weeks even though most of them were unable to work due to store closures. The idea was to provide employee pay as a bridge until the time the federal stimulus program kicked in.
Additionally, the company worked to provide a website and other tools to help employees figure out just how to navigate the process of filing for unemployment, as most of the 51,000 employees had never done so.
Barry also saw the importance of empathy when dealing with customers.
For example, as some Best Buy stores have begun moving to an appointment-only shopping model, company representatives would first make a call to the customer to set expectations for how the experience will work. The employee explains that the customer should bring a mask (or be provided with one upon arrival), and that they will be paired with an associate as they walk through the store--generally in one direction to keep social distancing.
"[The call] is to just set expectations across the board for how the experience will work," explains Barry. "Because we'd like to avoid any kind of 'in-the-moment' confrontations. The more everyone understands, the easier it is."
Takeaway: Remember, these are not normal circumstances--for you, or the customer.
As your policies and processes change, try to communicate these directly with your customer, and walk them through as much as you can. As you do, you'll build trust and encourage continued loyalty.
Regarding the future of retail, Barry still isn't sure exactly what it will look like.
But she is sure of what it won't look like:
"It doesn't look like you use yesterday's retail playbook to solve today's problems. I think instead you are going to see a combo of experiences that you as a customer can opt into."