Best Buy Geek Squad Shifts From Tech Repair to Relationships

Best Buy Geek Squad Shifts From Tech Repair to Relationships

The Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) Geek Squad team has signed its first channel partners. But the bigger Geek Squad news comes from interim Best Buy CEO Mike Mikan. During an earnings call this week, Mikan said Best Buy is shifting Geek Squad from a technology "repair" mindset to a customer "relationship" mindset. The big question: Can a Big Box Retailer actually build deep customer relationships in the technology market? To find an answer keep an eye on senior citizens. Here's why.

According to the Best Buy earnings call transcript, Mikan said:

"The strength of our employee base sets Best Buy apart from its competitors. A great example of where we are already asserting relevance can be seen in the new store model we are in the process of unveiling. We expect the Blue Shirts and Geek Squad agents who will staff those stores will speak with authority about technology. Their mandate will be to shift the customer expectation from repair, our traditional Geek Squad offering, to one of relationship."
Already, Best Buy is striving to ensure Geek Squad builds relationships with key market segments. And the segments can vary widely -- ranging from senior citizens to channel partners.

Indeed, Best Buy has launched a program that lets millions of AARP (American Association of Retired People) members access Geek Squad services. The subscription model (translation: recurring revenues for Best Buy) allows AARP members to get IT support via phone, on-line and in-store service.

Meanwhile, Geek Squad has also signed its first four channel partners -- Network Solutions Provider, Carrier Access Inc., Access Media 3, and MACH 4. The Geek Squad Partner Program launched earlier this year. It's designed to give channel partners 24x7 support services for end customers.

Elsewhere, Best Buy did not mention mindSHIFT -- a managed services provider and cloud services provider -- during the May 22, 2012, earnings call. mindSHIFT, acquired last year, could be a key piece of Best Buy's business overhaul strategy. The big box retailer has faced competitive pressures and executive changes in recent months.

For the three-months ended May 5, 2012, Best Buy said GAAP net earnings were $161 million, down from $255 million in the corresponding quarter last year. The company has hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to identify internal and external CEO candidates. Mikan shifted into the interim CEO post after former Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn resigned in April amid "personal conduct" issues.
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