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Best Buy For Business Partners With Independent Solution Providers

Minneapolis — Best Buy’s Best Buy for Business division is finishing up a trial next week of a program that Chris Mauzy, director of business for Best Buy for Business, said is being designed to build a “collaborative selling environment” between Best Buy and local independent A/V and IT solution providers nationwide.

The not-yet-named program is said to have been developed as a way for Best Buy to build relationships with small- and medium-business customers to whom it couldn’t always effectively cater in the past. As Mauzy clarified, Best Buy is hoping to expand its reach beyond areas where the big-box retailer has physical stores so that it can adequately provide, through its independent partners, the complex services required by business customers.

Mauzy told TWICE that the company is leveraging a partner network comprised of 10,900 A/V and IT service providers during the 60-day trial period. He said that once the trial is complete, the company will evaluate it and determine whether or not to continue with and expand it.

Though Best Buy already has an internal service arm, Geek Squad, Mauzy explained that the company decided to engage outside partners for this side of its business because the needs of these business customers rarely fall in the consumer-focused Geek Squad’s “sweet spot.” He said that an attempt to adjust Geek Squad to cater to this side of the business would be less effective in the long run because “there would always be white spaces … areas of the country where we wouldn’t be able to invest in labor or areas with less-dense population.” He added that “a lot of our biggest wins in the pilot that we’re working on have been in areas like Sisters, Ore.,” which has a much smaller population than Best Buy can normally reach.

“Frankly, when you get into business needs, some companies need services such that we can’t cover,” Mauzy said. “Leveraging experts in the channel that focus on these segments of the business have provided us with a lot of opportunities that we could not address in the past. Systems such as a large VoIP business setup just aren’t the focus of Geek Squad.”

While Mauzy said it was too early to tell if the program would definitely continue beyond the pilot phase, he did say that the partnerships have “worked well so far” and later added that “if we could continue on the successes that we’ve had thus far, it would be a very important part of our business.”

Mauzy said that many of the service providers will be attracted to the program due to the retailer’s intention to provide them with business tools “that small businesses wouldn’t have access to normally,” such as a yet-to-be-developed online portal that a Best Buy spokesperson said “would function as an online collaboration-of-business development site.” Mauzy said that the partners can feel free to use the information they gain from these tools when working with customers outside of their Best Buy partnerships.

According to Mauzy, Best Buy has employed an independent third party, OnForce, to act as an aggregator in order to distribute Best Buy’s leads to its local partners.

He said the program is working with a “co-management” strategy: Best Buy will provide the product for the installation, and the local partner will set up the desired system and will handle any servicing issues down the line.

“At the end of the day, if we pass a lead [to a partner], we own the customer but we co-manage the customer relationship. It means a lot to a customer to have a ‘my guy/my gal’ customer experience. If something goes wrong, they don’t want a different person showing up every time. If there’s a problem, they call Best Buy and then we dispatch the same [local] guy to the customer to fix the problem,” he said.

Mauzy said that in order to ensure quality, Best Buy’s partners must meet certain requirements regarding “quality of service, certification, training and service incentives.” He also said Best Buy plans to provide internal trainings for the partners.

Mauzy explained that as far as the customer is concerned, the local provider who serves them is “an agent for Best Buy for Business … they represent their own business, who is working as a partner for Best Buy for Business.”

In addition to its external partnership plans, Best Buy is also introducing a series of business-customer-oriented initiatives within its stores. The retailer’s plans to improve the business customer’s shopping experience include a new product-labeling system designed to identify business-grade products, training specially selected store employees to assist business customers and extending its Best Buy for Business Reward Zone program.