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Services, Market Intelligence Are Best Buy’s Not-So-Secret Sauce


Best Buy’s special forces equivalents,
Geek Squad and its customer insights group, play
a critical role in differentiating the company from online
competitors while keeping it relevant to a new generation
of consumers.

Geek Squad was an offbeat Twin Cities IT firm when
it was acquired in 2002 from current chief technology
officer Robert Stephens. Since then the business has
mushroomed into a 20,000-strong national in-house
tech force that has provided tens of millions of customers
with a wide assortment of high-margin repair, installation
and support services ranging from virus scans and wallmount
installs to TV calibration and whole-home control.

“It’s such a differentiator for us,” said services senior
VP George Sherman. “You can buy a TV online, but you
can’t get that level of service.”

Mirroring Best Buy’s sales
channels, Geek Squad “agents”
are available to consumers in
stores, online, on the phone and
in their homes, creating customers
for life with “make-it moments” like recovering lost
data from a hard drive or getting a TV to connect to
multiple components. “There’s a real ‘wow’ factor,”
Sherman said.

Best Buy is further cementing its bonds with customers
by moving its software service offerings for PCs,
Macs and tablets from an a la carte menu to oneand
two-year subscription “memberships”
that provide unlimited around-theclock,
multichannel tech support.
The sale, which is generally
made up front with
the hardware purchase,
encourages frequent visits
to the store and, like instore
pickups of online orders,
provides additional opportunities for engagement.

Sherman said attachment rates for the service subscriptions
have exceeded aggressive forecasts by as
much as a factor of four, and the company is eager to
extend the offer to mobile and home theater.

Looking ahead, Sherman expects his agents will be
busier than ever as more become
cross-trained to address connected
products and systems, and
demand grows in such emerging
sectors as home health monitoring,
electronic medical records,
energy management, security and Cloud services.

Meanwhile, helping to discern market trends and consumer
needs — often before shoppers are cognizant of
them — is Best Buy’s customer insights unit (CIU), headed
by former CIA intelligence officer Bill Hoffman. The
operation uses surveys and focus groups, and monitors
forums, social networks and other
online commentary, to gauge
customer satisfaction, understand
brands, track the effectiveness
of promotions, prepare
for new launches, and develop
insights and actionable strategies for the company’s various
business units.

One of the newest applications in CIU’s toolbox is the
“voice of consumer through employee,” or VOCE. Headed
by CIU senior director Steve Wallin, the program is
built upon an intranet widget that allows store-level employees
to share any suggestions or insights gleaned
from their interaction with customers.

Launched last year, VOCE is now collecting about
10,000 comments a week across the chain. Store managers
can access feedback in real time and implement
changes on the fly, which empowers employees while
improving service. Best Buy also monitors Blue Shirts’
observations on a corporate level for potential initiatives
than can be supported on a national scale.

“Our job,” Wallin said, “is to help the organization be as
aware as possible of consumer preferences, their use of
technology and where we need to be.”