The “Geek Squad”, eh? Okie dokie.
For those who aren’t as familiar with what the Geek Squad is, it’s Best Buy’s “in-house” IT support team. Surely you know who Best Buy is, the massive electronics retailer that’s more or less dominated the consumer electronics market. Seeing as almost all consumer electronics are designed to fail, and with technology moving at breakneck speeds, it’s no surprise that a predominantly overwhelming amount of the population simply doesn’t know where to start to get anything tech related fixed. The first instinct would be to take said item back to the store you bought it from. The friendly associate directs you to the “Geek Squad” counter nestled into the back of the store. This isn’t by chance, but by design.
Back of the store you say? That’s where the “real” tech stuff goes down, you think to yourself. That’s where the “fixes” happen. The repair center. Always. Back of store. So, off you go to talk to these geeks all decked out in button up shirts and black pants. They’ll listen to you explain the problem, take a quick look at whatever device it is, and almost certainly tell you one of two things. (A) “We’re going to need to take a look at it further, drop it off and we’ll give you a call”, or (B) “We don’t deal with ___”. Ideally you want option B, seeing as they don’t have a chance to fleece you like a sheep in the spring. Option A is likely where you’re going to end up if it’s anything computer related. You leave your trusty computer and head home only to get a call the next day. I suspect it’ll go something like “We’ve taken a look and our technicians have determined that you need to replace [expensive component]” or “we’ve run a full diagnostic and we need to clean your machine with [whatever virus scanner here] which will require a [x year] subscription for maintenance and updates”, or at least something along those lines. Not knowing any better, you shell out.
At least these guys know a _bit_ when it comes to computers. But if you were to ask them to tech out your WiFi, network printers, or at absolute worst, your network & Internet – they’re not only going to screw it up, they’re apt to tell you that your current setup isn’t any good, and will proceed to sell you on whatever system Best Buy is currently selling. When it comes to networks, I’ve seen sheer lunacy. In one case, I had a client who had a Cisco corporate grade network worth upwards of $5000 completely ripped out and replaced with consumer grade Netgear trash. Why? Because their WiFi signal wasn’t very strong in one part of their office. Replaced with consumer grade crap. Not only could this problem have easily been solved by installing another access point in the problematic area, but they didn’t even half-ass the solution by suggesting a repeater or something equally as moronic. Instead, because they didn’t understand -anything-, they suggested the client rip out what they had, and simply buy this “top of the line” wireless router. Spoiler : It made the problem considerably worse.
A particular interaction with these people really drove home my belief that they’re nothing more than a bunch of entry level employees with no knowledge of technology, advising on technology. It’s like taking your car that’s making a funny noise to your accountant and asking them if they can take a look. So, I stroll into the local best buy one day in a pinch. I was looking for a PoE injector, basically a little box that puts some voltage over your network cable to power things like cameras, phones, and things like that. I search the shelves and come up with nothing. Naturally I ask a sales person and they haven’t the slightest clue, only to direct me to the Geek Squad. Fair enough, I talk to the first person at the desk and they are completely confused as to what I’m asking for. He calls over his buddy who says “Oh! Like, a hub?”. “No, not a hub. I’d be shocked if you even sold hubs anymore”.. I proceed to explain.. “It’s typically a small box with a power input, an ethernet input, and an ethernet output. It provides power on your ethernet cable to power phones, and cameras, and things like that”. He leads me over to where there’s power line adaptors. Not a bad guess, but completely the wrong item. He insists it’s not and that I’m the one who’s confused. I continue to explain. He brings over his manager who then tells me “I don’t think they make those anymore”. I pull open a few Amazon listings for them, and they’re perplexed as to what this crazy contraption is. It’s clear they don’t have them, or if they did, I sure as heck would need to find it myself. The point of the story is to say that any pee-wee network kid would know what one of these things is in an instant. Going back to the car & accountant metaphor, it would be as simple as knowing where your radiator in your car is. You’d sure hope your mechanic not only knew where to find it on your car, but actually realized it was a part of your car. In this case, the mechanic couldn’t even identify where the engine in the car was, but more or less was suggesting I change out my tires, when what I was asking for was a new radiator. Yikes.
Anyone who’s taken even an entry level course in marketing can see the genius behind it all. The Geek Squad isn’t catering to people who are already technically inclined. They’re aiming directly for the everyday consumer who just wants their stuff to work. When they think of a geek, they think of a person in khakis, a button up shirt, and a tool belt that is sure to include things like a cellphone that clips in, or most certainly an ID badge on one of those batman tools. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s _just_ the look they’re sporting. They stand out in a store of blue and white, they’re wearing nice contrasting vibrant orange and black. A dedicated booth, and a “service area” behind plexi-glass. It looks professional! Heck, there’s even flashy advertising videos which (by default) must contain some edgy hard rock licks in the background soundtrack if only to be talked over with cheery mission statements and employees that just seem -way- too happy with their job. Seems pretty bad-ass doesn’t it. That’s what they want you to think.
Well, typically I’d say no. It’s easy for me to say that as a super small business who doesn’t have the marketing budget to buy a radio commercial on college radio at 4:00am. And, if you look at it, if I was shell out big and buy a whole host of Facebook Ads, and run TV commercials, I don’t have the manpower to handle that influx of clients. Regardless, it’s never been my strategy to lie to clients. Even in my days doing front line tech support for a nationwide Internet provider. While most techs would dismiss a problem as “it’s an issue with your computer” or if it was a proven issue with the service provided they’d suggest the customer upgrade their service. It’s a quick and easy way to dump calls off and keep your metrics up, but an excellent way to make customers hate your company. Instead, I’d usually take the time to walk them through the problem, ask questions, and almost never try and upsell them. It’s a bad look. Plus, as much as people may not like to hear it, the truth is far easier to stomach, as at least you know what you’re actually dealing with – and that’s going to save you time. What’s your time worth?
That’s up to you. However, there’s countless examples of Geek Squad just failing at any given opportunity. Investigative news has found this is hardly an isolated issue. Why don’t you look at this one from EyeWitness 5 News Minnesota, or Fox News 12. Then of course you can always give me a call and I’ll always give you a free estimate at the very least. Knowledge transfer is sexy, and it’s what’s going to help us move forward together, as opposed to charging for the simplest of things, or worse yet, charging for false information because there’s a chance to do so.
Don’t forget, there’s always the question of keeping things local. What’s it worth to you to keep your money in your own community? When you spend money at Geek Squad (BestBuy), the profits not only go to some big corporate USA headquarters, but they also go to countries beyond. Bye bye money, and hello lining the pockets of overpaid executives and share holders! Hey, they need to keep the lights on in those massive warehouses and pay the exorbitant taxes somehow, right? So, when it costs you thousands of dollars an hour to operate, you best believe there be some way to pay that off. All the usual plays are there. Overcharging, misdiagnosis, upselling, and my personal favorite, downselling; where you are so incompetent with the problem, you end up selling the customer on a grossly inferior product and/or service.
Great question, and I’ll be upfront. I’m not the guy to fix everything for you. I’m really awesome at some stuff, but horrible at others. The thing is, I’ve got a network of really awesome people who can do the things I can’t. I’d love to talk to you about your problem. There’s a chance I can help, but if I can’t, I can point you in the right direction at no cost. I’m just going to tell you the truth because I have no vested interest in appeasing my millions of stock owners. I don’t even have any, unless you count my mom who always told me she believed in me (she’s yet to invest real money, however). Still don’t trust me? That’s fine too, but I would urge you to call any one of the local shops and services over GeekSquad or BestBuy. We are going to care, and we’re going to do it right. Our reputation is all we have, and we will always protect that.