Friday, 20 January 2012

By Bye Best Buy part 2

In late 2006 I and a few other broadband technicians in Talk Talk were taken in to a small room and shown several videos of a US organisation called Geek Squad. This showed a team of people that were passionate about customer services and who also loved technology. They dressed in white shirts, black clip on ties, black trousers and white socks and were about to join up with us to solve some of the problems our customers had.

What surprised Geek Squad in the US was how good we were technically and out of that team of broadband technicians came a group of 12. This 12 were to become the first ever Geek Squad agents in the UK. Eventually the team grew and grew and then we started taking on mobile phone problems for The Carphone Warehouse, then CPW rebranded their own Lifeline insurance policies and they became Geek Squad insurance policies, in my opinion this was the start of the dilution of the brand.

The Geek Squad agents were eager for the Americans to come over and let Geek Squad get on with what it did best, fix broken technology. Best Buy bought half of Carphone Warehouse and announced their intentions to take the UK market by storm. They would show the likes of PC World, Curry's and Comet what it was all about and become the biggest brand in Europe and possibly the world.

Then we waited and waited and eventually the first store opened and then the next and then came the Aintree store that I worked at. What was evident during the training was that the management wanted sales people that could cope with technology and the agents were taken on primarily as a differently dressed sales person diluting the brand and making them less effective. Other stores opened and then came Rotherham, the manager there wasn't interested in the Geek Squad philosophy or long term relationship building. Agents were there to sell products and services and if they had time, then maybe they could fix the odd thing or two as long as it didn't get in the way of selling and making sure the price tickets were correct.

11 stores were open by now and Best Buy had yet to make a profit in the UK, they tried with all sorts of price match promises and satisfaction guarantees and things started improving but too much time had elapsed before announcing they were coming into the UK and the opening of the first store. The competition had time to restructure and re-organise. Indeed if you went into the new Rotherham PC World and closed your eyes you would have sworn that you were in a Best Buy store.

Then came November and Best Buy announced that they were closing all the UK stores down and retreating back to the US, they hadn't in fact been driven out by the competition, the UK shareholders had caught cold feet over what they thought were huge losses but really weren't that big when startup costs were taken into account.

How they expected to run stores properly when they employed store managers that had no idea about technology and some that couldn't even send an email or use a fax machine I do not know. But they did and these managers in turn quite often employed some useless department managers. How, I asked,  can a person who has managed a DIY store or an underwear department manage a store that sells all the latest technology? The answer is of course that they couldn't

And so Best Buy come in like a lion and went out like a little frightened kitten, I hope that one day they will return and give the marketplace another shake up.

God knows it's needed.