My Day With The Geek Squad -- Or, A Story Of Two Channels

At some point during the one-mile caravan ride to Best Buy featuring my Mazda minivan and a Geek Squad Beetle, I thought to myself: “Wow, this Twitter thing is entirely awesome – and phones are increasingly useless.”

It was just before Christmas, and the morning after the Geek Squad was supposed to come to my house to mount a new flat-screen TV and the xBox in our newly renovated basement. (Even if you’re tech-savvy, it’s important to know your limitations; a Social Media Insider I may allegedly be, but a media-center installer I am not.) I was coming off a long evening spent staring periodically at the email that absolutely confirmed that the Geek Squad would show up between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., an evening punctuated -- with increasing urgency and frequency -- by the same plaintive question from the 14-year-old and the eight-year-old: “When are they getting here?”

As the clock struck 7:30 p.m., I called customer service; I would be getting a call from the Geek Squad in a few minutes, I was told. The call never came. I called again, at some point talking to someone in such a faraway place that it only served to mock the fact that I was trying to get someone to come from a Best Buy/Geek Squad outpost that was but a mile away. I called the store; the woman who answered the phone informed me that tracking down Geek Squads was not handled there, even though that’s where I’d set up my appointment. And no one had an explanation for why the Geek Squad had gone rogue.

However, because my social media gig has taught me that Best Buy knows a thing or two about Twitter, I did one more thing that’s probably obvious to anyone who reads this column: I tweeted out to @geeksquad and @bestbuy. You know what happened, don’t you? Later that night, after the kids had been put to bed with distressing visions of unconnected flat-screen TVs dancing in their heads, @agent3012 got in touch with the social media team’s email address. The next morning, within ten minutes of sending them an email, the phone rang. It was the Geek Squad, calling from one of their, well, squad cars. They were on there way over.

Only minutes after that, three Geek Squad members, outfitted in Geek Squad gear down to their booties – yes, they wear booties when they enter your house! – were standing in my basement. In fact, I was such a VIP that both a van and the Beetle had been dispatched to my house. (Upon further review, I guess a 46” TV wouldn’t fit in a Beetle.)

After assessing the task at hand, Geek #1 determined that Best Buy should have sold me a wall mount and a few cables – which is when we launched our caravan. We were going shopping! (Side note: To the extent I have ever imagined myself engaging the services of a personal shopper, I had always figured the mission would be to transform me from a jeans-and-sneakers-attired, work-from-home Mom into a red-carpet-ready seductress. Instead, Geek #1 loaded my cart with HDMI cables, a wall mount, and a surge protector. Story of my life.)

But back to our tale of bad customer service gone great. As we prepared to check out in the line reserved only for now-special customers like me, Geek #1 leaped above and beyond the call of duty. He walked up to the store manager, explained that I’d been inconvenienced, and negotiated a discount. Back home, the Squad finished the job in about 45 minutes, periodically seating me on the couch opposite the TV to judge viewing angles. And then, like that, they were gone. I wrote an appreciative @geeksquad tweet and got on with the task of calling Cablevision, the next step in the byzantine media center installation process.

I tell this story for several reasons. One, because what’s more fun than writing about me! But also because, as great as the Geek Squad responsiveness was on Twitter, it’s confounding that the phone channel – the one that most of us still use – was so entirely lacking. All told, I called customer service four times in about 12 hours, and never got an appointment scheduled, an explanation, or a call back when it was promised. (I did get a gift certificate.) It seemed as if I were dealing with two different companies, one where the customer service people were empowered and passionate, and one where they were not.

Such service imbalances between different channels shouldn’t exist, but I’m going to speculate that among other issues, the phone channel is overburdened, while Twitter is primarily used by those with inside knowledge of how effective it is. Not surprisingly, my so-called confirmation email promotes the customer service phone number and doesn’t even mention Twitter. Talk about imbalance.

The fact is that many people wouldn’t even know how to use Twitter in a similar situation. They would need to be led by the hand to what is so obviously a more useful channel when it comes to Best Buy. I was recounting this story to a neighbor the other night. And, she – no slouch when it comes to gadgets – admitted that she wouldn’t even know how to use Twitter to get someone’s attention. As addicted as many of us are to it, for many, it’s not a mainstream channel in any way.

The part of me that gleefully wallowed in my Twitter triumph would like it to stay that way, nice and exclusive, on call when I need it. But the part of me that knows how crucial customer service is to creating a great brand is troubled by how disparate my phone and Twitter experiences were. On balance, I was tremendously pleased with how my day with the Geek Squad turned out, but for every one of me, there are dozens of people like my neighbor, who may still be calling customer service and wondering if the term is an oxymoron, meanwhile leaving the reputations of Best Buy and the Geek Squad twisting in the wind.

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4 comments about "My Day With The Geek Squad -- Or, A Story Of Two Channels".
  1. Bill Common from Jun Group , January 10, 2013 at 3 p.m.
    The Geeks came to my house late December to install a new Samsung Smart TV. The two guys plugged it in and then stood there like they were from Tajikistan offering zero insight or help how to operate the new system. With the financial trouble Best Buy is experiencing, I'd be surprised if this service is even around in 6 months...not that it would be missed.
  2. Ronald Stack from Zavee LLC , January 10, 2013 at 3:39 p.m.
    I have had far better responsiveness from Comcast on Twitter (I believe @comcastcares was the first Twitter feed for customer service) than on the phone. The difference is amazing. And frustrating.
  3. Steven Grantz from ExactTarget , January 12, 2013 at 8:04 a.m.
    Yes the two channels are different. Two reasons. Phone service centers have been around for years, and optimized as much as possible. Not the best experience for you as a result. Social media engagement has not been studied yet. The emphasis is still on service and not cost. And cost may never be the emphasis for the second reason: openness. Your social media service inquiry is completely public. If customer service phone calls were broadcast, and a search for Best Buy had a top result of a mom at Christmas calling to say "hi, I had an appointment and called four times and no one is here or returned my calls"...well, the telephone channel might feel more like social media.
  4. Kenneth Hittel from Ken Hittel , January 13, 2013 at 1:43 p.m.
    So, how did the engagement w/ Cablevision go?