The Richmond, Va.-based retailer introduced firedog vehicles and uniformed personnel at Circuit City Superstores in September, and just broke widespread newspaper advertising for the service.
Broadcast is scheduled to begin shortly. The firedog service is available at more than 600 Circuit City superstores around the country, but will only provide home theater installations within 25 miles of stores. Consumers with high-speed Internet connections will also have access to a 24-hour technical assistance line for PCs.
Circuit City's offering is very similar to the Geek Squad, the service provided by rival Best Buy, and hits upon a consumer need that can have a ripple effect on retailers. Earlier this year, a European study found that about half the electronics products returned to stores work just fine, except that consumers can't figure them out. It also found that the average consumer would struggle for only 20 minutes with an electronics purchase before giving up.
Right now, the service market is highly fragmented, and dominated by local computer repair companies (not to mention know-it-all grade-schoolers and meddling brothers-in-law.) But Circuit City "believes that by 2010, U.S. consumers will spend $20 billion per year on PC services, home theater installation and integration of home electronics," said Jackie Foreman, a spokeswoman for Circuit City. Prices and services vary widely, and include both house calls and drop-offs. Home theater installation packages range from $170 to $550, for example. But firedog can also get rid of the viruses clogging your laptop, make sure the kids' video games are optimally configured, and, finally, show you how to make both the digital camera and the MP3 player work on your PC.
The company chose "firedog" after testing more than 6,000 names, she said. "We realized that consumers were craving technicians that were helpful, friendly, knowledgeable and reliable," she said.