case studies

aBt Helps Best Buy Exceed Customers’ Expectations

Electronics retailer Best Buy is acutely focused on serving customers’ needs. Witness its Customer Centricity initiative, whose goal is to maximize Best Buy’s customer segments. Best Buy extends its traditional retail model and gives customers the services they need, when and where they need them.

Jeff Robles, sourcing lead, wireless/transportation for Best Buy, notes, “As we grow in services, our communications needs are growing, too.”

Best Buy turned to alwaysBEthere for help with several projects whose goals were to improve staff efficiency, reduce costs and, ultimately, boost customer satisfaction to new heights. Following are some of those projects.

Keeping Installers in Touch
Best Buy employs a team of home theater installers. The installers need to stay connected while on the road by using wireless technology. But how does Best Buy make sure those devices will work reliably no matter where the installers roam? It employs aBt.

aBt engineered an online procurement process that allows Best Buy agents to quickly and accurately obtain the wireless devices and services needed to perform their jobs remotely. Each device, handset, PDA or wireless connection card, is routed through aBt, where aBt technicians ensure that all functionality works as planned.

Best Buy takes advantage of another aBt service: certification of wireless cards. aBt identifies the fixed components of Best Buy’s systems (e.g., laptop model, software, user profiles) and routinely evaluates solutions for their viability and relevance for Best Buy. “This material is then presented to Best Buy along with a proof of concept/trial proposal to validate assumptions and recommendations,” notes an aBt representative.

Additionally, aBt tests and installs software according to Best Buy’s specifications, upgrades firmware when needed, and bundles appropriate accessories the installers will need.

Pocket PCs for the Geek Squad
Like its home theater installers, Best Buy’s Geek Squad agents travel to customers’ sites, installing or resolving problems primarily with computer hardware and software.

Best Buy needed its Geek Squad agents to be in easy contact while on the road. The retailer turned to aBt, who determined that, the agents needed not only phone services, but also access to e-mail and text messages, Web sites, order forms, travel maps and other data. Geek Squad agents needed pocket PCs.

But with Geek Squad gurus spread throughout the country, how would Best Buy get the right technology into everyone’s hands all at the same time and in an organized manner, thereby making the migration from wireless phones to PDAs seamless and stress-free for busy and mobile agents? In short, how would the Geek Squad maintain business continuity during the technology change?

Robles turned once again to aBt, which he called “extremely responsive, professional and adept at what they do. They know exactly how we want a project to run, and they do that and then more.”

Several players were involved, including wireless network carriers, hardware and software manufacturers, and a consulting firm. aBt configured the pocket PCs to Best Buy’s specifications. The aBt team pre-loaded each of the 1,000-plus handheld devices with Web URLs, log-in credentials to Best Buy servers and the corporate intranet site, and other mission-critical data. Then aBt packaged and shipped the pocket PCs to hundreds of Geek Squad agents across the country, and it handled service calls.

Today, aBt gives ongoing support for the wireless devices used by Geek Squad personnel.

Robles says aBt’s involvement enabled Best Buy to step away from the tactical operations. “aBt managed the process and issues that cropped up. They were the point of contact for all facets of the rollout, including shipping, account codes, asset management and reporting. They took the pain away. That’s the key.”

Robles is so pleased with the project’s deployment that he plans to use it as a model for other major Best Buy programs. “We did the right thing by giving the work to aBt,” Robles explains. “We exceeded the expectations of the Geek Squad stakeholders.”

Ongoing Projects
Indeed, Best Buy continues to work with aBt on additional projects:

  • Embedded modems. aBt, working with Accenture, tests embedded modems and certifies connection manager software on Best Buy laptops. Since the retailer’s laptops use custom software images, new hardware and software must be tested and certified to ensure compatibility. The certification process must ensure that the hardware and software allow Internet users access to crucial online data and documents, such as technical manuals, customer relationship management databases, technology schematics, route maps and electronic timecards. aBt participates in the hardware recommendation and software certification tasks.

    An aBt manager says this project allows Best Buy to create a process that fits its needs rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach offered by the major cellular phone carriers.

  • Integrated Messaging Project. This project’s goal was to test an integrated, real-time IT alerting system that leveraged Best Buy’s existing corporate assets (e.g., Blackberries, communication server, flip phones) with new solutions such as a PDA server and client application. The system is meant to replace Best Buy agents’ pagers, reduce corporate monthly costs and improve support logistics.

  • Wireless integration of in-store customer service phones. A customer can enter a store, pick up a normal customer service phone and be instantly connected to a support line. While many retailers offer this service, Best Buy wanted to streamline the call process, gain flexibility in where the phones were placed in the stores, and reduce costs for the service. Once again it turned to aBt that, for this project, recommended and sourced the hardware behind the customer service phone and makes it work on wireless connections instead of over a local phone company wire. By replacing the land line circuit with a wireless connection, Best Buy saves on monthly charges and gains flexibility in installation lead times and store placement.

    Says Robles, “When we give a project to aBt, we just don’t worry about the job anymore.”

    aBt Chairman Doug Carey is pleased with his firm’s service and support of Best Buy’s Customer Centricity initiatives. “Many companies can engineer a way to do something. But at aBt, we right-fit with minimal changes to the specifications that were set by the customer or its vendors. That’s why our solutions get done and get done quickly.”

    Carey calls aBt the “enabling component” that continually allows Best Buy to achieve unusual and unprecedented goals. And by reaching those goals, Best Buy is extending its classic retail model to encompass a new retail dynamic: deliver exactly what customers need when and where they need it.

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