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Does Geek Squad give a good or bad impression of IT consultants?

Quite a few people don't deal with IT people directly in their line of work. Instead, they do so only when they have problems with technology we provide. Others only experience IT through customer support channels like Geek Squad. Does Geek Squad give a good impression or bad impression of IT?
Quite a few people don't deal with IT people directly in their line of work. Instead, they do so only when they have problems with the technology we provide. Others experience IT only through customer support channels like Geek Squad. Does Geek Squad give a good impression or bad impression of IT?

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You've probably seen the black-and-white VW Beetles running around. If you've purchased anything from Best Buy, you've probably encountered and possibly used them as well. They're the folks from Geek Squad.

The video above is from TechRepublic's big brother 60 Minutes and features the consumer side of tech support, specifically Geek Squad. It also mentions the increasing complexity of technology and the need for "geeks" to help fix the problem.

As IT people, we're often labeled "geeks" or "nerds," but Geek Squad has turned a stereotype into a brand. As their popularity has grown, their image sometimes seems to lap back over into the IT profession as whole. I'm wondering if that's a good thing and what we can do about it.

Let's go to the video

This 60 Minutes piece talks quite a bit about help desk support in general, focusing not only on Geek Squad but also on Indian help desks and the calls that go to the kids of friends and neighbors. It also talks about the cottage industries that have popped up around tech support.

As a moonlighting computer consultant, I probably fall into that area. Even though I don't have celebrity customers who pay six digits to install home theater systems like Geek To The Stars Paul Austin, I do have a base of individuals and businesses that are good for some spare change and keep me current in the technical field.

Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens has built a large empire around the geek image. As he says, his business plan was around creating a self-effacing tech support person who was friendly and humble. His goal is to create a tech support person who is "nice and fixes it." Plus he tosses in the bit about having proper hygiene behind the white shirt and black tie.

Along those lines, one interesting statistic in the video is a survey that Steve Kroft mentions which says that 29% of people who make tech support calls swear at the support person. Another 21% wind up screaming. Although I've never dealt with that with a customer, I know people who have worked tech support for Comcast in town and have had that experience.

As the piece discusses, sometimes the problems is poor documentation. With more companies outsourcing production overseas, a lot can get lost in translation. Although certainly the manufacturer's grasp of English is better than my Mandarin, you're probably more than familiar with how much can be wrong or confusing in manuals.

One of the funniest bits in the video is toward the end. Dr. Donald Norman, a professor at Northwestern and cocreator of the HDTV standards, admits that he has problems setting up hardware sometimes. He says:

Someone complained to me: "You'd need to have an engineering degree from MIT to work those damn things."

Well, I have an engineering degree from MIT. And I couldn't work them.

He then goes on to mention the problem that we're all too familiar with in IT: Function Creep.

Whither Geek Squad?

Having dealt with Geek Squad before, I wonder sometimes how successful Stephen's business plan of nice, clean, friendly techs who know how "fix it" is. Quite often, I have had to go behind other techs like Geek Squadders, often cleaning up their messes and talking customers down off a ledge.

I can see the usefulness for people who are completely illiterate when it comes to technology, but more often than not I find the Geeks only marginally literate themselves. Perhaps it's the proof of the old saying that in the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king.

Occasionally they do come across as friendly. I have noticed, however, a touch of arrogance if you display a modicum of tech savvy and try to get them off the habit of talking down to you about technology. Although this has more to do with anecdotal incidents with individual Squadders, I wonder how they are overall.

It seems like the vast majority of the Geek Squadders I've encountered are high school or college kids. There is a Geek Squad repair facility, Geek Squad City, located just south of Louisville, that employs quite a few college students. This may be part of the problem, at least from my aspect. They are just kids and aren't used to doing proper tech support. Nor are they used to dealing with someone at their same level or above.

Certainly partnering with Best Buy shows the success of the business plan. And the ubiquitous and immediately recognizable VW Beetles show the success as well. I just wonder whether the branding and image bleeds over and affects IT consultants and support professionals.

It seems like we fight the geek and nerd image quite a bit, and here you have a company that enforces and trades off the stereotype. Combine that with pricey service rates and service that is sometimes lackluster, it makes things difficult when you try to sell your own services.

43 comments
Gordon Gordon
Gordon Gordon

GS & IT professionals? The words should never be used together.

cbader
cbader

I spent a month at a Mom and Pop store that used to farm some extra work out to GS from time to time, they thought they actually did a good job for some reason. In the month I worked there I never got a good reliable computer, I was always given computers that had been abandoned by customers, so I ended up going through a computer a week give or take. The last computer I built only had 256MB of RAM if I remember right, so after I installed Windows and got everything set up I put more RAM in the computer. I have a feeling it wouldnt be compatible, but I tried it anyway. The next day I come in and the lead tech is reinstalling Windows on my computer, I asked him what he was doing and he said the RAM I put in wasnt compatible and had corrupted the System32 folder so he had to reinstall. How in the blue hell can the System32 folder get corrupted if the computer fails POST? Needless to say I left shortly after that.

thezar
thezar

I was contracted to work at a Best Buy on a couple of things in-house. The Squad stayed out of the way, but whether they were avoiding me or just busy I don't know. I was just intrigued that they would call in an outsider to check out the equipment that GS works on all the time!?!?

lastchip
lastchip

we have something called the Tech Guys, a sub branch of our most prolific computer retailer; PC World. Some while ago, just for a laugh, I wandered in my local branch and casually asked the sales assistant; "which of the many displayed printers would work with Linux?" All credit to him, he gave me an immediate and honest reply; "I'm terribly sorry Sir, I've never been asked that question. I will go and find out and come back and let you know." So far, so good. The guy had given me an honest answer, told me what he was going to do and what I could expect - full marks. He went over to the Tech Guys and soon came back with the response. "I'm sorry Sir, the only printers that work with Linux are 'dot matrix' and we don't have any of those in stock." I thanked him for his time (after all, he had done nothing wrong) and left the store. I'll leave you to work out the quality of advice from the 'experts' that call themselves: Tech Guys!

wanman_2
wanman_2

They are under qualified tech newbies who show that arrogance and ignorance are a deadly combination. I have had to clean up one of their messes before, but I guess they are a tad bit better than some remote call center where the techs barely can speak english

Tig2
Tig2

I am an IT professional. That means that I don't get the stereotype bias and can just get on with fixing the problems. I have used Geek Squad for home theater installation. They were remarkably good for that. I was quite impressed by my local group. Having said that, I believe that their TV techs are actually from Magnolia and are only deployed by Geek Squad. I don't think that I actually know anyone who has had a positive experience with their computer techs. That is really kind of sad but as many have mentioned, it keeps me in sock money.

PRIMEREBEL
PRIMEREBEL

It's broken, the Geek Squad breaks it more and charges hundreds, then I fix it, teach the customer how to keep it working, and charge $40.

jsaubert
jsaubert

Geek Squad like many other tech help places are only as good at the technicians you come into contact with. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they make you want to gouge your eye out with a spork. Take my local Best Buy ... one of the Squad is wonderful he know's his stuff and is calm with the costumers, another is a great tech but he's a jerk, the rest are mediocre at best. You get the same thing with Mom n Pop places to so it's nothing against the Geek Squad. It all depends on how good that particular store is and how desperate they are for techs that will work.

mjbdiver
mjbdiver

A few years ago I tried to get a job with the Geek Squad. I was out of work and needed something to keep me afloat. After my application was reviewed, I was informed that I was actually overqualified as I had an AA degree and 10 years experience in computers. That forever changed my perception of who those guys really are. Personally I think the Geek Squad is an improvisational sketch comedy team with their silly costumes and their nerdy persona. I won't go to them for my computer needs. Would you trust your computer to someone still in high school? I rest my case.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

It isn't bad if it's all you can get and your requirements are simple. It's presence doesn't help or hurt the image or business of more sophisticated establishments that cater to a more knowledgeable customer with requirements beyond the bare basics.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Some are good, others are wasted space. I have noticed that the vast majority of the Geek Squad techs I have spoken with appear to hold their customers in, if not contempt, at least disdain. Leads, in my mind, to lousy customer service skills.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

I found a video from 60 Minutes that discusses the problem of increasingly complex technology and some of the solutions to it. Featured highly in the video is Geek Squad. You can see it on Decision Central: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/decisioncentral/?p=167 It brought the question to my mind about all of those folks in the black and white VW Beetles. Doing computer consulting of my own, and having dealt with them at Best Buy, I don't think they always create the best impression. Am I wrong? What's your experience with Geek Squad and do you think they help or hurt the image of the IT professional and IT consultant?

newsplan1
newsplan1

I've heard that Best Buy deliberately dumbed down the GS. BB moved the GS into sales staff category. It didn't matter if their GS people were as dumb as stumps as long as they could mislead customers into paying for uneeded repairs and parts. GS once sent out a promotional photo of their ultra high-tech lab. It showed a GS staring at an oscilloscope while reaching for what looked like a Radio Shack soldering iron. Amazing!

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Most retailers do not allow store workers to perform direct maintenance on local data equipment. They see it as a conflict of interest.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Everybody knows that only dot matri[u]X[/u] printers will work with Linu[u]X[/u]. It's the [u]X[/u] that did it, you know...

Joe-Swanson
Joe-Swanson

Some rare people, God love 'em, like working with desktops. Some people want to become the manager of the desktop support group. Everyone else wants to get as far away from the end user as possible. Pretty much anyone who didn't start out as a programmer has done time on the help desk, but after putting in the hours we move on to server or network.

Betageek52
Betageek52

and I wouldn't apply for a job with the GS if they BEGGED me to...

---TK---
---TK---

I take a quote from Geek Squad add it to FireDog's quote, divide it in half, and split in half again. And thats what I charge, Depending on the job.... Upgrading RAM is a different story though I charge next to nothing if the PC is brought to me.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

Same thing happened to me in Fort Myers It took some prodding to find out why, but they took one look at my BS degree and 3 years in computers and showed me the door.

jeff
jeff

Around here they are so inept and overpriced that I generally tell a caller who is concerned about my charges that they should call the Geeks and then call me back to fix what they've done. Almost always I get a call back to come and fix the problems.

wanttocancel
wanttocancel

Many of GS don't have good customer service skills which is vital in Tech Support.

jeffo
jeffo

I helped a lady set up her notebook for wireless. GS had sold her a decent laptop running Windows Vista, a good broadband card, and a firewall program and an antivirus program which were not compatible with Vista- an extra $100 she did not need to spend. It toome 30 minutes to get her wireless card setup- they also provided no instructions nor apparently did they offer any! SHe was able to return the software, but I had to spend some time explaining why it would not work before she would take it back. Taking advantage of the uninformed to this degree is bad press for all us who provide support.

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

Excellent video - a lot more realistic! Marketplace Video

sperry532
sperry532

When Geek Squad was first formed, it was highly skilled techs and good customer service. The management was deeply concerned about both skillsets and customer service. During the early years, I took in my locked-up laptop. I had it back in 24 hours with the several problems fixed and an explanation of what was done and how to avoid problems in the future. The tech was polite and considerate. When Best Buy bought the Squad, they needed to staff a lot of stores and didn't seem to be able to find techs of the same caliber. I took in a different laptop with a different problem. After a week of calls with no response other than "we're still looking at it", I was finally told they couldn't deal with the problem. I took it to a small, private company that had the problem diagnosed, fixed, and the computer returned in 48 hours. They were very friendly as well, unlike the BBGS "agent" I had to deal with. The Best Buy Geek Squad is good with simple problems, but don't seem to be able to handle the more complex problems that businesses sometimes have. IMHO & YMMV

aathey
aathey

I worked for Geek Squad at the beginning of my IT career, and I found that the quality of GS service for any one customer depended on the caliber of staff. My first store had a weak crew at first, and we saw all the problems listed here (awful turn-time, shaky service, etc). After a skilled supervisor revamped the department, however, the situation vastly improved. I followed in that man's footsteps and took on leadership of a different store's Geek Squad. After some months of hiring good talent and getting them up to speed, we got our turn-time to 24-48 hours, dramatically reduced customer issues, and started racking up positive feedback. Not to mention sales...good service definitely helped retention levels. After I jumped from that to network administration (gatekeeper job indeed), I kept in touch with my old crew. By the time the last of them had left the store, a string of weak leaders had turned it back into the hell that other people describe. So, don't judge the brand so much as the individuals. Stores with competent people lead to good service records, while those without result in the messes listed in other people's tales. Of course, I agree that management could do a far better of screening job applicants and getting good leadership. But, such is the peril of most retail chains...

Kyser Soze
Kyser Soze

I have customers willing to pay me more to resolve the issues left by the Geek squad. Thye hire the young and inexperienced, which is a good starting point, but you always get what you pay for. And if ANYBODY ever calls me a "Geek" I gently inform them that a "geek" works in a sideshow, eating garbage and biting the heads off of chickens. I am a "wizard", because I make seemingly impossible stuff happen.

svosnakis
svosnakis

"Chuck" makes the Geek Squad look really cool!

seckel109
seckel109

I didn't do the video of the Geek Squad. I have had too many bad experiences from customers who have used them and spent WAY too much time cleaning up after them. Hey! That could possibly be a interesting way to market yourself. "We clean up Geek Sqad's mess". Like Zappa said beware of people wearing "short neck ornaments".

johnnymando
johnnymando

Though I have never had to use Geek Squad services, I have heard and read similar complaints and horror stories about the "quality" of their service. Whenever I walk into Best Buy (which I call Worst Buy due to their high pricing), I have noticed that all of the Geek Squadders I see have some visible acne, speak incredibly fast, and those that I have overheard with other customers are dispensing disturbing tech advice. I am 54 years old, and all of my tech knowledge (mostly pertaining to hardware installation/troubleshooting and resolving software conflicts) is self-taught. When my first computer's hard drive took a dump in 1998 and Gateway said I needed a new computer, I started tinkering, reading, blogging, and building my own custom systems...a lot of hands-on learning. My "education" continues with each new problem I tackle for friends and family, and with every tech publication I read. The agents of Geek Squad and other tech store services don't seem to have the same depth of experience. As far as their image to IT professionals: I'm not concerned...we all know true "geeks" now rule the world!

zlitocook
zlitocook

Geek Squad is recommended for our new work at home people because all they have to do is set up the new computer and IP phone. And all they have to do is follow a script that is given to the new work at home person. The only reason we recommended them is because they guaranty the service, if it is not right here they will make it right with out charge. But I have had no joy with working with them. I have had to reimage computers because of bad installs of software. And I do not want to accuse the Geek Squad of not training their techs. But I have found malware, Trojans and key loggers on ten computers after they were gone. I started looking at computers after I saw an article that said the Geek Squad was copying pictures and music from computers they worked on. And all the computers were imaged by me or by corporate now have image capture ether by snag it or another company so we can check our remote users. We do not let remote software to be installed unless it is approved by corp.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

Every time someone thinks I'm ripping them off when I charge them for cleaning malware from their 6 year old, dusty Compaq I just print out a Geek Squad pricelist, hand it to them and say, "You can call these guys." The next day I'm driving back home with my videogame money.

bgordon4
bgordon4

I too have had to cleanup after them. The products they sell with their services are generally poor quality. I had an incident where they charged a client excessively to set up wireless. When it didn't work, they blamed it on the client's computer and left. In actuality, the wireless router they had sold them was defective. My labor and replacement hardware was less than half of the original service call alone. They have essentially become a revenue generating support mill. It would seem their marketing department is more qualified than most of their support staff.

---TK---
---TK---

Of all the times I have been there, not once have a meet a person that knows what they are trying to sell me. I was there for a monitor (rebates made it dirt cheap), and he was trying to get me to buy a laptop. So I let him pitch me a bunch of BS, till I asked him the difference between AMD's hypertransport, and Intel's Hyperthreading.... Boy-o-boy was he off the mark on that one... No worries, I put him in his place :)... I had a friend that worked there for about a month, and wow the stories I heard were amazing. One comes to mind: They had a PC and it was tore up by limewire (go figure). but the end user forgot to give the password for the "visible" account. A few of the GS guys were in a panic, so he hopped on the PC. A few keystrokes later he was in the Admin. account.... The lead manager looked at him, and said something to the effect of: that the account he logged into was useless and it didn't do anything... Needless to say that, that was his last day.

hayesjef
hayesjef

I have experienced the GS Nightmare twice trying to assist my mother with a PC that she bought from BB. Both times, my diagnostics proved it to be a bad motherboard, but do to the fact that her ext-warranty was through BB, we had to suffer the consequences of the GS. On both occassions we were treated like we were technical idiots even after I shared my technical credentials with them. We mostly dealt with arrogant HS and College students that didn't know the first thing about respect, customer service, or work ethic. Both times they ignored my troubleshooting findings, only to mis-diagnose the problem, try to charge my mother for services that she didn't need, and then finally come to the same conculsion that I lead them on to in the first place. They are grossly understaffed, and your PC/Laptop will most likely sit on a shelf for 2 weeks before they will even look at it. In both instances I had to elevate the work orders to there corporate offices so that their "Customer Resolution Team" would step in and make sure the work was even being done. This kind of unacceptable and inadequate service makes customers dread even owning computers in an age where everyone should be embracing technology. Even if we get the call to do repairs for someone who has suffered the GS Nightmare, the damage has been done, they are already scarred, and makes them weary of any IT Professional that they may come in contact with.

LarryD4
LarryD4

As almost a direct competitor to Geek Squad on nights and weekends, I have been called in to fix a Geek Squad fiasco a few times. So far my impression of Geek Squad employees is as such. The Geek Squad staff that has been with them for two years or less are Technology Analyst wanna be's. They have either the raw tallent or are a recent tech school graduate who is just looking to get the base experience to move on. The Geek Squad employee who has been their two years and longer are usually the bitter techno/rude type who feels he or she should be doing so much more than what they do now. But because of their attitude, lack of true technology knowledge, and being stuck in GS driving a bug, they can't get a job anywhere else. Their has to be some people in GS that actually are normal, hardworking, knowledgable people. But 90% of the time they move on to IT jobes in the IT business field. So they do hurt the image, but right now it creates more business for me!

Betageek52
Betageek52

I generally try to have fun with the IT support I perform. I have been able to get a few dollars from cleaning up behind various 'Mom and Pop' shops, as well as BestBuys' Geek Squad. I have also have had the privledge of becoming friends with a GS member, who wound up treating me with an equal amount of respect. That one, at least, had some knowledge and customer service skills.

CG IT
CG IT

especially with small businesses that call them first and after The Geek Squad leaves, call me to fix what they messed up. Many of the Geek Squad guys I've met have a "I know more that anyone else" attitude. At one small business, where I was called in while a Geek Squad employee was there, the Geek Squad guy became irrate and blamed me for a mistake he made saying I should have told him before he did it [gave him lots of rope]. For home users who want home service at a pretty reasonable price, there's the Geek Squad. For businesses, I would always says shy away from them.

jack.reed
jack.reed

I think the biggest problem that Geek Squad just doesn't get is that these are people who want to get their computers up and running for either they are getting a new system or urgently need their old one back in working order. They rely on their computer to reach the outside world of family and friends as most of these customer are senior citizens and family are far away. It takes patients and the ability to spend a little extra time explaining things in their language of what your doing and that everything will be alright. Geek Squad is about in and out and profit. Nothing wrong with profit, but lets treat people like people.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Sounds like any other franchise; some are great, most are okay, a few suck chunks.

Consumer007
Consumer007

Hi I am an MSP, been a help desker and desktop tech for over 10 years for big enterprise and small mom and pop, I've seen it all. I can say not only in my own experience, but via a very reputable site www.consumerist.com, GS absolutely SUCKS. The Robert Stevens guy in this 60 minutes piece has been cornered over and over and confronted with incompetence of his folks in every corner of the country. At first he started trying to make it right, now they just ignore the complaints, he is unavailable for comment and they stack up. Just put Geek Squad in the search at consumerist, and you'll come up with pages full of unresolved nonsensical complaints. The answer to the question of this article is "No Doubt About it" - GS is DESTROYING IT's rep with most consumers. I personally run ads on craigslist to garner business slamming them and quoting the articles...good for my business. Most of their techs can't troubleshoot their way out of a paper bag and it's no surprise why - BB not only doesn't require certification (and further lies to customers and says they are certified when they are not), but GS has been cold busted stealing porn, pictures, identities and anything else they want off customer pc's, and not even fixing them.

Tink!
Tink!

Geek Squad is overrated. It's just a glorified commercial help desk from a retail store. Take away all the hype and commercialism and you have your pretty typical tech support - with very little customer support. In my eyes Geek Squad is not a specialized computer support team, but a handful of overconfident tech savvy young uns that don't really respect their job. I know someone in my family who called Geek Squad to setup and install their new computer and it cost them about $140. I was like "What the heck did you do that for? All you had to do was call me!"

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