Best Buy Seeks Small Business Channel Partners

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Consumer electronics retailer Best Buy has launched a channel program to recruit telecom and cable resellers for its small business maintenance and repair services.

The Minneapolis-based chain launched the program Monday, hoping to sign up resellers of carrier services, such as those from Verizon, Windstream and CenturyLink, and IP telephony services from companies such as ShoreTel, Avaya or Mitel Networks. The partners would sell the Best Buy plans, and the retailer would perform the services through the 20,000 service agents it has working from its 1,100 stores across the nation.

Best Buy, which targets small businesses with one to 25 employees, will pay resellers a lump sum for each contract, as well as monthly residuals. The company declined to provide details. For support, partners get access to an online portal with video tutorials and marketing support.

Best Buy has nine U.S-based call centers operating 24 hours, seven days a week. Each center has from 3,000 to 5,000 agents, according to the company. Best Buy provides online and onsite support.

Best Buy's small business standard plan, which costs $30 a month, covers PCs, printers, scanners, servers, firewalls, operating systems and some office applications. "We'll touch everything, but the router ... and LAN switch," Al Afflitto, partnership manager for the Best Buy Geek Squad, said. The Geek Squad is the name of the company's in-store service operation.

Best Buy also sells an advanced plan that provides the same services as the standard plan, plus unlimited onsite visits. The plan costs $50 a month.

Best Buy pushed further into the small business service market last November with the $167 million acquisition of Waltham, Mass.-based MindSHIFT Technologies, which had 5,400 clients and revenue of $100 million. MindSHIFT is a managed service provider focused solely on the U.S. market.

Best Buy has run its services business only through its retail stores. With MindSHIFT, Best Buy believes it's time to grow its services business through channel partners. "To capture those SMBs, we really think it's important to be out there with a partner program," Amy Joe McDougall, senior director of Geek Squad strategic partnerships, said.

MindShift services include desktop virtualization, e-mail, voice over IP security and online backup. Best Buy plans to gradually provide these services through its Geek Squad operation too, McDougall said.

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