Best Buy's Geek Squad Cozies Up To VoIP Channel

Best Buy may be in the headlines for corporate intrigue

Geek Squad's Partner Program, which rolled out earlier this year, enables solution providers to offer Geek Squad services -- including 24x7 Geek Squad Agent assistance -- to customers, essentially as a way to supplement their own break/fix, integration capabilities and other forms of support for SMB and home-based users.

"People tend to view us as competition, but if they speak to us, they realize we can work with them in a model of tier-two support, or even just help with feet on the street," said Al Afflitto, manager of strategic partnerships for Geek Squad, in an interview with CRN at XChange 2012 in Dallas this week.

[Related: CRN's Exclusive Coverage of XChange 2012 ]

Since the spring launch of the program, Geek Squad has been working with 10 solution providers, Afflitto said, including several major networking and unified communications VARs and integrators. Geek Squad recently confirmed two VoIP service providers, PhonePower and, which will offer Geek Squad PC, mobile, networking and infrastructure support services, including diagnostics, repair and network integration for products such as network devices, firewalls, VPN, servers and data backup tools.

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Geek Squad offers not only an "umbrella" of services but a way to reach customers all over the country through some 20,000 service agents based out of more than 1,000 stores. That breadth makes the offer particularly useful, said Jim Murphy, president of Winnetka, Calif.-based PhonePower.

"With the increasing complexity of the average home user's network, it's reassuring to know that we can provide our customers with a solid support offering that goes beyond our PhonePower service," Murphy said in a statement.

Services like Geek Squad's, whose costs vary depending on the customer package, come in handy for solution providers that want to augment their support capabilities.

"We see situations all the time where routers and phones are drop-shipped, and while they're supposed to be turnkey, they're just not as plug-and-play as a lot of these users would like," Afflitto said. "So the VoIP play for [the channel] is that they sell to the small business of one to 20 users, and Geek Squad is the tech support. And, oh, by the way, we can service the printers and scanners, tablets, smartphones and other devices in that office."

How it works from a partner program perspective is similar to what telecom agents get when they partner with a major service provider, Afflitto explained. Solution providers engaged with Geek Squad get an up-front commission for referring the business and then see a residual for the life of the customer's Geek Squad contract.

Geek Squad requires a 12-month minimum term for the tech support, break/fix service model. The exact compensation varies depending on customer needs, but according to Afflitto, deal sizes in the $500- to $600-a-month range for Geek Squad services net solution providers double-digit residual commissions, which add up as the volume of customers grows.

Afflitto, who took over the channel program at Geek Squad in January, has a background in the cloud, telecom and managed services channels. He spent two and a half years at VISI, the data center services and managed hosting provider that was acquired in 2010 by Telephone and Data Systems (TDS), in enterprise and channel account management roles. He also worked for a number of years at Onvoy (now Zayo Enterprise Networks) and solution provider Spanlink Communications.

Expect Geek Squad to confirm more partnerships with major solution providers and telecom resellers in the coming months, he said.

Best Buy has made several moves in recent years to expand its SMB channel footprint. In addition to Geek Squad, the company in November 2011 acquired Waltham, Mass.-based MSP MindShift Technologies.