LEAKS: Geek Squad Downsizing 40% Of Techs And Outsourcing To India?

UPDATE: 40% Geek Squad Downsizing Memo? Not That I Know Of, Says Founder

A Geeks Squad source told us that a recent memo said they’re downsizing 40% of the back-room techs, as well as increasing the amount of computers remotely served by techs in India. We’ve been unable to corroborate this memo’s existence, but we do know that Geek Squad has a program called “Agent Johnny Utah” (AJU) or “Black Ops” where basic computer work, like spyware and virus removal, get handled by dudes in India getting paid $6 an hour. Their American counterparts get paid $13-16 an hour.

Although AJU reduces costs, one Geek Squad agent finds the turn around time is poor, with computers sitting in the queue for up to a week at times. She says that precincts that use AJU get awarded bonus labor hours.

Another agent told us, “Most precincts that voiced off about it have been avoiding Utah since it goes against everything GS is supposed to be about….”


“…but sometimes you get swamped. With most of our precincts being understaffed, the Advance Diag & Repairs (Virus and spyware removal) get dumped on Utah.”

Geek Squad’s official take on AJU is, “With the program, we are simply expanding our capacity to do more by adding a virtual labor force without taking up additional space in the Precinct. Agent Jonny Utah helps to improve turn times, frees up space in the Precinct, and deals with labor issues.”

Pictured above is a computer said to be successfully repaired using AJU. Note the “Virus Detected” warning the uninstalled video card drivers. — BEN POPKEN

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  1. mopar_man says:

    Pretty soon everything will be done in a foreign country. Customer service will get worse than it is now and build quality will be in the toilet. At that point, all the people that want something for nothing will wonder what happened.

  2. B says:

    This doesn’t make any sense. How can an outsourced tech install a webcam in the customer’s bathroom?

  3. FLConsumer says:

    @mopar_man: There’ll still be places where a high level of service (and quality) can be found. As it has always been, these places and products won’t be mainstream Americana. THIS is the area where the local mom & pops can make out like bandits.

  4. Primate says:

    From what I’ve heard and seen at my store this is just the tip of the iceberg. Rumor is that stores across the country are following in Circuit City’s footsteps and cutting labor by as much as 30%.
    The store I work at is a low volume store and they have cut 3 out of 10 Geek Squad positions already. My store has no one to do in home service, yet they expect us to sell it when there is already a 2 week turnaround in our area.
    They have also eliminated 2 supervisor positions outright. Instead of having a supervisor for each department there are now 4 for the entire store. When I started 2 years ago not only was there a supervisor for each department but the major departments also had managers. Now there are 2 Customer Experience Managers. Basically this means there are 2 managers for the entire sales floor.
    They have also eliminated several full time sales positions and replaced them with part timers.

    You thought service was bad before. Get ready to have a real reason to complain when stores are staffed with people who really don’t care because it’s not a full time job and if it is there is no room for any advancement.

  5. royal72 says:

    “…one Geek Squad agent finds the turn around time is poor, with computers sitting in the queue for up to a week at times.”

    so how is this any different than what the local employees are doing. we’ve all read the stories on here.

  6. enm4r says:

    I would have thought Best Buy would let go of any one of the 15 blue shirts that just stand in little groups of 2 or 3 and talk for their entire shift, only pausing to yell out to every customer that passes by “You need help?” in a very disinterested voice, before they let go of the backroom Geek Squad employees actually (I assume, maybe not) doing some sort of work.

  7. PDQ says:

    So do the Geeks in India get to drive those black and white VW Beetles too?

  8. Primate says:

    @enm4r: You must spend a lot of time at best buy to know the employees habits. ;)
    IOW, that’s a pretty broad generalization you’re making based on probably not a lot of time in the store.

    People hate it when employees of a store talk to each other by my experience from working in office environments is that they do it far more often there than at BBY.

  9. enm4r says:

    @Primate:

    I’m fully willing to admit that my opinions are based upon my shopping experiences at 4-5 particular Best Buys (some major metro, some suburban, multiple states as I travel often) and my friends that have worked there. I have no idea how much time I’ve spent there (far too much) but it seems a pretty standard thing no matter where I’ve been. By no means written rule, but I don’t feel too bad making that generalization, I’d probably be doing the same thing if I were at a point where I’d want a job there.

    And I don’t really hate it, I can’t think of a single time I’ve actually wanted to have any dialogue with them other than to see something is in stock. I wouldn’t want to be there all day, I doubt they are any different. The part I hate is the annoyed “I’m going to ask this person if they need help because my supervisor might be watching” attitude that I generally hear, and the fact that it happens with every little group you have to walk by.

  10. Occum says:

    This is being done so that in-store agents have more time to help customers at the counter, can perform faster RAM / HD / etc installs, and perform the harder work instead of running the same malware / virus scanners over and over in the same pattern on every virus removal.

    As evidenced by the screenshot, not all virus removals are simple, and then need to be done by the instore staff who is freed up to do this work.

    There is a finite space inside of a store, and you can’t just add 10 entry-level positions to the physically small precincts in order to free up the higher-quality agents.

    While there are some headcount being removed due to overreaching growth forecasts from the initial Geek Squad expansion, it has nothnig to do with AJU – in fact, as noted in the original article, using AJU makes stores more efficient and lets them have more labor hours, to either add positions or hire higher-qualified labor.

  11. Buran says:

    It’s not a police department, it’s tech support. Give me a break.

    And I can’t believe that this is being done to allow hiring of higher-qualified labor, unless you mean Bob in Bangalore.

  12. niccernicus says:

    @B:

    Now that is funny!

  13. onCALL258 says:

    Quality of service is really going downhill these days. Compusa is out of business, Geek Squad is downsizing, and even our small competitors are closing their doors.

    http://www.oncall258.com
    - Computer, Laptop, Network Repair

  14. xarnx says:

    As a former Black Ops agent, I have what amounts to a relatively unique position (there’s only one other person who’s quit, and one or two who were fired).

    The project was originally started with a core of very competent techs, most of whom are still there. They leaned on these folks to develop an OS repair process that would work in a mass-production type environment. They did it, and did a damn good job too.

    Then they tried to teach people on the other side of the planet how to follow the essential process, and that’s where things fell apart. Instead of being staffed with techs who want to know why things are failing, they hired a bunch of tools whose only motivation is throughput. They established some baseline standards for what amounts to a quality fix, but eventually got so overwhelmed by the number of computers they were putting through that quality all but died.

    For now, there’s no double-check at all on the end of the repair, so if someone in India says it’s done, unless someone at the store intervenes, it’s going to to go back to the customer that way.

    That said, they did track re-do’s on the repairs that Black Ops were doing (back when we had a rigorous quality assurance procedure) and it was significantly lower than when the work was done in the store. So there is the possibility that, in this case, outsourcing doesn’t have to be a travesty from a quality perspective. But when you move your quality checkers to working on machines and work via the honor system while rewarding people solely based on their throughput, you can clearly see the results.

  15. agenttatersalad says:

    I’ve been watching the posts about Geek Squad and in particular the posts regarding AJU. I’ve worked directly for this project and can’t believe the amount of hearsay, conjecture and plain out libel that is being passed off as fact.

    It’s ridiculously clear that all the “insiders” on these posts are bench agents with no actual knowledge of the business side of ANYTHING.

    So let’s clear some of this up:

    1) AJU is not the cause of the downsize – it was the failure of particular precincts to meet budget.

    2) The “downsize” didn’t just suddenly happen – it’s been slowly scaling for about 5 months.

    3) The picture knocking the quality of work that was done forgets to mention that the precincts AVERAGE redo rate is in excess of 20% (conservatively) while the redo rate on AJU machines has been maintained in the single digits for quite some time.

    4) The picture also shows missing drivers – got a quick question for ya; How do you recommend I find that driver for a remote machine I can’t see/touch? (and I guarantee that there was no info from that precinct [Bunch of Timmys] on brand/model).

    5) I’m also not seeing the correlation between using agents from India to do remote work that doesn’t directly interface with the customer and the ideal of customer service. I may be missing something, but that gives the precinct agents more time to solve your ID10T and Pebkak errors.

    6) Indian agent qualifications are higher than what you’ll see in ANY precinct. College degrees are REQUIRED for all of them. Keep in mind that the concept of malware is relatively new. How many college courses do you see out there focusing on malware? In this business – it’s trial by fire. So while Timmys in the precincts are bragging up their A+ certification (WOW – you know how many pins are in a 32-bit ISA slot!?!?!) you may want to check yourself before you start knocking their qualifications.

  16. agent2600 says:

    agenttatersalad… I work at a geek squad right now…let me just respond to your messages

    1. AJU is a cause of a downsize, our store was always making budget, but we STILL had labor/position cuts.

    2.Your right the downsize has been a gradual drain of labor hours…but the entire time best buy doesn’t warn employees that there are going to be cuts, rather they say, “Sell more and the hours will be better next week!”

    3.at our store we have a 5%-10% in store redo rate (safe to say 1 our of every 10-15 units we have a minor redo). were as the AJU units have about a 15-20% redo rate and what I will call a 5%-10% FUBAR rate (were the “highly skilled” agent working on it messes the system up to a point were it no longer boots).

    4.First off…you don’t need to see a unit to find the drivers, any competent tech will tell you, that using a program like unknowndevices you can find the hardware ID number and find the drivers for it..second off, nice how you completely IGNORED the virus warning message when you were trying to defend AJU (how corporate/republican of you, just ignore the things you can’t defend and yell twice as loud about the things you can)

    5. Its not that the Indian agents are dealing with the customers directly, its that they speak poor English when dealing with the US techs (to the point I have no idea what they are saying) and that they are not using any “tech” skills at all they are simply reading a script of things to do and following them point to point, and trudging through (rather the “fixes” work or not)

    6. Anyone in the USA can get a degree from DeVry or community college…ANYONE…it does not mean you know what you are doing, competence and understand about computer systems comes from one thing alone…experience


    for the record I’ve been working at best buy part time for 5 years to put myself through school…I was around for when geek squad first rolled out, and let me tell you it has changed from, get customers what they need, to sell them a minimum of a 300 dollar bill of goods, and at the same time no pay increase and just more and more labor cuts for the agents.

    If it wasn’t solely based on convenience for me, I would have left best buy a LONG time ago, but i enjoy helping people, and the being grossly underpaid doesn’t bother me so much (Since i still rock my parents dime). But best buy..if you want better techs (other then the high school or college students that are working part time) don’t pay them 12 dollars an hour…in any REAL business even a level one tech makes 25 (and if i had time for a full time job, i would be working)….