Microsoft Sending "Gurus" To A Electronics Store Near You

Someone is jealous of the Apple Genius Bar! Microsoft has announced that they’ll be sending 150 “Gurus” to electronics stores like Best Buy and Circuit City in order to improve their customer experience.

“Think of that as borrowing a page from Nordstrom with that retail customer experience,” said, Tom Pilla, Microsoft’s general manager of corporate communications.

Unlike, Apple’s Geniuses, Microsoft “Gurus” will be salespeople (not on commission) who will be graded on their “ability to translate the technology to a language consumers feel comfortable with.”

The Microsoft Gurus will not answer questions or assist customers with products that they’ve already purchased.

Microsoft deploying in-store customer-service reps [Seattle P-I]
(Photo: Madbuster75 )

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  1. Erwos says:

    Microcenter already has a genius bar of sorts, and it’s surprisingly popular.

    • Parapraxis says:

      @Erwos:

      Yeah, it’s called the whole Microcenter store.

      Seriously, everyone who roams the floor there knows their stuff. It surprises me to no end.

      • quail says:

        @Parapraxis: I miss not having a Microcenter store near by. If I needed it they had it. :(

        As to the Microsoft gurus, give them a chance.

        Now if only we had a 15 year old geek near the register to help us with our Linux problems. :)

  2. Mfalconieri says:

    Microsoft is so behind….. I despise how unoriginal and slow they are.

  3. EarlNowak says:

    Wait, so the “Gurus” will only answer questions before you buy a product? That’s kind of.. um, useless.

    Isn’t the whole point of the Genius bar that they do tech support when you have a problem?

    • @EarlNowak: Actually you’d be surprised how handy a knowledgable salesperson can be. I suspect that no, when your machine crashes they will not tell you that your MacBoo…Lenovo has “corrupted fonts” (you Mac-ers know what I mean), but instead they will help you when you want to upgrade with new components or peripherals (something that can cause headaches with compatibility issues on PCs).

    • moore850 says:

      It @EarlNowak: It doesn’t surprise me at all that Microsoft’s idea of a guru/genius bar is a salesperson that tries to dumb down technology until they are able to sell idiots on something their own common sense tells them isn’t a great idea.

      • RedwoodFlyer says:

        @moore850:

        Ususlly…when I hear these words:

        “dumb down technology”

        and

        “able to sell idiots on something”

        ,Microsoft isn’t the first company that comes to mind. I’ll let you fill in the blanks*

        *If you are unable to fill in the blanks yourself, please consult your nearest genius bar

  4. duffm4n says:

    This is just a thinly veiled effort to sell more Vista since it’s struggling miserably.

  5. quirkyrachel says:

    Aww man. I was all excited for a minute there because I thought I’d finally find someone to help me install the stupid Vista SP1 software. They’re just there to sell things…

  6. DeleteThisAccount says:

    Don’t forget that BBY and CC have “repair” services in their stores… They don’t want reps to help people repair their products while they could sell that service.

  7. EyeHeartPie says:

    Video now shows up as “No longer available”.

  8. toddy33 says:

    So…this will be different from the general level of idiocy already present at Circuit City and Best Buy exactly how? Especially that part about not answering any questions after the fact…

  9. nweaver says:

    Why not call them by their proper term? SalesDroids.

  10. KitanaOR says:

    Coming up next: Panasonic “gurus” to explain the difference between 1080i and 1080p and why their TVs are the best buy.

  11. DashTheHand says:

    Can we question them angrily about when they will return the Trackball Explorer to production?

  12. picardia says:

    I’m imagining that Mike Myers Love Guru standing at the Best Buy counter, and the collision of those two images is enough to strike fear in the hearts of brave men.

  13. Gman says:

    This will be interesting. At least at the Best buy near me. The apple section with it’s apple sales staff is located right next to the Windows aisle.

  14. majortom1029 says:

    You guys do realsie that microsoft is only a software developer right so compairing it to apple is not really fair.

    The fact that a software developer is doing this is pretty good.

  15. shockwaver says:

    If this is anything like the Microsoft rep that used to drop in to the store to train us SalesDriods, then… nothing will change. The guy was nice, great to talk to, but knew jack all about Windows and microsoft hardware products. And it wasn’t just me that knew more about it than him (as I’m a geek), it was half the sales staff.. a good portion of which were cokehead morons.

    • SAugsburger says:

      @shockwaver: You are absolutely right. I worked for Fry’s for a while and from time to time a Microsoft rep would come to the store. I found him borderline useless.

      Our manager made us sit in on an intro about Vista that was a good waste of about an hour that I could have made some commission. Half of his slides were almost verbatim of the little catch phrases from the Vista install at the end and he couldn’t answer any questions I had about the final release candidate before it went gold.

      Virtually every company has reps that they send to stores that sell their products(Sony, Creative labs, HP, Epson, Canon, NEC, Apple, etc.), but with a few exceptions I found most of the reps I ever encountered in my time in retail electronics were more of a bane than a benefit to the employees.

      I remember having a Sony rep who I would call from time to time asking questions about Sony products and he would get answers for me. Heck, the Apple rep we had for a while was honest would tell you all the advantages of using a Mac, but was honest when someone wasn’t a good candidate for a Mac.

      Sadly, there were company reps that wanted to pick my brain. I remember one AMD rep who quickly discovered that I knew more about video cards than he did.

      There is nothing to indicate that these “Gurus” will be any different from the marketing reps that Microsoft already had. Beyond getting a few more of them and getting into stores more often I don’t see anything new here.

  16. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    First the Seinfeld/Gates Vista TV ads and now this? I’m not sure why they’re increasing their marketing efforts, considering the next version of Windows is supposedly coming next year.

  17. endless says:

    Best buy is what, probably just north of 1,000 stores now? circuit city 500-700 range?

    even with 150 of these guys that puts it at less than 10% of their stores.

    and if they are wasting them on CC stores that will lessen the effect even more, everyone knows, not even bears shop at CC!

    • SAugsburger says:

      @endless: You have a pretty excellent point. If they stayed at the store for 90 minutes to two hours they would realistically visit 3 maybe four stores per day. At that rate they would at best visit a store every two weeks presuming they only visit BB and CC. The story only mentioned those two because they are the two big retail electronics stores, but there are a lot of computers sold elsewhere even if you are only looking at retail. Fry’s and Microcenter while smaller chains sell their fair share of computers as well. While it isn’t an electronics store, Costco sells computers at all the locations I have visited.

      I doubt Microsoft would ignore all of those other stores that sell computers, which would easily mean one of these guys would probably visit most stores less than once a month. Bottom line, unless these are 150 additional M$ reps as opposed to simply retraining their current reps and giving them a new title as a marketing gimmick as I presume they are really doing I think these “Gurus” are going to be spread way too thin to really be directly useful to customers. They might make the BB or CC sales staff slightly less retarded, but they have such turnover that by the time the “Guru” returns half of the people selling computers will be people didn’t work there the last time he visited.

      Microsoft’s image suffers because the two most popular retail electronics stores, CC and BB, the employees aren’t paid well and they don’t get commission so they don’t care if they sell you the wrong thing because their salary isn’t affected by returns.

      While the Apple Store could be a lot more customer friendly (they need a better return policy, more sales people that can help with Mac sales, and more variety in Mac accessories), I consider the free tech support merely a way to make Macs seem more reasonably priced. They make so much money off of the Macs thanks to cutting a few corners on quality and not reducing their prices as often as their competitors that they can easily afford to give away some free in-store support.

      • Kounji says:

        @SAugsburger: Okay I’m sold. I didn’t see the arguement for it until you explained it rather eloquently. Retail places fail to train their employees in product. I understand that they try to leave the post sale customer service to vendors but a bad retailer can actually have impact on a vendor. Microsoft has the muscle to sell their product better,and these hundred odd people will probably do a much better job at pushing their product then the average BB or CC lackey. Really the issue is that microsoft is in a panic products aren’t selling as well as they like. Microsoft really needs a new marketing vp. Someone who is going to go the distance to rebrand this company, and then second they need to really bring some creative force in.

  18. midwestkel says:

    From CareerBuilder.com I did a search and they are looking to hire people in:

    MN, VA, CA, DC, NY, NV, FL, NJ, and NH.

  19. khiltd says:

    I hope they plan to have a handy dandy “concierge” system that tells you no appointments are available no matter how dead it is inside the store as well as some nice hard wooden benches for you to sit on while you wait 5 hours to talk to the one guy who actually knows how to do anything besides reset a Zune.

  20. ChrisC1234 says:

    This REALLY bothers me. I’m a computer guy, (I use a Mac by choice, but am just as versed in Windows) and I can easily see these “gurus” simply being an attack force to make sure that anyone coming in the store buys more than they need.

    So many computer people think that everyone needs the biggest/latest/greatest, but that’s simply not true. Windows is NOT for everyone, and neither is a Mac. Linux has it’s place too. I can just see these guys steering a poor old granny who just wants to use email and look at web pages to the most expensive machine with Vista Ultimate. Sure, they don’t work “on commission”, but I’m pretty sure that their job security relies on how many windows machines are sold. I really feel sorry for all of the people who’s machines will be full of viruses and spyware just a few months after purchase, who then will have to fork out money to have fixed, after the “guru” promised them that the machine wouldn’t give them any problems.

    At least with the Geniuses in the Apple Store, they are there to assist you. They’re free technical help, and can give you insight on Apple stuff (and most people who are walking in to an Apple store have somewhat decided to get a Mac anyway).

  21. ViperBorg says:

    “The Microsoft Gurus will not answer questions or assist customers with products that they’ve already purchased.”

    Way to half-ass it, Microsoft!

  22. BrianDaBrain says:

    This is the same trend Microsoft has been taking with Windows as of late too. Look at Apple’s cool idea, now let’s copy it… but we’ll make it less versatile, less functional. But we’ll name it something similar.

    A perfect example is the Widget… then along comes Microsoft touting the Gadget. Yikes!

    Geniuses can help with sales or support. Gurus can help only with sales. Imagine that.

  23. Quatre707 says:

    This doesn’t even make sense, as the the presence of such individuals would directly counter the potential for selling tech services at retail stores. There is no way stores like Best Buy will let these “gurus” say anything more than features of the Windows operating system.

  24. junip says:

    I feel bad for anyone that has to go into a store like best buy and trust their sales people because they don’t know any better. With so many tech savvy people around these days, you’d think everyone would know at least one person to get real advice from.

    My sister took her computer somewhere to be repaired and was told she needed a whole new computer because it wasn’t fast enough for what she wanted to use it for. I popped in a bigger/faster hard drive and more ram, and she was all set to go. Oh, and they also charged her $100 for the privilege of having them delete all her photos and music because her hard drive had been too full when she brought it to them. Fun stuff.

    I’m a mac girl, myself.

  25. octopede says:

    Wow…another purloined, ill-executed idea from the brains at Microsoft. And they wonder why, every quarter, their footing and perception as a high-tech leader slips a little more.

  26. Trai_Dep says:

    Wow. Just wow.
    That’s pretty much Microsoft’s “innovation” in a nutshell. And “service”.
    Although, since all Windows users should be able to field-strip a PC to its components blindfolded then put it back together again – judging from the last story about a fatigued, abused Dell customer defecting (yay!) to Mac – I’m not certain even friendly, helpful and knowledgeable MS onsite techs would help. Umm, if MS was actually doing that. (cough)

  27. fisherstudios says:

    If you read the back of the box of their popular IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 product, you will see a big list of reasons why you should buy a new mouse even though your current mouse may not even need replacement. Such as the amazing horizontal mouse wheel. How many websites have you visited today/this week/this month/this year that you needed to scroll horizontally?

    What incentive does Microsoft have to improve their services? If their products break more often (planned obsolescence) or can only be installed so many times/on so many computers, they make more money.

    Unrelated question: Does anyone know why Apple doesn’t include a 2-button mouse with their computers? It seems kind of a no-brainer.

    • junip says:

      @fisherstudios: Apple does include a 2 button mouse with their desktop computers. It may look like only one button, but sure enough, if you click the right side, you get a right mouse click, and left side does left mouse click.

      Also, you can do nifty things with the trackpad on the notebooks in system preferences, like set it to read as a right click when you have 2 fingers on the track pad while clicking the button. It’s called a “secondary click.”

  28. likefunbutnot says:

    I’m a certified trainer on a bunch of Microsoft products. For my own amusement I like to walk around Best Buys in jeans and a blue polo shirt. I give honest advice and answer support questions. I never indicate that I work there and will admit that I don’t, if asked. I’m polite and I will happily direct people to actual employees for sales-related issues.

    I usually attract a crowd of people who want real help. On one occasion I even had employees directing people to me, but as a rule I don’t get to be helpful for all that long.

    So far I’m told that I’m banned from three stores, but I’ve probably been escorted out of seven or eight by now.

  29. JustaConsumer says:

    Once again, Microsoft does not understand the problem. People need better products, not more help. They are playing right into the mac commercial stereotype.

  30. Difdi says:

    Traditionally, among computer geeks, “Guru” is a title that is applied by others, not claimed by oneself. Declaring yourself a guru of computing is nothing but hubris.

  31. Appears to be just Geeksquad reinforcements that’ll pressure people into making superfluous purchases like horrible “antivirus” software that costs $40 or so only to cripple computer performance.

    Maybe it’s just me.

  32. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I want to see the Microsoft “Gurus” and Apple “Geniuses” fight it out to the death in the Thunderdome.

  33. Eoghann says:

    At least with the Geniuses in the Apple Store, they are there to assist you. They’re free technical help, and can give you insight on Apple stuff (and most people who are walking in to an Apple store have somewhat decided to get a Mac anyway).

    There’s nothing “free” in an Apple Store. The “experience” is just bundled into the cost of everything.