Best Buy Twitters an Extension of Service Strategy

Last Updated Jul 19, 2009 10:01 PM EDT

When Best Buy realigned its work force several weeks ago, even demoting some employees from supervisory to customer service roles with commensurate pay cuts, observers couldn't help but wonder if the company could continue to rely on their enthusiasm in the aftermath.

Apparently, the company still is counting on just that, as it has developed a service via the social network Twitter that gives employees the opportunity to help customers with questions on products and services.

Twelpforce, a new Twitter-based help line, is staffed both by Best Buy customer service and Geek Squad employees who act as troubleshooters on technology questions but also can help with warranty and even financing queries. Customers can send in their questions via both computer and mobile phone.

Twitter users can address their questions to @twelpforce to alert Best Buy employees about whatever concern they have, and Twelpforce participants are charged with replying to that specific user, although other Twitter users will be able to follow the conversation as well. All tweets will be carried by at the http://twitter.com/twelpforce feed, and will be attributed to the employee responding.

Best Buy said in a statement that employees are encouraged, but not obligated, to participate.

Best Buy promoted Twelpforce in advertising that broke today as the service went live. Additionally, store signage and online banner advertising launched to drive consumers to the new service. Although the full Twelpforce roll out is a fresh development, Best Buy has been evaluating the service in a test involving employees who have registered as advisors. At last count, 700 employees had signed up as twelpers, the company noted, with more registering daily.

Service will be increasingly critical for Best Buy. With major multi-department chains including Wal-Mart, Target, Meijer, Costco and BJ's placing more emphasis on electronics, Best Buy will be squeezed on prices, but its major competitors â€" with Circuit City gone â€" are basically self service providers.

In the company's first quarter conference call, CEO Brian Dunn provided an example of how Best Buy's capacity to provide support services could impact its sales when he noted, as transcribed by Seeking Alpha:

Let me take notebooks as an example--our market share was up more than 400 basis points in notebooks, and I think it's due in large part to the fact that we have a buffet of products and services, if you will, literally every major computing brand and the Geek Squad under one roof. But that's only half the equation. The other half is this, our employees can leverage that buffet of offerings and tailor it to the different wants and needs of customers.
If Best Buy can keep it focused and effective, Twelpforce could be a relatively low-cost service that not only allows consumers to immediately address their confusion and/or frustration over electronics purchases, it provides those who prefer the Twitter channel a new means of direct contact. Thus, Best Buy is positioning itself as the retailer that can deal with whatever questions arise from cutting edge electronics on an individualized basis â€" as cutting edge is a relative term depending on the sophistication of the consumer â€" via a communications channel that's on the cutting edge today. Or should that be, at least for today?