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Should You Make House Calls?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of providing at-home services to your customers.

March 21, 2017

 

Convenience will always be a major selling point. Still, businesses have shifted away from house calls. The once standard practice has become a bit of a novelty. Does it make sense for your business to fill this new void?

 

The Case Against

Barely anyone noticed when Sprint axed its home delivery service, Direct 2 You. The program had Sprint agents driving to customers’ homes and helping with setup. It was a boon to the less technically inclined, and seemingly a paradigm shift for wireless customer service.

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The program got quite a bit of press when it launched, but not so much when it fizzled out. This makes us think the initial interest may have had more to do with marketing and less to do with genuine consumer excitement.

But why did Sprint get rid of it? We can’t say for sure, but our best guess is it wasn’t profitable enough. At the end of the day, a company must be able to see customer growth to justify a program like this.

 

The Case For

Last year, Best Buy added 1,000 Toyota Prius c hybrids to its Geekmobile fleet. According to the company’s site, the Geek Squad visits homes 13,000 times a day. The Geek Squad will deliver, install, and set up many of the electronics sold at Best Buy.

This is one example of home support that’s apparently working. Let’s look at a few possible reasons why Best Buy has been able to succeed with its Geek Squad while Sprint’s Direct 2 You was ultimately a failure.

  • Best Buy provides a lot more product types than Sprint does. If Best Buy can build a relationship with you while installing your washing machine, then you may be more likely to choose them when purchasing your next big appliance or electronic. On the other hand, Sprint really only offers phones. The average customer only needs a new phone every couple of years. So, building a relationship with this type of customer is less rewarding.
  • The Geek Squad is a brand all on its own. This kind of identity is hard to cultivate. Sprint wasn’t going to do it in two years. The Geek Squad is built deep into the Best Buy company structure. Each store features a Geek Squad station where you can drop off your electronics for repair. The Geekmobiles have been on the road for 20 years.
  • The Geek Squad makes money all on its own. I would argue that Geek Squad succeeds mostly in customer support and branding, but there is direct profit there as well. When your TV breaks, you’ll be more likely to bring it to the guys who helped install it in the first place.

Back in 2012, it looked like Best Buy was going to go the way of Circuit City, CompUSA, and RadioShack. Then the company rebuilt itself and its stocks have quadrupled. There’s a lot that businesses can learn from how Best Buy reinvented itself, but it’s also important to look at what they kept the same. Through it all, the Geek Squad has been a major part of Best Buy.

 

Using a Third Party Instead

If none of your direct competitors offer this type of service, there’s probably a reason. Maybe some of them are using a third party to meet this need.

Take, for instance, the food delivery app DoorDash. The premise is very simple: it delivers food from an eatery that doesn’t have its own delivery service. How it works is you pay a third-party agent to go pick up your food and bring it to you.

In this example, the business isn’t partnering with DoorDash. But, they still reap the reward, as there could be an uptick in sales from people who are only ordering because a delivery option is available.

If you’re hesitant to launch your own house call option, you might benefit from using a third-party solution.

 

Final Thoughts

The Direct 2 You and Geek Squad examples show us that house calls work for some businesses and not so much for others.

Still not sure if it’s right for yours? You might need to test it out. Offer the service to some of your customers. Depending on if they respond to it positively, then you’ll get an idea of whether you should expand the program or not. Or, just use a third-party option instead.

It’s been popular for businesses to write off old-fashioned sales tactics like house calls. But there’s still a need there, and you might benefit from offering the service to your customers.

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