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Best Buy cuts workforce, including Geek Squad, looks to AI for customer service

A busy day at a Best Buy retail location in Dartmouth, Massachusetts on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.
A busy day at a Best Buy retail location in Dartmouth, Massachusetts on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.

Addressing "lower business demand," Best Buy has made a significant cut to its workforce and laid off a number of employees, including Geek Squad field agents, current and former workers told The Star Tribune in Minnesota.

Home-theater repair technicians and phone support specialists were among those hit by the most recent wave of layoffs at the Richfield, Minnesota-based company, according to the newspaper.

The layoffs are part of a larger restructuring plan announced by Best Buy CEO Corie Barry in an earnings call in February . The plan, which did include layoffs, was proposed in an attempt to “stabilize the company after months of declining sales,” the Star Tribune reported.

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Barry said during the call that the “cuts would happen primarily in the first half of 2024 and would occur across the company.”

Making sure that “field labor resources” are properly balanced has been a top priority for Best Buy, and the company wants to "make sure we are providing the optimal experience for customers where they want to shop," Barry said on the call.

And, he said, the company wants to reduce parts of the business "where we expect to see lower volume than we envisioned a few years ago,” according to the newspaper.

Best Buy has not responded to USA TODAY's request for comment.

Here’s what we know.

Best Buy says laid-off workers will get severance

It’s not immediately clear how many Best Buy employees have been laid off since the restructuring plan was announced, nor how many employees were included in the most recent wave, because the company has declined to say.

The company did tell the Star Tribune that “affected and eligible employees will receive severance, with some offered opportunities to transfer or reapply for jobs at the company.”

"We know better than anyone that the consumer electronics industry is always changing with new technology, more innovation and evolving customer expectations, and that means we need to make changes, too,” according to a statement obtained by the Star Tribune.

The company is intent on following the steps outlined in the February earnings call, writing that it was “making sure resources are balanced and directed to the right strategic areas so we can drive efficiency in our business and put ourselves in the best position for the future.”

A Best Buy location in Jackson Township, N.J. pictured on June 14, 2022.
A Best Buy location in Jackson Township, N.J. pictured on June 14, 2022.

Best Buy announces AI venture

Best Buy said it's serious about being in the “best position” for the future, announcing a new artificial intelligence venture after the reports of layoffs. The venture, created in collaboration with Google Cloud and Accenture, uses “generative AI to provide our customers with even more personalized, best-in-class tech support experiences.”

The AI-powered virtual assistants are expected to help Best Buy customers troubleshoot problems with products, change delivery details and manage software, among other things, according to the news release.

The “self-service support option” will be available online, on the Best Buy app, or over the phone starting this summer.

"These new-gen AI-powered capabilities further enhance our commitment to deliver better, more personalized experiences to our customers by unlocking the power of people," Brian Tilzer, Best Buy's chief digital analytics and technology officer, told the Star Tribune.

Geek Squad revamp underway, part of restructuring initiative

Several initiatives are planned to get the company back on track, and one of them is to make Geek Squad “more efficient,” according to the Star Tribune.

Barry said that the company would continue “to build out Geek Squad as a service, which would operate as a business-to-business model.”

Geek Squad employees eventually will be pulled to work for Best Buy Health, which sells and delivers medical technology that helps with in-home health care, the Star Tribune reported.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Best Buy will use AI to help customers, cuts costs with layoffs