Circuit City's FireDogs Working 'Super' Hours1 Feb, 2007 By: Erik Gruenwedel
The day after the Feb. 4 Super Bowl telecast can't come fast enough for many of Circuit City Stores Inc.'s 3,000 in-home service technicians, also known as FireDogs.
Launched last fall largely in response to Best Buy Inc.'s Geek Squad, Richmond, Va.-based Circuit City sees the FireDog service brand integral to its position in the expanding home theater market, including installation and fine-tuning of high-definition flat-panel televisions, receivers and surround-sound.
Circuit City estimates the U.S. market for in-home PC and home theater service will top $20 billion by 2010.
The 3,000 FireDog brigade includes about 800 third-party home installation technicians who are specifically knowledgeable about the evolving home entertainment experience, according to Circuit City spokesperson Jim Babb.“They are people with deep backgrounds in home theater,” Babb said.
The FireDog brand and name evolved from more than 6,000 suggestions submitted internally by employees and various focus groups.
“We wanted the name to be evocative of a brand as opposed to purely descriptive,” he said. “We didn't want it to limit what services might come down the pipe.”
Babb said the home theater market “ebbs and flows” depending on the season (holidays) and upcoming sports event — the Super Bowl and college basketball's March Madness are particularly busy times — and having a mobile staff that can stay on top of the technology and troubleshoot on-demand is vital.
“We expect very attentive, white-glove service, if you will,” Babb said. “This is the middle of the couch-potato season.”
The rest of the FireDog service team deals with consumers' personal computer issues, including data retrieval.
He said demand for in-home help has exploded with the advent of HDTV and its impact on the way people watch and interact with television in the home. The days of the 400-pound tube TV in the corner of the room are over.
“The flat-panel HDTV is a much more positive decorating experience,” Babb said. “People want to mount these things on the wall, which is a much different installation experience. It has changed the TV landscape.”
He said Circuit City found that many so-called “do-it-yourself” types have become reluctant handling a flat-panel HDTV they just spent a couple thousand dollars on.
“They sure don't want to drop the set,” he said.
He said most consumer inquiries, besides installation and wiring, include determining where the HD channels are and what types of HD programming are available.
“Some people are eager to take the next leap and integrate content from the Internet, including setting up wireless networks,” Babb said.
Circuit City's FireDog service team can be contacted toll free at 800/FIREDOG (347-3364).