Since the day Robert Stephens founded Geek Squad in 1993, he has been thinking about selling time. Robert formed Geek Squad with $200, a bicycle, and a vision.

In 2002, Geek Squad entered into joint operation with Best Buy and opened “precincts” in all of Best Buy’s U.S. and Canadian stores. Robert left Best Buy in 2012, and is now the co-founder and CTO for Assist, an automated assistant platform for messaging and voice.

When our companies decided to partner to give customers new ways to engage with brands, I had the opportunity to interview Robert. Below is an excerpt from our conversation where Robert shares why he’s passionate about making things easier for the everyday consumer, and how he plans to do it.

Cimarron Buser:

How does messaging and voice play into booking? Do you think booking is becoming more important?

Robert Stephens:

Well, let’s start at the beginning. Before there were death and taxes, the original constants in life were time and money. In most commerce, there are really three questions that everybody asks of a business: can you do it, when can you do it, and how much will it cost?

With Engageware, there is a perfect partnership. It’s no accident that when Apple announced the Apple Business Chat last year one of the first use cases they showed was a time picker. We’d like to think that what Square did for money, the Engageware-Assist partnership will do for time.

Cimarron Buser:

Will brands need to adopt this to stay relevant? Will consumers begin to expect this?

Robert Stephens:

In this first wave, there are really two first customers we see.

First, people who are already using Engageware that will definitely want to expand their capabilities into messaging and voice with one integration. If you’re already on the Engageware platform, this is a no-brainer.

The other one is for people who want to experiment.

Let’s say you’re a retailer, and somebody’s interested in a product they’ve been researching online. The ability to reserve a slot let’s them know, “We’re open, come at this time, and some person or something will be ready for you.” This is happening already. You can schedule deliveries from the grocery store, arrange a ride with Uber, or reserve movie seats. If you want to see the new Avengers: Infinity War, and you reserve a seat, it’s a totally different experience than showing up at the movie theater having no idea where you’re going to sit. And there’s a lot of use cases that haven’t included appointments that we think now can try it.

Cimarron Buser:

Why are you so excited about this?

Robert Stephens:

I’m personally excited because, you know, my background with Geek Squad really was about selling time.

It’s about showing up on and being on time. It’s about selling time as a resource.

Before there was Uber and ordering a car to where you were, there was ordering a Geek around. I had to build my own appointment scheduling software so I know how hard it is. It’s not something most companies can do. That’s why they don’t offer it. That’s why the Engageware capability is exciting because you combine the low friction of messaging and voice with the ability to make time available to your customers.

We are really excited about the potential of this Engageware and Assist partnership. Thanks to Engageware, time has finally become money.

Assist is the leading platform powering automation for businesses on messaging and voice. Assist powers great brands like Sephora, Hyatt, Fandango, 1800Flowers, Lonely Planet, and more. Say hello or learn more about us here

For the full interview, please visit:

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