When I first heard about Best Buy\u2019s store-within-a-store concept, I was cynical. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, or in this case, the sales aisles in Best Buy, doesn\u2019t change much, I thought. But I may have been wrong. I spent some time at one of the largest Best Buy stores in San Francisco last week and came away impressed.\n\tThe Best Buy I visited includes both Samsung and Apple mini-stores, and it has Microsoft employees on the sales floor. The employees at the mini-stores do not work directly for Best Buy; they work for Samsung, Apple and Microsoft. \u00a0And the people I spoke with, particularly the Microsofties, really knew what they were talking about.\n\tNot Much to Do? Better Service May Fill Those Chairs\n\tMy biggest beef with Best Buy in recent days (not counting a rather misleading smartphone promotion) is the quality of its staff. I try not to criticize people who are working at low-paid retail jobs, but it was fairly obvious on a few recent trips to Best Buy that much of the staff was clueless about technology. They weren't rude, just poorly informed about the products they were selling.\n\tBest Buy has been caught in a nasty spiral. Like other brick-and-mortar sellers of consumer electronics, the chain has been reduced to a showroom for Amazon and other online retailers. And as revenue and profits decline, the chain\u2019s \u201cblue shirts\u201d seem less and less qualified. I\u2019m not sure if wages were cut, but a decline in customer service is noticeable. And that hurt sales even more.\n\tIt appears the company\u2019s latest CEO, Hubert Joly, sees the problem. Many Best Buy outlets now contain mini-stores focused on products from Apple, Samsung and Microsoft.\u00a0 Organizing products from specific vendors and presenting them in one place may not seem like a big change, but it makes it much easier to see your options. What's really important, though, are the knowledgable employees there to answer questions.\n\tThe Best Buy I visited doesn\u2019t contain a Microsoft mini store, but it will soon, according to an employee. The store had a few white-shirted Microsofties in the computer area ready to answer questions about Windows. I asked those guys some advanced questions about Windows 8.1 and received educated answers.\n\tAs for the Apple section, there\u2019s no genius bar, which is one of the best things about Apple's stores. But having someone who's specifically trained to answer Apple-related questions is certainly a plus.The Samsung employees also seemed sharp.\n\tThere will, of course, be bumps as Best Buy goes down this new road. One of my colleagues witnessed this incident: A frustrated customer asked both Samsung and Microsoft representatives for help with an Apple-related question. All of the Apple people were apparently busy. The customer then got angry when both reps told him they could only answer questions about their specific products, even though they weren't helping anyone else.\n\tBottom line: Best Buy is a better place to shop than it used to be, and that\u2019s a good start as it struggles to hold on to its dominance in retail electronics.