This is how telecom service providers should transform their retail stores digitally

This is how telecom service providers should transform their retail stores digitally

A successful digital business is more than just the sum of its digital channels and products. Behind every effective digital business is an understanding of the need to offer customers, as well as employees, a truly digital experience. To accomplish this, and since the majority of customers still prefer face-to-face interactions when buying telecom services, service providers need to revisit the traditional role definitions of their various channels, and more specifically the retail store.

Over the past several years, service providers have invested a lot in their retail stores, whether wholly owned, franchised or dealer-managed. But as they evolve to become digital service providers and offer a consistent, omni-channel experience across all customer touch points, they must find a way for retail stores to offer something distinctive and exceptional to what is provided on their online channels.

Rising digital expectations

Compared to other channels, it is not unreasonable to assume that customers expect a superior experience when they visit a service provider’s retail store. After all, as a consumer, if you take time out from your day to visit your provider, you expect them to provide a truly remarkable experience.

While certain brands have made huge strides in delivering on consumers’ rising digital expectations, most service providers are still in the process of re-working their retail store strategies and are still using traditional sales-based agent compensation models as opposed to customer-centric engagement-based compensation models. But brand perception by digitally-savvy customers is negatively impacted when most of your products are still placed on pegs against the walls.


So how do you begin transforming the retail journey?

It is critical for service providers to understand what type of in-store customer journey is currently being offered. Amid store consolidation taking place by most brands to manage costs, there are three typical types of store formats:

· Minimal stores: Offer quick and simple customer interactions based on proximity, e.g. pop-up stores or small stores in malls.
· Premium sales and service stores: Support a longer customer journey across service, support and sales at a premium physical environment.
· Concept stores: Designed to demonstrate the brand experience using interactive wall displays, gesture technologies and immersive experiences.

Give customers the retail experience they expect

To help enhance customers’ retail engagement and improve their propensity to buy, there are three important steps service providers must take to transform the experience offered:

Step 1: Understand the customer journey
Every touch point with the brand, retail or otherwise, is an opportunity to have a meaningful engagement with the customer. Within the retail store, every visitor is on their individual journey. Based on the geographic location of the store, the time of day and the day of the week, the kind of visitors and the interactions they seek can vary greatly. Using footfall analytics to analyze in-store customer movement and technologies such as iBeacon low range Bluetooth transmission and in-store deployed small cells that can determine the physical location of devices, service providers can gain a better understand of the visitors at their store. Using this information, service providers can map out customers’ in-store journeys and target different shopper segments with more relevant messages and offers for stronger engagements.

Step 2: Fix the basics
Research shows that 80% of the telecom in-store customers also visit the operator’s website, making it imperative for service providers to blend the online and in-store experience to deliver a smooth, frictionless customer experience. Advancements in Business Support Systems (BSS) and retail applications deliver capabilities such as online appointment booking to request in-store specialists, support for in-store self-service kiosks to promote fast ‘grab and go’ opportunities for time-sensitive customers, and in-store digital signage for customer recognition and personalized messaging – all ways for service providers to better connect the virtual and physical worlds for shoppers.

BSS capabilities should also provide store agents with a complete view of the customer’s account, services and usage profile across assisted and unassisted channels, including social interactions. Being able to see this journey, which has potentially led the customer to the retail store, along with personalized recommendations and promotions, allows service providers to ensure a relevant agent-shopper engagement upon initial interaction.

In addition, the application used by the agent needs to be available on tablets and smart devices to allow the screen to be shared with the customer, imparting a sense of trust. Omni-channel journeys such as buy online – collect in store, buy in store – collect at home, or collect at home and return at store are key journeys which also need to be supported by the BSS to ensure in-store customer satisfaction, as well as a great overall shopping experience.

Step 3: Go beyond expectations
The opportunity to make a vivid impression and create an emotional experience for the customer is greater at a retail store than on any other channel. Once service providers are able to deliver relevant engagements they then need to look at technologies to further connect the online and the digital worlds to cater to customers’ intensifying digital expectations. Innovation in the areas of visual display walls, geo-fencing technologies which use GPS or radio frequencies to send alerts when shoppers enter a specific area, gadgets and lifestyle equipment which provide a unique brand experience, and digital concierge-like services which assist customers with their shopping will enable service providers to help shoppers through their journeys with unassisted support and drive a higher level of customer affinity to their brand.

Image credit: Indiatimes

(This post has been authored by Rohit Batra, Director, Revenue and Customer Management, Amdocs)