Far from Obsolete: A 2017 Outlook on the Media, Entertainment, and Communications Industry

An executive at a certain wireless communications company recently told me that the reason they encourage customers to use self-service tools for support and sales is because it helps the company’s scores in overall customer satisfaction.  So, instead of trying to fix other sales and service channels, or even understand why self-serve scores higher, they automatically choose to push customers in this direction.  This company embraces the fact that customers feel better self-served than through traditional means.

In theory, self-service is a win-win for both the customer and the company. Customers enjoy quicker issue resolution and gain knowledge of their devices. At the same time, self-service reduces the company’s need to staff for Tier 1 support in call centers and stores.

An increasing focus on self-service seems to suggest an industry consensus that in-store experience is becoming obsolete. In reality, these experiences are front and center as we head into 2017. The fewer in-person customer touch points that do occur now require even more skilled resources than ever.

When customers come into a store or call in for support, they often already know what they want to solve for, and therefore expect a much richer experience.  For example, the moment a customer enters a mobile phone store, they have already decided the phone they’d like to buy, and just want to experience holding it in their hand before they make that purchase.  Or, say another customer comes into the store because his phone won’t turn on. There’s a good chance he visited the store because the issue wasn’t resolved via self-service.  These wireless companies must now be prepared to ensure employees can serve a more sophisticated and decisive customer.

In this challenging environment, here are three ways that companies can focus on improving the experiences they give customers.

1. Customer Experience Design: Because basic troubleshooting and Tier 1 support is now handled via self-service, store representatives must spend more time with customers qualifying their needs, and handling more technical issues.  Wireless companies must put increased time and effort in training their employees on their products and services, and arm them with a better overall awareness of how their products are used in real-world settings.  Without that knowledge, customers will distrust the service provided, and look elsewhere for guidance.

In addition, if customers come in with more technical issues, wireless companies need to carefully think about how to handle longer resolution times, and what that may mean for wait times.  Is the store designed to keep the customer occupied while they are waiting?  Wireless companies must modify the in-store customer experience to support more complex, technical issues.

2. Empathy: In many cases, the mobile device is the lifeblood of the wireless customer.  Any day without that device is a day that the customer has a negative experience with your brand and considers a potential switch to a competitor.  It is the store representative’s responsibility to efficiently evaluate customer issues and ensure that the customer walks out of the store with a positive brand experience.  Any delay in issue resolution will garner negative sentiment that not only decreases NPS, but also trust that the stores can help in the future.

When it comes to purchasing devices in-store, many customers enter the store knowing what device they want to purchase.  Therefore, any recommendations that deviate from the customer’s expectations must be thoughtful and resonate with the customer.  The retail experience should focus on the customer’s wants and needs- not sales tactics.  Otherwise, there is a significant risk of devaluing the customer.

3. Better Technical Support: Store representatives must be equipped with the right tools to diagnose customers’ technical problems and recommend fixes.  For example, companies can equip representatives with insight into how customers and their families are using their devices.  Representatives should be able to quickly access data on the apps, sites and services that are consuming data, consuming battery, or slowing down the device. They should also be aware of the dead zones along a typical user’s commute.  Think of an airplane ‘black box’ for cell phones.  If a technical or billing issue occurs, the store representative needs comprehensive insight into each device to better troubleshoot the issues.

Wireless companies’ focus on self-service seemingly embraces the notion that traditional stores are obsolete, when, in fact, these experiences are more critical than ever. The recent shift to self-service has introduced new challenges for the industry’s support system, as issues brought in-store often require advanced support. While many wireless companies have spent the last several years augmenting their self-service capabilities, 2017 is the year for wireless companies to differentiate their traditional, brick-and-mortar stores with experiences that are focused on the efficient resolution of complex issues.