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Opinion Piece: Shifting the mindset from telco to retail

By Garth Meier, Business Development Manager: Retail and Consumer Industry – South Africa, Wipro Limited

Telecommunication service providers (Telcos) are multifaceted businesses. More than just service providers offering data and connectivity services, Telcos are also retailers that provide handsets, accessories, repair services, insurance and a host of other add-ons. Like many other retailers, Telcos are also leveraging alternative channels to cater to a customer-centric market, such as eCommerce stores and mobile applications.

However, with such a vast array of products and services, coupled with a drive to retain customer loyalty and constantly evolve to meet demand, it is essential that Telco retail spaces dovetail into the rest of their retail strategy. They need to ensure that their interactions, with customers and between all their channels, are seamless and offer the same value across the board.

Telco dependency

Telco services are intrinsically woven into consumer lives. Virtually everyone has a mobile device with access to mobile data and calling, and most people use these devices every day. Unlike other retailers, people who use mobile services tend to stick to a single service provider. Very few people have devices and services from multiple Telcos at the same time, and customers don’t just go to another service provider if they don’t get what they want from the store.

Unlike not finding their brand of milk from a grocer, or electing to buy bread from a quieter store, Telco customers generally have no option but to wait in queues to get what they came for. For this reason, Telcos need to ensure that, beyond having deals and solutions which capture customer interest, they must focus on retaining their interest and providing the best possible customer experience.

Seamless experience

For example, many customers experience frustrations with their service provider if perhaps their handset is faulty, or they have cracked the screen.   They are often referred to a number of different departments and people before their issues are resolved. Telco’s need to adopt a retail mindset and address issues beyond the initial sale of the contract and device, focusing on after sales service too.  We are, however, seeing most Telcos already attempting to ease their customers’ pain points at physical outlets through the introduction of ticketing systems and the like, however, they’ve a long way to go to enhance in-store customer experience.

Telcos can benefit hugely by leveraging a digital approach to augment their customers’ in-store experience. Ideally, Telcos can achieve this by creating “in-store experience” offering all “retail store” services online without the anxiety- inducing queues. This will also minimise in-store foot fall while providing fast and effective service online. In fact, Telcos’ main priority should be to offer an online platform of such interactivity  that customers do not feel the need to go to a physical store at all, unless they are seeking a more tangible experience, or as a last resort. if a customer is already walking into a Telco retail store, may  mean  their online retail or channel strategy is  not that effective in addressing the customer needs.

View of customer

To ensure that online and application platforms tie in with in-store experiences, Telcos need to create and maintain a single view of their customer. Customers should no longer have to repeatedly give over the same information time and again, but this data should be readily available at any time.

Backend data analytics can ensure that Telcos remain up to date with existing customer details and contracts. More advanced analytics can also track that customer’s browsing and buying habits, lending itself to up-sell and cross sell opportunities. This not only benefits the Telco, who can leverage the information to increase profits, but also the customer, who will appreciate offerings that are tailored to suit their needs.

The same can be applied in-store, leveraging data to customise a customer’s shopping experience. Imagine going to your local Telco store and, while waiting in the queue, you are presented with options to consider before you even get to what is typically a lengthy stay at the counter to decide on a package or deal that you want. Imagine, again, that your Telco knows that you have two teen aged children and offers you a bundle deal that incorporates devices and data deals for them too? Imagine, fewer queues – or, at least, more interactive and interesting queuing – and quick, seamless interactions?

A proper “Know Your Customer” approach, with a digital, walk-through design incorporated into a Telco’s retail space can ensure that customers benefit from loyalty-generating service, while also enabling agents to properly do their jobs.

Tying it all together

A telco’s digital space needs to tie into their retail space, just as much as the opposite is true. Most Telcos are already getting this right, with customised offers provided to consumers via mobile applications, or a wide variety of choices available on websites. However, these need to be backed up by service that delivers. Online platforms do not have the benefit of tangible experience, and need to ensure they make up for this by providing sufficient information, comparative tools, and easy-to-use and always available customer service desks, manned by people who are capable and suitably qualified to properly assist customers.

The key is to provide a seamless experience, converting foot traffic into clicks, while ensuring those people who do visit physical stores are satisfied that they received the best service.

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