Daily Dose of iQ: AT&T's $350M 'Aspire' Program Identifies Need for Skilled Workers in Wireless Industry

Apr 25, 2012 — Tara Bartlett

Last week (April 16), David Goldman of CNNMoney reported on AT&T's new $350 million "Aspire" program, designed to groom new U.S. workers to help fill its need for technical staff.

"AT&T, which draws 90% of its revenue from the United States, says it's at a disadvantage compared to other global technology giants," Goldman wrote. "It sees a growing talent gap between this nation and foreign countries, particularly in highly technical fields, but it doesn't have the option of outsourcing heavily."

The Aspire program will provide grants to schools, non-profits and researchers to help produce a more skilled workforce. Goldman also identifies the company’s own need for specialized employees.

The wireless industry is a specific technological niche -- it is an extremely fast-paced environment with new technology and devices coming out every day.

This puts a lot of pressure on retail staff working in the wireless stores. One of the key reasons consumers still visit brick-and-mortar stores as opposed to buying online is to have access to product experts who can help guide the decision making process.

Consumers walk into a wireless retail store expecting to work with product experts who can help them find a device they’ll be happy with for the next 18-24 months. Retail staff are expected to be fluent on all of the devices offered, the key features of each device as well as all of the rate plan options -- not to mention accessories and virtual add-ons like warranty. It’s a lot of information to stay on top of.

Buying a smartphone is a major decision so consumers do a lot of research prior to visiting the store. Unfortunately for retailers, customers are often more educated than the retail sales associates. According to a Motorola Solutions Survey (Jan. 2011), 55% of retailers believe shoppers are actually better connected to information than store associates.

Retail sales associates need access to better training and ongoing tools to help educate themselves on the products they are selling so they can be the product experts that today's consumers demand.

XQ Interactive Retail, from iQmetrix, offers in-store shopping applications that a) provide in-depth product information to shoppers, and b) serve as extremely effective sales aids and training tools for retail staff.

XQ’s Browse application is a virtual product catalog on a touchscreen that offers in-depth information on available devices, rate plans, accessories and feature add-ons. Browse can be used to train new retail staff on all of the products offered by the retailer as well as an on-going tool to keep retail staff up-to-date on product features and specs for new products released.

Additionally, XQ Browse is an effective training tool for retail staff who typically fall under the Gen Y demographic and are comfortable using new technology. Training them on products using an iPad or other touchscreen device is highly effective.

Browse can also be used as a sales aid for retail staff to help guide consumers through all of the device, rate plan, accessory and add-on combinations. There are so many factors that go into purchasing a mobile device and an exponential number of combinations between device, rate plan, accessories and add-ons and XQ Browse enables retail staff to easily guide consumers through the options.

XQ Interactive Retail saves retailers training time, reduces employee turnover, and increases up-sell/cross-sell opportunities.

XQ Interactive Retail enables retailers to reduce the time it takes to train new employees and get them on the sales floor. Because turnover is a major issue in retail, and wireless retail especially, training is a huge cost to the retailer and the sooner they can get a new associate on the ground the more money they save.

XQ shopping applications help to instill confidence in retail sales associate once on the sales floor as the pressure to memorize every feature of every device and associated rate plans is gone because they can use XQ Browse on a touchscreen display to walk consumers through the options. Confident retail associates tend to sell more and overall be happier which leads to a decrease in turnover and a drop in the costs associated with turnover.

XQ Interactive Retail also presents related items on the screen which prompts and assists sales associates with up-sell and cross-sell efforts. A Verizon dealer who recently launched XQ increased the volume of accessory sales by 14% in the two months following the introduction of XQ Browse in the store. A major wireless dealer in Canada who deployed XQ Interactive Retail in May 2011 saw their profit per invoice increase 15%.

XQ Interactive Retail is a cost-effective way to train new retail staff, help them to be the product experts consumers expect and help them to sell more overall.

Topics: Retail Operations, Mobile Industry, Customer Experience, Business Intelligence

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