- BOPIS is good for retailers and consumers alike.
- Contactless payments are no longer optional. They’re mandatory.
- Smooth out transaction complexities with retail software integrations.
- Offer (better) device activations with a unified activation portal.
The CX Dilemma in Telecom Retail: Crafting Seamless Experiences Amid Complexity
Today’s consumers are loyal to experiences, not brands.
This means that businesses that want to remain competitive need to make customer experience their priority. Stacy Hamer, Chief Operating Officer at iQmetrix, said, “In the telecom space, it’s not about winning the new subscriber race anymore; it’s about winning the customer loyalty race. It’s about which telecom brands will be able to ‘own’ the consumer.”
Unfortunately, in an ever-evolving retail landscape, navigating system and technological complexities to deliver top-notch customer experience (CX) is really difficult. Some of the challenges retailers face:
- Shifting customer expectations: Wireless customers are a diverse group with rapidly changing expectations, meaning that staying ahead of customer expectations requires hitting a moving target. What delighted customers yesterday may not suffice today.
- Technical complexity: Telecom retail involves an intricate web of technologies, from managing complex inventory systems to ensuring the smooth activation of devices across multiple carriers. These complexities are compounded by the need to integrate systems like point-of-sale, inventory management, CRM, and more – all while maintaining data security.
- Clunky and outdated processes: Efficiency is a crucial aspect of CX, and telecom retail operations often involve intricate workflows. Activation processes are onerous and often involve swivel-chair data entry. Managing add-on transactions like warranty extensions, accessory purchases, and payment plans adds even more complexity. Ensuring that these processes are not only smooth and efficient but also error-free is vital to customer satisfaction — and, ultimately, customer loyalty.
- Inconsistent brand experience across channels: Delivering a seamless omnichannel journey, where customers receive the same level of service and information regardless of the channel they choose, is a complex undertaking.
So how can wireless retailers meet customer expectations and provide a great experiences?
The Elements of Great Customer Experience
The importance of CX to wireless retail shouldn’t come as a surprise. For years, study after study has shown that great customer experience leads to increased customer spending, customer loyalty, and customer advocacy. But what should businesses focus on to ensure they’re able to provide that great customer experience?
54% of consumers would stop doing business with a brand after one bad experience (Propel software)
90% of consumers expect a consistent experience across all channels (SDL)
88% of consumers think the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or services — meaning businesses can’t afford to take their customers for granted. It’s not enough to provide a good customer experience most of the time. You must provide a great customer experience every time.
46% of consumers surveyed in the U.S. say that they would pay more to purchase from brands they can trust (Salify)
Consumers want to trust the companies they do business with; many are willing to either switch brands or pay more for goods and services in order to do business with a brand they feel they can trust. Businesses build trust not only with excellent customer service (something which 96% of consumers say builds trust), but also by demonstrating a commitment to shared values. (In one survey, 47% of consumers said they had switched brands to a competitor that matches their stance on social issues such as diversity or environmental sustainability.)
66% of shoppers are willing to pay more if there is an option to make their purchase more convenient, such as delivery or curbside pickup (National Retail Federation)
71% of shoppers say it’s important or very important to be able to view inventory for in-store products (Forrester)
More than anything, businesses that want to succeed cannot waste their customers’ time. Consumers need service that works with their schedule and are willing to pay more to get it.
74% of consumers will go to a competitor’s store if they feel like the queues are shorter there (Intel and Box Technologies)
73% of customers will leave without making a purchase if they have to wait over 5 minutes (Intel and Box Technologies)
We all know someone who’s had a miserable experience buying and activating a new phone because they had to spend 45 minutes, an hour, or more in-store. Such long transaction times tie up staff, resulting not only in lower customer satisfaction, but also lost potential sales from people who don’t want to wait in long, slow lines.
56% of consumers expect offers to be personalized 100% of the time (Salesforce)
Why is personalization so important? Simply put, it’s the new competitive advantage. In a world where customers have more options than ever before, they’re looking for more than just a transactional relationship with businesses. They want to feel like they’re part of something bigger, that their needs and preferences are understood and valued. And when they find a business that delivers that kind of experience, they’re more likely to become loyal customers for life.
Even with growing awareness of data privacy, many consumers want to be able to share data with brands they do business with (49% of Canadian consumers are willing to share data with brands on how they use products) in order to get personalized experiences. Consumers become frustrated when businesses aren’t capable of meeting that expectation.
This last element is perhaps the most important, but also the most complex. So what does implementing personalized CX in wireless retail look like?
Personalizing Customer Experience in Wireless Retail
Personalized CX requires going beyond transactions to create connections with customers.
As a retailer, you know that the customer experience is everything. In a world where customers have more options than ever before, creating a great experience is essential to standing out from the competition and driving customer loyalty.
Personalization is about more than just addressing customers by name or recommending products based on their purchase history. It’s about truly understanding their needs, preferences, and behavior, and tailoring the experience accordingly. It’s about creating a sense of connection and making customers feel seen, heard, and valued.
So how can you create tailored customer experiences that meets the unique needs and preferences of every customer?
Understanding your customers is key.
With the typical buyer’s journey now spanning multiple channels, it’s no longer enough to have a disjointed view of your customers. Retailers need to have systems that offer a 360-degree perspective of their customers. Businesses that are able to understand their customers’ needs will have a major advantage — Gartner projects that by 2024 these companies will outperform competitors’ CX metrics by 20%.
Collect data, then actually use it.
Collecting customer data is a critical first step toward personalized customer experience, but insight is nothing without implementation.
By investing in solutions like retail management software, businesses can capture and analyze customer data, automate, and streamline processes, and deliver more personalized experiences such as tailored product suggestions, promotions, and even targeted marketing campaigns.
This headline doesn’t seem to go with this image, which also doesn’t seem to go with the first line of this section - needs to be smoother and more connected
Imagine you’re exploring an online store, and not only does it recommend products based on your preferences, but it also suggests phone cases and accessories that perfectly match the items you’ve purchased before – eliminating the need to scroll through products and guess which accessories will fit your devices. These sorts of tailored suggestions save the customer time and energy, making them more likely to make repeat purchases from that site.
The same customer data that allows for tailored promotions can also enable personalized promotions and discounts, which can create a sense of exclusivity and incentivize purchase.
Provide personalized customer support.
Personalized assistance through channels like chatbots and email can allow you to respond to customer issues and inquiries promptly and with relevant information, which can create a sense of care and build customer loyalty.
Customer data can be used to not only enhance support interactions by using a customer’s name and relevant information, but also to provide proactive assistance by anticipating customer needs.
Streamlining Inefficient Processes Removes Barriers to Great CX
74% of consumers will go to a competitor’s store if they feel like the queues are shorter there
In today’s ultra-competitive retail landscape, efficient processes are mandatory, because the top indicator of bad customer experience is wasting your customers’ time.
But given the level of complexity in processes, systems, products, and promotions that wireless retailers have to navigate, what solutions should they be looking at to streamline operations and eliminate frustrating inefficiencies?
BOPIS is good for retailers and consumers alike.
The pandemic didn’t just drive retailers to offer new solutions, it also drove previously tech-phobic consumers to try online shopping. One study by Shopify showed that 30% of shoppers who have used BOPIS tried it for the first time during the pandemic.
Data suggests that use of BOPIS has declined somewhat with the return to in-person shopping. However, it also shows that BOPIS continues to comprise a major share of online purchases. In one major 2022 study, nearly one third (31.5%) of U.S. consumers said that they had used either in-store or curbside pickup for their most recent online purchase. And in another survey, 64% of BOPIS shoppers said they were using BOPIS more often than they did before the pandemic.
So why has BOPIS stood the test of time?
BOPIS is a convenient option, especially for shoppers on a time crunch.
As the costs of shipping continue to skyrocket, BOPIS offers a more affordable and immediate alternative for price-conscious consumers. More than a third (35%) of shoppers in one survey said the thing they liked most about BOPIS was not having to pay shipping fees, while an equal amount said they liked not having to wait for the item to ship. (Other reasons include avoiding the risk of package theft — 11% — and the ability to check and return items right away if something is wrong — 10%.)
For last-minute holiday shoppers, BOPIS is also the only option that lets them guarantee availability of must-have holiday gifts purchased after the close of holiday shipping windows. In the week before Christmas, BOPIS orders peaked at 35% of online orders December 23, compared to 18-21% of online orders between November 1 and December 14.
In addition to driving increased sales, BOPIS also reduces costs for retailers.
BOPIS also delivers profits to retailers both through increased sales and reduced costs. Eighty-five percent of consumers who have used BOPIS say they have made additional unplanned in-store purchases when picking up orders. BOPIS also solves the retailer’s problem of last-mile costs of delivery—which can comprise 53% of total delivery costs—by bypassing delivery altogether.
For consumers deciding where to make a purchase, BOPIS can be the deciding factor. In the week before Christmas 2022, U.S. companies that offered BOPIS grew their revenue nearly seven times faster compared to businesses that didn’t offer BOPIS.
Consumers are voting with their feet, and businesses that don’t implement BOPIS are leaving money on the table.
Contactless payments are no longer optional. They’re mandatory.
Last year, Visa’s global networks handled an estimated $13 trillion in contactless transactions. That staggering figure means retailers still relying on traditional payment methods are getting left further and further behind. Today, it’s not a nice-to-have, but a must-have that consumers expect.
But these days, contactless means a lot more than just tap-enabled credit and debit cards.
“Contactless payment” is an umbrella term encompassing tap-enabled credit and debit cards, tap-enabled smartphone payment services like Apple Pay, and P2P payment services like Venmo.
The primary use-case people are familiar with is payments that are made using near-field-communication (NFC) technology embedded into credit and debit cards, in which people tap their card on a payment terminal. NFC capability is also an increasingly popular feature on smartphones, which enables smartphones to make tap payments through mobile wallet services like Apple Pay and Samsung Wallet.
Because of the unsecured nature of contactless payments — consumers don’t have to sign or enter a PIN — the payment limits on contactless payments are typically pretty low. (Although payment limits were raised early in the pandemic to facilitate social distancing.) Contactless credit card payment limits in the United States and Canada are roughly similar when exchange rate is factored in: (for most banks: $250 CAD in Canada and $200 USD in the United States).
It’s possible that contactless payment limits may go higher, given that contactless payment fraud is a very small portion of overall contactless payments. British banking body UK Finance found that out of the £66.5 billion spent in the first half of 2021, only 1.1% of payments (£7.6 million) were fraudulent, which it calls“a tiny proportion” of overall transactions.
Smooth out transaction complexities with retail software integrations.
Managing add-on transactions like warranty extensions, trade-ins, accessory purchases, payment plans, and more can often be cumbersome — especially when these transactions involve SKUs not in your store’s inventory. In today’s highly competitive telecom market, the need for simpler ways to handle these add-ons is crystal clear.
The best way to resolve this complexity? Retail software that provides a robust network of partner integrations to make sure all your systems talk to each other, which allows businesses to:
- Seamlessly navigate transaction add-ons through your point-of-sale: Integrated systems can allow reps to smoothly handle elements like trade-ins and accessory purchases through your POS to create great customer experiences.
- Offer additional items without requiring in-store inventory: Your available retail space doesn’t have to limit your product offerings. Dropship solutions can extend your ability to offer what customers want by allowing you to ship items directly from your supplier to the customer.
- Get easy access to data and business insights in real time: When systems are integrated, there is constant communication, empowering retailers to make data-driven decisions.
- Streamline processes: By connecting different systems and automating tasks, these integrations cut through the complexity, saving time and reducing the chances of errors, ultimately boosting efficiency.
- Build systems customized to fit their unique needs: Telecom businesses often have intricate strategies and systems. Customizing these integrations ensures that they work in perfect harmony with your specific requirements.
Offer (better) device activations with a unified activation portal.
The challenge: Wireless retail CX can be frustrating.
For wireless retailers, their store reps, and their customers, the device activation process is famous for being laborious, long, and full of repetition. As Jason Raymer, iQmetrix’s Senior Vice President of Revenue and Client Experience, succinctly put it,“Today, you’re either not offering activations at all, or you’re doing it badly.”
Existing activation processes using standard software and carrier integrations come with lots of hurdles that make it incredibly hard to create a good experience for anyone, because:
- Activation times are too long: a typical transaction time is 45 to 60 minutes, which frustrates customers. Additionally, it prevents reps from helping customers who come in mid-transaction and may leave before anyone is available to help them.
- Dual data entry means a very suboptimal sales rep and customer experience.
- Clunky systems create bad habits for reps, such as steering the customer towards the easiest carrier portal instead of offering the right plan for the customer.
- Multiple carrier portals and logins create an employee administration nightmare.
All of which leaves many wireless retailers stuck in a cycle of poor sales agent experience — high agent turnover — high agent training costs.
“That’s not to say that the retail operations are poor,” Raymer adds. “But that the systems that drive activations today are overly complicated and create a poor experience.”
The problem: if you’re not offering activations (or you are, but are doing it badly) your business is leaving money on the table by:
- Missing out on potential revenue
- Missing upselling opportunities
- Not providing a complete end-to-end customer journey and brand experience
- Losing the business advantages of being a one-stop shop
- Reducing the potential for customer loyalty
“It’s no secret that there’s not much margin available in selling a device,” said Stacy Hamer, Chief Operating Officer of iQmetrix.“A device typically has little to no margin. There’s some margin around the activation, and the bulk of revenue around the transaction is on the fringe — the additional fees, the additional accessories, and peripheral items like trade-in and insurance.
“So, you’re definitely missing out on a ton of upselling opportunities if you don’t activate, and you’re not providing that end-to-end retail journey. You want to be that one-stop shop that gives the customer everything they need to create what’s ultimately most important — customer loyalty.”
With so many complexities to manage, most businesses that offer activations only do so in-store. However, this means passing on the opportunity to give customers a channel for self-service that offers clear benefits. Online activation allows customers to manage the activation when and where they choose without the need to come into a store, leaving reps free to serve customers who need support to navigate the activation process. It also allows retailers to capture what otherwise may be lost revenue.
However, not every online activation experience is created equally. For many of those businesses currently offering online activation:
- Clunky user experience creates high fallout rates and cart abandonment.
- Their brand’s CX isn’t consistent across purchasing channels.
- They aren’t scaling B2B activations and other services to business customers.
Hamer explained,“Online activations can be just as cumbersome as in-store experiences, and this can mean frustrating customers simply give up, creating high fallout rates. And that means that the experience of your brand that you’re creating isn’t consistent — unless we can agree that it’s consistently poor, unfortunately.”
The answer? Use the right technology to activate devices quickly and seamlessly.
Savvy telecom retailers are turning to specialized technology to implement a new way of activating devices — whether those businesses are new to activations or simply want to improve the customer and sales rep experience. Today, new solutions offer a seamless activation flow that integrates all the disparate systems, eliminating time-consuming swivel-chair processes and smoothing the experience.
Whether your business is new to activating devices or not, today’s technology can claw back the money you’re currently leaving on the table, and create more of what every retailer is looking for — customer loyalty.
The TL;DR: Invest in Solutions for Better CX
In this age of heightened customer expectations, the value of time cannot be overstated. Lengthy wait times and cumbersome processes not only test the patience of customers but also erode their loyalty.
“Today’s retail customer values their time more than ever,” said Stacy Hamer. “In fact, 62% of customers value time over money, and 96% of customers with high effort experiences report being disloyal to that retailer.
“Unfortunately, buying and activating a phone isn’t a phenomenal experience. I don’t really know anyone who’s said, ‘I had the most amazing time buying and activating or upgrading my device’. Usually it’s something that people dread doing, because it’s a long transaction that is very complicated. This a big barrier for retailers trying to become the preferred destination for wireless retail.”
This insight emphasizes the significance of prioritizing efficiency in retail operations to retain customers and emerge as the preferred wireless retail destination.
Transforming the often-dreaded device purchase and activation experience into a seamless, efficient, and even enjoyable process is a challenge that retailers must embrace. The path to achieving this involves streamlining workflows, eliminating redundancy, and leveraging advanced technologies that prioritize customers’ time. By addressing these issues head-on and continually optimizing the customer journey, retailers can position themselves not merely as service providers but as trusted partners in the wireless retail landscape.
It’s an endeavour that holds the potential to not only meet but exceed the ever-evolving expectations of today’s retail customers, securing their loyalty and ensuring the lasting success of telecom retail businesses.