What’s become clear over the last two years is that, with the exception of Three, the networks have moved from a customer acquisition to a customer retention phase. They have experimented with competitive tariffs, rewards, new products and services in an effort to find out what makes customers happy and keeps them with the network.
Everything is now about the quality of the customer experience, from initial sign up to upgrades, help desks, network reliability and the overall proposition. The online channel is increasingly important, but the high street retail store is as much a key battleground as ever, if not more so.
Why? Because smartphones now make up a larger proportion of the overall market. Smartphones are mobile computers, and most people do not begin to utilise the full potential of the handset they’ve just bought. But if the networks and independent retailers are going to offer a ‘good customer experience’, it is vital they have staff in place to educate people on what a smartphone can do.
The best way to do that is face to face. O2 and Carphone Warehouse recognised this some time ago and began rolling out their in-store experts – Guru and Geek Squad respectively. The overall retail environment has changed from being a hard sell, transactional space to a more service-orientated environment – of course, the sell is still very much there, just not so in your face. Phones 4u, Carphone, O2 and Everything Everywhere led the way last year and have been busy upgrading and refreshing their stores.
Vodafone has got some catching up to do here, both in terms of improving the customer experience and refreshing its retail estate. But it is also now preparing for a major store overhaul and the introduction of technical experts. It’s a necessary and key part of CEO Guy Laurence’s overhaul of the company.
By the middle of next year, customers should, in theory, be enjoying a much-improved experience in store. It will be interesting to see whether the retailers can really make these changes stick and keep their customers with them.