Retail Best Practices in the Time of COVID-19

I’d like to start by saying the undoubted heroes of this pandemic are the healthcare workers and the essential service front-line workers. They are working around the clock in difficult circumstances to keep us all safe.

Telecommunications has been classified by many countries as an essential service – and rightly so.

Like I mentioned in my last blog, Telco Customer Experience During Turbulent Times, connectivity is critical now more than ever. Curious to learn how telcos are adjusting to meet their customer’s needs while maintaining everyone’s safety, I found some great examples and ideas telcos have implemented in response to COVID-19.

1. Converting Workforces

Telcos in the UK and Asia have seen a big increase in contact-centre volumes. One of our partners even described the inflow as “un-manageable”.

As a result, these telcos are diverting some calls to retail staff who are operating on reduced hours or whose stores have turned into call-centre operations. Other telcos have even adopted a “work-from-home” approach, with calls re-routed across multiple locations.

This conversion of the workforce is working for these telcos, allowing them to serve more customers at a quicker rate. The best part? They have many heart-warming stories of clients they’ve been able to help and support during these tough times.

2. Quickly Implementing Digital Solutions

In the past few weeks, I’ve seen a rise in self-service and vending solutions. At Maplewave, we’re seeing our partners advertise various self-payment kiosks, which allow customers to easily settle their accounts and continue their connections without interacting with a salesperson.

In the Caribbean, one telco has introduced a “bus kiosk”, where a customised vehicle travels to sell top-ups and take bill payments. An important feature of this solution is while the van services customers, staff safely hand out leaflets educating people on how they can manage their own accounts digitally.

3. Leveraging Temporary Pick Up Locations / Curb Side Pickup

In Canada, Eastlink has done a great job of responding quickly to their rural and isolated communities to help them keep their services, including mobile, broadband and TV.

Imagine being isolated and without your TV right now! In the picture below, you can see they have a dedicated chat and phone line for customers who urgently need to connect new or replaced equipment. Eastlink is also giving directions to the nearest curb side location – using their larger retail stores as mini distribution centres.

4. Digitally Connecting Customers

Last, but by no means least, is the incredible team at Flow in St. Kitts and Nevis. St. Kitts and Nevis is a small country made up of two islands with a population of around 55,345.

Flow has two retail stores on these islands and has successfully connected their customers via WhatsApp to a small staff working inside each store. Using WhatsApp, staff can perform vital services and keep people connected.

This solution is very well executed and is a service that I feel will have a long-lasting impact on their customer base.

These are just some of the examples of how retailers are stepping up during the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing all these telcos have in common is their diverse channel strategy. They’ve successfully implemented various channels that can be switched on and off to meet customer needs.

Until next time, stay safe out there – and a huge thank you to the telco front-line staff who have kept us up and running, the engineers replacing downed lines, the call-centre staff handling huge volumes, and the retail workers providing innovative ways to help their most vulnerable and isolated customers.

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