We’re currently living in a history lesson right now. I have no doubt that in years to come, future generations will learn and study our current reality.
Most countries are experiencing restrictions, ranging from social distancing to complete lock-downs. In this time, telcos need to find a “new normal” in which they can operate – and this experience is shedding light on gaps in their business, their ability to adjust and the true meaning of going digital.
From my own retail and consulting experiences, here are my suggestions to help telco retailers adjust to the current circumstances and to keeping moving forward.
While selling mobile devices during a global pandemic seems trivial, we can’t forget how crucial it is to stay connected. People need to be able to read/watch the news; they need to contact health professionals; and they need to connect with their families and friends.
Telcos play a huge role in this. But can your customers easily connect with you? Can they fix or replace broken devices? Can they upgrade their plans or devices using a self-care app? Can you meet the needs of your customers in digital channels?
Being able to work in channels other than your retail store, is so important. Some strategies I’ve seen telcos using are home deliveries and curb-side pickup rather than in-store pickup. These are pivot strategies that telcos can use to serve their customers. But sadly, many telcos don’t have the systems or agility to do this – nor are their sales and marketing connected to communicate these offerings to customers.
Telcos need quick and easy integrations between their systems to enable these types of movements, open different channels, and bring departments together in order to operate efficiently outside of their store environment.
Some telcos have already embarked on a digital transformation journey, but still get bogged down by their legacy systems that don’t enable positive customer experiences – even outside of a lock-down.
By not being able to support new channels, as discussed above, your customer experience will suffer. In our current situation, we can see how much of a priority digital transformation is. Omnichannel fulfillment has huge impacts. Digital transformation is the gateway to an omnichannel approach that will allow your customers to access the services and complete transactions from wherever they are.
Our team has mapped over 42 different omnichannel journeys that telcos can leverage to expand their service and customer experience. By not making your digital transformation a priority, you will fall behind competitors in your market.
It’s impossible to determine when life will return to “normal”, and even harder to gauge the impact that this event will have on our future behaviors. But we all know that at one point this will all end. And it’s crucial for telcos to take what they’ve learned from this shutdown and apply it to their every-day business.
My point here is that the behaviors driven from the shutdown will impact our sense of normalcy – how we behave and what we expect.
For a while now, online shopping has been popular in many counties, but it’s now become a staple - our main way of buying goods. Not only are we using digital channels more frequently, many of us are now going online to make purchases that we always went in-store to get, such as groceries and medications. Those who have been slow to warm up to digital channels are suddenly realizing, “hey, this is actually great”.
It would only make sense to expect and prepare for an increase of home deliveries post COVID-19. Shopping on devices has now exploded, so if you don’t have your self-care app strategy configured yet, I’d get going on that.
Other digital strategies that will proliferate are micro-channels. Social distancing has taught us tasks don’t need to be performed in-person. The rise of self-service kiosks and vending solutions are a golden opportunity for telcos to diversify their retail estates (so long as appropriate sanitation measures are taken, of course). We’re headed towards a post-pandemic blended universe of diverse channels that will increase distribution and cut costs – make sure you’re ready.
While our workforces have switched to remote, or may even be temporally laid-off, it’s important to keep in mind that they will one day come back.
How are you preparing them for their return to your store? Historically, telcos are notorious for performing only limited training for staff – especially in retail.
As retail is a very tactile, person-to-person industry, it’s vital that staff are always working on their customer skills, their ability to acknowledge and greet, to fact-find and understand, to demonstrate and wow, and to close and delight. Now is the time to research training programs and re-visit your processes. What could you improve?