Greenblatt: Wireless purchase experience improves through Covid

Industry Voices - Greenblatt

While it is one thing to muddle through and simply meet the minimal demands and expectations of customers through difficult times, the wireless industry has gone several steps beyond this performance in a year like no other. The wireless industry -- as a whole -- has managed to actually elevate the experience of consumers who have purchased new phones and subscribed to new services through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In Volume 2 of the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Wireless Purchase Experience Full-Service Study completed at the end of this summer, consumers expressed higher levels of satisfaction than they did when Volume 1 was published at the end of February this year -- right before the crisis captured the full and unbridled attention of the country...and the world.

In assessing how this impressive feat was accomplished, leaders in the wireless industry have taken to social media like LinkedIn to show their great appreciation and continued support to their front-line customer-facing teams, including without limitation their call-center representatives, credit and collections, all retail employees, field operations, and countless others.

JD Power chart

The results of the study show that the lion’s share of the credit in elevating satisfaction through this remarkably difficult and disruptive summer belongs to:

1.    The essential workers who manned their posts at retail facilities, adjusting to significant enterprise-wide shifts in workflows and customer engagement protocols -- such as developing curbside pickup and delivery processes while social distancing, wearing masks and implementing other health and safety measures in a disciplined manner;

2.    Technology staff who kept websites and mobile channels up and running as traffic surged with the rush to support shelter-in-place workers and students. The incidence of customers using an online purchase channel reached the 50% threshold -- up from the 43% level reported in the Volume 1 at the end of February. Well over half of all customers (58%) now use their carrier’s website to initiate the purchase of a mobile device or service;

3.    Customer service representatives who shouldered the task of moving complex customer care operations to their homes, as in-bound calls flooded in with new questions and concerns from a confused marketplace that could easily have triggered a critical mass of frustration that resulted in customer dissatisfaction.

These highlights reinforce the leadership shown to properly resource and support the rank-and-file staff to make this outcome possible.

Omnichannel teamwork makes the dream work

As the work of customer-facing employees changed dramatically over the course of the year, so did the behavior of consumers. Interestingly, despite the pandemic, brick-and-mortar stores saw the highest overall volume in sales during the survey period, accounting for 63% of sales among full-service customers. However, phone and online sales channels saw the largest year-over-year growth in volume, up 6% and 7%, respectively.

RELATED: Industry Voices — Greenblatt: Customer service at carriers stepped up during Covid
These numbers are not mutually exclusive. The past six months have seen a significant uptick in consumers who start their buying journey in one channel -- typically on digital or mobile platforms -- and then conclude their purchase on the phone or at the physical store. For instance, the J.D. Power Wireless Purchase Experience study found that 20% of customers who made a purchase via phone started their shopping process online.

This puts significant pressure on different departments within wireless carrier organizations to improve the way they collaborate, share information and track the buying journey of customers researching, selecting and concluding their purchases across channels.

Looking ahead to 2021, it seems increasingly clear that the emerging battles for the hearts and minds of consumers will be won by those carriers best able to maintain this high level of performance, and manage, facilitate and optimize customers’ multi-channel journey to new purchases.

Ian Greenblatt leads J.D. Power’s Technology, Media and Telecommunications Intelligence, including a new IoT sub-practice, and drives market strategy across the rapidly converging landscape, which encompasses the entire communication sector. You can reach him by email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @GreenblattTMT.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceWireless staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceWireless.