Verizon Wireless Credits LTE, Customer Focus for Mobile Study Wins
Changing the customer service culture at Verizon Wireless was an important part of the change. "We have a consistent customer service culture," Smith said. "We're going to transition to wireless lifestyle. "This allows the customer to approach it the way they live," Smith said, pointing to the new design of Verizon stores, called Smart Stores, that feature areas devoted to specific lifestyle items. "Before, it was all blended together. Now, we qualify you when you first come in, and we can walk you to the right part of the store that places you where you can discover what suits you the best." There's a section of the store devoted to fitness, for example, a section devoted to high-end audio (where you can buy Beats and Bose headphones), and a home automation section where Verizon is selling lighting systems that can be controlled by a mobile phone or high-end programmable thermostats. There's also a section for children and for gaming. Around the store are hundreds of accessories. All these sections are aimed at expanding the customer experience and the sales opportunity well beyond the mobile phone. Smith said that part of the equation is for Verizon Wireless to engage the community in a number of ways and to give back to the community where possible. Smith was visiting the Alexandria, Va., store to donate $10,000 that Verizon raised from cell phone recycling to Artemis House of Fairfax County, Va. Artemis House is a shelter for abused women and has been a focus for Verizon Wireless.He said that the changes are affecting Verizon employees as well as customers. "Employees are very excited to have the opportunity." Smith said the new design for Verizon's stores will spread nationwide, with each store having lifestyle areas, approachable displays, no counters and a dedicated area for helping customers use their devices. "Our goal is to delight our customers," Smith said. "If you want to see it up close and personal, all you have to do is visit one of our stores." That Verizon Wireless is focusing on improving the customer experience is no surprise in a service provider market that has gotten more competitive than ever. The phone industry, especially the mobile sector, has been roiled by a fight for the bottom end of the wireless business. T-Mobile shook things up when it dumped contracts, lowered prices and started offering to pay off the contracts of other carriers. Rather than participate in a race to the bottom, Verizon Wireless has chosen to improve the customer experience with more accessible stores, better customer service and better coverage. While Verizon also competes with no-contract, low-priced phones and service, the real battle seems to be for customers who, as Smith said, want to be "delighted."
So, how well is this working? The improved network quality speaks to the constant upgrades that Verizon has as an ongoing project nationally as well as in the mid-Atlantic area. Smith is regional president for Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. "One of the things we're seeing is extended customer engagement," Smith said.