A tale from the front line: in-store customer service is broken all over the place

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August 10, 2018

We sent our CEO along to a major UK phone retailer as a secret shopper, and here's what he learned about the current state of in-store customer service...

On a recent visit to a large mobile phone

store, after purchasing my new Pixel 2 XL (great phone by the way), I thought I’d see how they dealt with a service issue.

It was mid-afternoon midweek and the store was very quiet - just me and one other customer, so I asked the assistant if they could check my old phone for battery and other faults before I passed it on.

He explained that he was the only technical guy in the store, so he’d have to do it whilst keeping an eye on the other customer.

No problem, so off we went to the ‘diagnostic kiosk’ - an ancient PC with a USB hub and a smorgasbord of different cables and adapters. From a customer perspective, it looked certainly looked ‘technical’ though far from impressive in this day and age.

He found the right cable, plugged my phone in and immediately uttered the disclaimer that it might not work as it frequently ‘plays-up’.

It didn’t work. After a reboot of the PC though, we were presented with a diagnostic menu and he clicked the relevant buttons.  Some while later, he announced that it was playing up and had frozen.

We’d been at it for about 10 minutes at this point and he was clearly getting frustrated. “I need to check on the other customer” he said. I said I’d wait and would like to try one more time.

When he eventually came back, he said there was no point trying it again and I should go to their other store where they might have a more reliable machine. I asked if their call centre could do it remotely, but no, apparently all customer service is done in-store because of the equipment needed.

4 reasons customer service in-store is broken

Now I don’t know about you, but to me this customer service approach is broken all over the place. For instance:

  1. How is this supposed to work on a busy Saturday morning?  What must the queues be like? - It must be a nightmare for staff and customers.
  2. Why can’t the process be simple enough for any member of staff to do it? - It should be automated surely.
  3. Why can’t they abandon the horrid old PCs and do this wirelessly from a tablet? - Think of the difference in customer experience.
  4. And why is there no self-service or call centre option? - This would save a fortune and avoid clogging up stores with customers who’d

It doesn’t need to be this way

We’ve launched Support Robotics because we believe it’s time to reboot customer service in telco, and when we talk to our friends and customers across the industry they think that time has come too.

Recently, while participating at the CX Exchange in London, we took the opportunity to talk with dozens of experience managers from telcos all over the world. We listened intently as they divulged their frustrations and laid bare the complex challenges they need to address head on, right now.

Here’s what they told us.

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