Transforming the Customer Experience: Q&A with CIO Shankar Arumugavelu

Verizon Wireless’ new approach to making the store visit fun.

By Paul Macchia on December 11, 2013

Verizon Wireless is transforming the way it does business with the launch of its Destination and Smart Store retail strategy. Yet, it’s more than just a new look; it’s a new way of doing business and a new way of engaging with customers. 

Verizon Wireless Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Shankar Arumugavelu, talks about the company’s commitment to the entire customer experience at every point of contact – in stores, on the phone, online and on mobile devices – through technology.

Q: Why is the convergence of digital technology and the physical presence of customers important for retail?

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A: We are all engaged in new ways of shopping. It’s not the retail experience of yesteryear.

Customers interact through many sales and service channels. Our research tells us that more than 75 percent of customers use three or more channels – online, over the phone and in-store – to shop and learn more about the products before they make the purchase. These channels must complement each other to provide a seamless customer experience.

Consistency, no matter where they are or how they are interacting, is paramount. By building familiarity across all channels with the same look and feel and providing an engaging and relevant experience, the customer doesn’t have to think about anything differently from one platform to the other.  This was one of our goals when we architected the Destination and Smart Store concept.

Q: What brings this new retail experience all together?

A: It must be approached from the collaborative vantage point and eliminate the traditional barriers between the customer and our frontline employees. 

We provide the experience specialists in our 1,700 retail locations with tablets loaded with Mobile POS, a Verizon proprietary point-of-sale application that supports all store operations and provides visibility into customers’ accounts. 

Mobile POS allows sales specialists to more effectively serve customers. When our sales specialists use Mobile POS, they are able to manage customer appointments and provide recommendations for the right device and accessories for a customer based on their lifestyles and interests. 

We are making the experience more personal. Our store design eliminated the traditional barriers of the counter, the computer monitor and the cash drawer. Customers now sit side by side in a collaborative way with the specialists.

We are also integrating systems to provide a unified experience to customers regardless of whether they shop online, in our stores or through telesales. We are implementing a “shared cart” that will allow Verizon Wireless specialists to pick up the conversation with the customer at a store after they have shopped online. It’s streamlined and personalized.

Q: What are the benefits of the collaborative sales process?

A: One benefit is that we have sped up the transaction and sales processing time. Questions can be answered within a few screens on the spot. Essentially, wherever the sales specialist and the customer physically stand in the store is the point of sale. 

Another advantage in our sales process is that the Web drives sales to all channels. If a customer saves something in an online order cart, the transaction can be completed in several ways: through the Web, in-store pick up, overnight or two-day shipping, and, in some markets, same day delivery. An additional benefit for us and the customer is that training time is reduced because the point-of-sale application is simpler and more intuitive. It’s easier for specialists to use, leading to quicker transactions with less wait time for customers.

Q: Tell us about the lifestyle zones and what they mean for the customer experience at the Destination and Smart Stores?

A: Our Destination and Smart Stores represent more than just a new look; they are a new way of engaging with customers to help them discover all that wireless technology can do for their mobile lifestyles. Our newly designed stores and online shopping experience are now organized in lifestyle zones – Get Fit, Have Fun, Home and On the Go, Amplify It, Get Hip, and Anywhere Business. They are visual playgrounds that showcase the power of our 4G LTE network around leading-edge gadgets, gear, devices and solutions.

The stores showcase the latest gadgets and gear – some you would never expect to find in a wireless environment such as the Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 and other cool toys and devices. The goal is for customers to have inspiration visits and raise their curiosity and understanding of the products that truly enable the mobile lifestyle. What is that helicopter-drone looking item doing there? How do the Belkin WeMo Switch and Nest Thermometerenable home monitoring? How does this tie to a device? When customers see how cool the items are, they are engaged. The lifestyle zones in the stores carry over to the Web as well so the customer can visually remember their experiences. 

The beauty is that Verizon Wireless is making the transition to be more of a technology company that is engaging to consumers and a store that people will browse in and learn more about how wireless technology can enrich their mobile lifestyles. Of course, if customers want to simply purchase a device or accessory, they can do that too.