Last night my Motorola smartphone crapped out. Well, specifically the camera quit and could not be revived. As a person with a 3-day old grandson, no camera-phone was a no-go. So off I headed to the Verizon store.
Let me go on the record and say that I have always liked our Verizon store. A lot. Not the one in the next town over, not the ones I've tried in Milwaukee, not the ones I've run into in Chicago. Ours. In smallish West Bend, Wisconsin. The people there have always been knowledgeable and helpful and fun.
So when I walked into the store today I got nervous. It was clear that something had changed. The stacks of inventory in the center of the store were gone, and in their place were comfy leather seating groupings and little tables. Fewer phones were on display, the massive Verizon electronic pay-station was gone. But I saw a few familiar faces, so I was encouraged.
I asked right away about the changes, and the staff members were more than enthusiastic about sharing them. Here is the bulleted list of changes, in the order they were shared:
- The group that had been running the store bought the store from Verizon in order to run it as a franchise.
- They wanted to offer only the excellent phones, the phones they knew the customers would be entirely satisfied to own. So they slimmed down the inventory to include only the phones they felt good about offering. They are still happy to order anything a customer wants from Verizon, but what they are willing to promote and endorse is far more limited.
- They took all their salespeople off commission and put them on salary (this is salespeople enthusiastically telling me this detail). This allows them to focus on selling the right phones to their customers for the right reasons, not because they get a SPIFF or higher commissions on otherwise less worthy models. This also allows them to spend the time each customer needs.
My phone selection process was easy, because I already knew what I wanted (HTC One M8 - I'm already in love with it). But the checkout process had changed. Paperwork had been dramatically reduced, the salesperson prepared my rebate for me - right down to a stamped, addressed envelope - and the transaction took less than half the time it had taken in the past.
I don't know how they reduced the transaction time, but clearly that was an objective as they took over the store. Whatever their solution was, it certainly worked for me. The fact that I left with a few pieces of paper and not reams of it made me - and the environment - very happy. And preparing my rebate for me? That's just a big wow. It makes sense, because as a franchise they can focus on their objective of making customers happy, and not feel torn by a Verizon corporate marketing perspective that counts on a certain percentage of customers finding the rebate process too complicated to complete.
The last thing that happened paid for my phone today and the next few upgrades too. My company has 10 devices and over 30 gigs of data per month on our Verizon plan. That's expensive. My sales rep asked me if I had a little time to review and possibly reduce my bill. I was skeptical. Several months ago I went into that store with that very request, a promotion for reduced Verizon plans in my hand. After 45 minutes of looking at the Verizon system, trying to find a way to make that plan work for me, the sales rep and I both gave up.
Because my experience today had so far been excellent, I told her sure, give it a try. In less than 10 minutes she had reduced my bill by $260.00 per month. She saved me $3,120/year in 10 minutes. I am still smiling.
This store, now called Wireless Zone, teaches several important lessons to small business owners everywhere:
- Know what's important to you. In the case of Wireless Zone, the answer is clearly customer satisfaction and quality. It's so clear that I, as a customer, can speak to their values. Can your customers speak to your values as clearly?
- Align your merchandise strategy with your core business values. To do this they eliminated junk phones and a broad range of wireless toys, enabling them to focus on the core, quality products that would be sure to keep customers happy and loyal.
- Align your human resource strategy with your service goals. Wireless Zone put sales staff on salary instead of on commission. If their management approach is good, this should reduce turnover significantly, which will in turn ensure that the sales staff becomes increasingly knowledgeable and develops personal relationships.
I'm very impressed by The Wireless Zone in Wisconsin. Their business values and strategy are so transparent that we as customers can see what matters to them and why they should matter to us. That's a successful approach to small business. Let's all aspire to the same.