A few months since high-street stores reopened, Mobile News visited outlets of the UK’s four mobile operators to find out how they’re getting on and what methods they’re using to keep customers safe
For obvious reasons, it’s been a while since Mobile News has run its regular Mystery Shopper feature. However, this issue we managed to pay a visit to four operator stores to see what measures they have put in place and how they have responded since reopening in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
This particular visit focuses on how EE has responded to the coronavirus pandemic.
EE’s Oxford Street branch, run by store manager Rachel Corrales, is one of its busiest.
On arrival, a host was waiting at the entrance to greet customers. This advisor, who is usually a senior manager or assistant, was standing on a podium just inside the shop to acknowledge and organise customers.
“It’s their job to manage the customers that are coming into the store,” said Corrales. “We have a one-customer-per- advisor rule in place so that we avoid customers browsing around the store and it becoming crowded.”
Once the customer has spoken to the host, they are entered into EE’s online booking system.
The host uses a tablet to do this via a “Greet Me” application, with two options to select based on what the customer requires – either ‘shop’, or ‘help’ if they require technical assistance.
“If someone wants to buy a phone, we would select ‘shop’ and then assign them to an advisor,” said Corrales. “The person on the podium will then do a handover with the advisor and take them to an area where they can be seated. If we’re at full capacity, we’ll tell the customer that they will receive a text when it’s their turn to come in.”
Customers can also book appointments in advance over the phone, or book in person for a different day and time if they’re not seeking a same-day appointment.
As for measures inside the store, Corrales spoke about the importance of preparing well to ensure safe reopening.
She said that such preparation included the implementation of a cleaning schedule and the introduction of various PPE. Wearing masks is compulsory for staff at all times on the shop floor, with visors optional for those that wish to wear them instead.
In addition, hand sanitiser stations are available to use throughout the store, and floor markings are used to help customers navigate in an orderly fashion and avoid crowding.
“We’ve had a structure in place to make sure we were prepared for when we opened up our stores,” said Corrales. “This includes having a cleaning schedule. Before hours, we do a deep clean in the store and also clean up after each interaction, as well as doing the tablets and surfaces.”
Not all EE staff are back in store just yet, because there are tight limits on the number allowed on the shop floor at any given time – and Corrales said that those absent are doing other roles remotely.
“We have some of the team supporting other departments, as we’re limited to a certain amount of staff on the shop floor – so we’ll utilise them in other areas,” said Corrales. “For the time being, this will be their set role. When we closed down, there were particular advisors selected to do roles that require them to work from home.”
The store reopening has been welcomed by Corrales and her team, with a “buzz” about being back, she added.
“A lot of my advisors are part-time and have been eager to come back into the store. When the shop was about to reopen, people were asking for when their shifts were and whether they could do overtime.”
Like the other operators, EE has seen some products that have proved more popular during the pandemic, said Corrales.
“Customers are a lot more open to buying additional devices – especially those who have kids – as it opens up a conversation around how Covid is going to impact them, with a lot of stuff now done online. This has in turn presented us with additional opportunities.”
She added that tablets have been one item that has proved popular with customers.
Corrales said that when it comes to spending patterns, there are many customers who are unable to spend as much as before the pandemic, while others are not worried about price and just want to be connected more than ever.
BT’s integration and reintroduction to the high street through EE has also provided additional opportunities for the operator.
“Having BT on the high street for the first time in a long time has enabled us to capture a new audience,” said Corrales. “Having the brand in store is a great way to promote our broadband proposition just as much as mobile.”
EE retail director Lee Frankham said, meanwhile, that even though Covid-19 has presented challenges, it has simultaneously given the operator the opportunity to refresh its in-store service – meaning advisors can spend more time than ever helping customers and ensuring everyone remains safe.
“Despite the challenges COVID-19 has presented, it has given us the opportunity to refresh our in-store journey so that our advisors can spend more time than ever helping our customers, while making sure we all stay safe.
“We’ve been able to trial and launch new products that will make the customer experience even better,” Frankham added.
“Overall, customers have been really understanding when it comes to following the new processes we put in place and satisfaction has remained high.”