AT&T is getting booted out of Starbucks, but the wireless carrier isn't licking its wounds. The company is celebrating top customer care scores from J.D. Power and rolling out a new store model it hopes will offer shoppers a more compelling retail experience.
More than two years in the making, the new store concept aims to offer a more interactive environment. AT&T is starting with its La Grange, Ill. store., which opened today.
"AT&T is reinventing the retail store shopping experience," Jeff Kagan, an independent wireless analyst, told us. "They have begun a process that could redefine the retail store in many industries, but at the very least it will completely reinvent the AT&T retail shopping experience."
Reinventing Carrier Stores
AT&T said its new generation of stores are designed for flexibility. The store layout will highlight the carrier's products and services, including devices and accessories across three zones: the Connected Experience Zone, the Community Zone, and the Explore Zone.
The new Connected Experience Zone features "lifestyle vignettes" that offer customers a glimpse of how solutions can be used in their everyday lives. These areas will highlight categories like music, home security and entertainment.
The Community Zone features "community tables" that encourage customers to shop and play in an open and interactive space. Customers can explore apps, accessories and devices to see how they all work together. And the Explore Zone highlights AT&T's device lineup and accessories.
When they are ready to make their purchases, customers won't find retail cash register counters. Instead, they'll sit at round cafe-style tables where they can talk with retail consultants and ask questions or learn about products or services. Salespeople will carry tablets equipped with a point-of-sale system so that customer transactions can occur anywhere in the store.
"When you walk in, you are greeted and guided to the section of the store that can help you," Kagan said. "Some people are only there for a quick couple of minutes on a lunch break, while others are there to visit and look around, and still others are ready to buy. Whatever you want, they guide you along to give you the best service experience."
AT&T Bests Industry on Customer Care
In other news, AT&T ranked first in the latest J.D. Power study, making it the "Highest Ranked Customer Service Performance Among Full-Service Wireless Providers." AT&T also scored the highest in the industry for its online experience, which had the biggest improvement over the past six months.
"AT&T has been working hard to improve customer care in recent years and it looks like they are doing a great job according to this new J.D. Power study," Kagan said. "It scored AT&T better than its competitors for the overall customer service experience measured across its retail stores, online and call centers."