As we press further into the 21st century and as technology evolves, so do businesses and the way they approach customer service. New technology as well as the changing demands of consumers in the digital era has prompted retail businesses to re-think their in-person experience and to redesign their brick-and-mortar stores in order to offer a deeply personalized and individualized service or product. And few have led this type of transformation better than Comcast, as seen in their Xfinity stores. The plain, old, transactional center in the middle of an industrial park is now an outdated concept and part of cable days gone by. Replaced by the Xfinity store, the current model is light and airy, boasts an open space, comes lined with the latest products, and is staffed with representatives ready to help. The stores are located in thriving areas where they can become a part of the community landscape, replete with everyday customers stopping in to take a look at what’s new or to get any questions about their service answered.
Last month, we took a field trip to an Xfinity store in Washington, DC, located amid a bustling row of restaurants, bars and shopping stores, to see this transformation for ourselves. One big change is that not only is every customer greeted as they come in, iPads are now available to check yourself in as soon as you arrive. Kiosks sit in a couple areas of the store in case someone just wants to pay their bill and then go about their day. An “experience wall” also decorates a corner of the store for customers to interact with and get a glimpse of the latest services available, like the company’s home automation and security system called Xfinity Home. As we looked around and talked with a few in-store guides and played with the gadgets they introduced us to, we noticed a visually impaired man receiving a tutorial on how to use the X1 talking guide and voice remote. Then directly on the other side of him, another in-store guide walked a family through how to navigate Comcast’s new products and how to set up security measures for their home, all from the comfort of an app on their phones.
This is all part of a larger strategy that Comcast is putting in place to take the customer service experience to the next level. “We are going from transactions to interactions. We want to build relationships with customers that are all about educating them about the marketplace, about how our products are different and how they can impact their lives,” said Tom DeVito, Senior Vice President of Retail Sales at Comcast. DeVito explained that Comcast is looking to bring the Xfinity brand to life through its customer service interactions by not only improving the digital systems and tools in place for customers, but by letting customers experiment with the equipment and products themselves.
There are 180 renovated Xfinity stores currently open and Comcast is launching an even newer design format next year, which DeVito dubs their “neighborhood stores.” “We will open a store a week [in the new format] all through 2017,” said DeVito. A handful of these stores have already opened this year. DeVito describes the upcoming store design format as one that uses digital technology, interactivity and personalized customer service to produce a world class retail experience.
More importantly, Comcast has made investments in its employees both by adding more staff and also by training in-store guides to really dig deep into what customers are looking for when they walk into the store. We noticed this ourselves when two store employees walked us through Comcast’s X1 television experience, and how to utilize the voice search function. They asked us questions like, are you a sports fan? What are your favorite shows? How often do you travel? Any kids at home? All of these questions served to help them learn more about us, not just as customers but as people. These details informed them on how to better tailor their walkthrough for us and give us the demonstrations and tools we would find most useful.
Customers come in with all types of questions, the most prevalent having to do with how to operate their new X1. “Our thinking is, ‘Come into the store and let us train you,’” said Jeff Seidenfaden, Vice President of Sales and Marketing of the Comcast Beltway Region. The Xfinity store employees are there to show customers, through interaction, how to understand and maximize all of their Xfinity services as well as show them the information available at their fingertips, like My Account app, so they can navigate the system on their own.
As Comcast moves towards this new way of having their customers experience the brand, the communities where they reside take notice. People walk by, stop in and explore all of what television and technology has to offer.
“We are actually LIVING customer service. This is affecting the community in a positive way,” said DeVito.