When I caught up with Michael Cioffi, Director of People and Culture for WOW! mobile boutique™, he had just touched down in Cancun to set up a work retreat to reward the company’s most dedicated employees. “We are recognizing our top 50 associates across the country, taking them to an all-inclusive resort, wining and dining them, and thanking them for their contribution,” he said.
This appreciation is core to the WOW! mobile boutique™ culture. The Ontario-based wireless retailer works hard to recognize high performing representatives – and not just for their sales figures. The team also rewards good customer service, even if that service doesn’t lead to a sale. This means acknowledging those who go “above and beyond the call of duty,” not just productivity. As a result, reps are highly motivated to deliver the best possible customer service.
WOW! mobile boutique™ was founded on this commitment to customer service. The story began in 2013 when Match Marketing Group began the launch of a multicarrier wireless journey with multiple kiosk locations throughout Canada. “The whole notion of it was to become a very customer-centric place, a place that would reduce anxiety for the customer but also reduce anxiety for the rep,” Mr. Cioffi says. “We wanted to empower the consumer to choose a wireless solution that was right for that individual consumer through needs based selling and offering personalized, unbiased advice.” This meant dismantling some of the industry’s standard business practices.
“A lot of times, in the wireless industry, you are recommended what to get based on what the rep gets compensated for. So if you walk into some of our competitors, they might suggest that you get certain things because it makes [the rep] more money.”
The retail professionals at Match Marketing Group found a way to end this practice when they launched the new venture. “We flattened the commission structure so it was customer-centric no matter what the customer got,” Mr. Cioffi says. “Whether they decided to do a renewal or get a new activation or whatever the case might be, the rep got paid the exact same because they were paid based on customer satisfaction, not based on different skus or different products that were being sold. So we immediately reduced that anxiety and we didn’t become the sales sharks in the industry; we became the organization that was really there to aid and assist a wireless consumer, and shoppers realize it instantly when interacting with our people; we just move differently.”
Joanne Benjamin learned about the company’s commitment to customer service firsthand when she dropped her cell phone in a hot tub. Ms. Benjamin posted her story on Facebook in February, which caught the team’s attention. She lost all of her photos in the accident, including a poignant image of her with her father on the last day of his life. Ms. Benjamin drove 45 minutes to the nearest WOW! mobile boutique™ and asked if anyone could help her recover the irreplaceable photo of her father. The rep made it happen – even though it wasn’t easy.
“She was praising WOW! mobile boutique™,” Mr. Cioffi says of the Facebook post. “One of our reps spent two hours helping her and recovering these images because it was of importance of her.” And the rep put in the time and effort without earning any commission, since Ms. Benjamin did not purchase anything that day. When Mr. Cioffi tracked her down to identify that dedicated rep and reward him, Ms. Benjamin agreed to share her story, saying that from now on she would never buy a cellphone from anywhere but a WOW! mobile boutique™. “That’s exactly why we were built,” Mr. Cioffi says. “That’s who we are. We live those moments of truth out, perfectly.”
A top-notch training program helps ensure that all the company’s reps provide the best customer service. “A lot of times people jump around from retailer to retailer and sometimes they take some bad habits with them,” Mr. Cioffi says. The key to correcting this is “making them really good at sales by simply understanding how to interact with people.” Rather than just covering the technical how-to of sales, the onboarding program teaches new reps how to engage with the customer, interact respectfully, assess their wireless needs and present the solution.
The company continues to support and guide its reps even after training. For example, employees have access to a digital platform called MyA hosted by Docebo, that “is basically the ‘hey Google’ or Alexa for all operational elements within our organization,” Mr. Cioffi says. “You can literally just ask, ‘hey Mya, how do I balance a till at the end of the night?’ and she’ll start answering questions for you.”
The team believes the customer comes first, but they also want to make sure that reps are well taken care of – and this includes compensation. “We’re all about our people,” Mr. Cioffi says. “We treat our people with the highest amounts of respect… One of the big initiatives that we have with every department is, how can we make our reps the most amount of money without jeopardizing the customer’s experience?” It’s a win-win for everyone involved, since this support circles back to the consumer. “We invest in our people because we have the best people. We therefore are able to service our customers to the best of our ability.”
Market research bears out this fact. “We’re constantly being recognized from our partners as having really, really high customer satisfaction scores,” Mr. Cioffi says. “They’ve been above ninety for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been with the organization for almost seven years, since we started.”
In addition to stellar customer service, WOW! mobile boutique™ has the products consumers want. The company offers Rogers, TELUS, Koodo, Fido, CHATR and Public Mobile and has access to sell over 3000 accessory skus across 83 locations in Canada. In order to offer so many products, the team just launched a new digital platform to ensure everything from phones and cases to headphones and chargers are readily available. Now, each kiosk is equipped with screens for customers to browse an endless array of online shopping options. “The reason that was so imperative is obviously, because we are a kiosk, we are very limited in the amount of space we have to carry products,” Mr. Cioffi says. “So whether it be for specific phones, or even specific colors, we couldn’t accommodate that. And we found that that was a big thing that was coming back in our customer satisfaction surveys: our selection wasn’t quite there because we are limited in space. So we invested in a product called Endless Aisle and Endless Aisle has over 3,000 skus, so now we can stock everything and drop ship to somebody’s house within two to three business days, anywhere from coast to coast, which is massive for us.”
The team also recently added tablets to its product list. Introducing this new product line “gives our consumers the ability, especially around back to school time, to one-stop shop for all their wireless needs, whether it be a tablet, accessories, device, or rate plans,” Mr. Cioffi says.
WOW! mobile boutique™ offers its full suite of products at affordable prices. “Not only do we have great people, but we also have more competitive offers than most of our competitors, even most of our providers, and the reason for that is because of the type of environment we are in,” Mr. Cioffi says. “Being in a multicarrier environment with our multiple points of distribution spanning across all major Canadian malls, our carriers are more inclined to compete with their competition [in kiosk] on price and promotions versus typical destination branded retail; ultimately our reps feel good about that because they’re offering the customers not only the best service, but also the best price on products.”
The team has dubbed 2020 “the year of focus” and is ready to take WOW! mobile boutique™ into the new year. “It is the year to buckle down, to fire on all cylinders and to be our authentic selves,” Mr. Cioffi says. He expects this will be reflected in sales figures. “We believe we are in a position to produce higher productivity than ever before.” Established on a commitment to customer service, the company already has the foundation it needs to excel in 2020 and beyond.