Networks + Customers = Opportunity


Networks + Customers = Opportunity

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director  |  April 17, 2014

The past year has seen the real emergence of the concept of customer experience, with most every business starting to use the term to explain its methods for interacting and engaging with customers.  New concept? No. Rather, a new term for a new era of customer.  It’s been largely driven by the mobile trend, where multiple variables play into the user experience, including the wireless network infrastructure delivering services. This is where something unique happened during a series of meetings recently.

Typically, it would have seemed odd to have a conversation around customer experience with HP, Motorola Solutions, and Cisco (News - Alert). After all, they are in the network world, not customer facing – that’s the domain of the CRM and contact center teams, right?

Alas, the tables have turned. The mobile explosion has delivered an opportunity for businesses to engage with their customers at the most appropriate times. We’re already seeing an increase in mobile advertising, loyalty apps, mobile coupons, and other means of driving offers and information to customers.

But, most of those offers don’t come when customers can actually use them. On the other hand, the retail market, for instance, represents a tremendous opportunity for engagement within physical stores, giving added value to the brick and mortar operations that some believe are becoming extinct.

Here’s where the network vendors become interesting – the physical store mirrors the range of the WiFi (News - Alert) network and, if one thing is certain, it’s that customers are typically happy to jump off of cellular to WiFi networks whenever possible to save data usage on their plans. That puts them within the sphere of influence of the WiFi network operator (the business owner), so how can retailers, hotels, resorts, metro areas, and other similar operations leverage their infrastructure investments to create an enhanced customer experience?

Location, location, location. 

From the moment a customer enters a WiFi zone, he is identifiable as an anonymous guest. There’s engagement opportunity number one, with the hope of enticing the customer to log onto the network, at which point, more specific information and offers can be provided. The connectivity can even be used to provide an in-store GPS system – Motorola (News - Alert) Solutions, Cisco, and HP have all said they are close to delivering much more accurate location technology, as accurate as a few feet even.

With the enhanced location sensitivity and customer opt-in and loyalty program options, the opportunity to combine real-time location data and customer histories through back-end big data analytics to drive real-time insight is can bring about a new level of not only satisfaction, but a deeper understanding of customer trends for marketing, sales, and inventory initiatives.

Upon entering the network’s range, an offer can be pushed out to log into the network as a guest or registered user (loyalty program member, registered hotel guest, etc.), with other relevant options, such as offers for assistance, directions, services, etc.  This immediately engages the customer and builds a relationship with the brand.  Once they’ve opted in, the possibilities are endless.

If customers are standing in front of a product for an extended period of time, an opportunity arises for providing information about it or competitive products, or an offer for having an agent or on-site sales rep help answer any questions they might have. The action item might be a savings coupon for the customer that helps make his decision easier between two brands of breakfast cereal, or it might be calling a salesperson to help with questions about the LED TVs the customer is considering (or connecting with a customer service agent immediately).

If customers build buying patterns over time, it will soon be possible to identify items that may have inadvertently been missed, alerting them before they check out and leave the store. Or, it will be possible to use aggregate buying patterns to identify additional items that customers might need, such as rollers or paint brushes after picking up a gallon of paint at the hardware store – including providing mapped directions to the brushes.

These are only a few simple examples of what we can – and should – experience in the not-so-distant future, in our visits to grocery stores, amusement parks, hotels, sports venues, shopping malls, and nearly any other facility with a robust WiFi network – which is why these vendors are keen to drive an awareness of what can be possible with a properly deployed and managed network.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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