For the past week I had been thinking of ways that I could better reach people and show off the feature rich mobile OS I love so much, Windows Phone! Doing WinPhan work online is always a good start, but as a WinPhan, sometimes you just have to do more. I decided to take it to the streets, talking to both the average person just shopping and the Customer Service Representatives(CSR’s), who are responsible for putting Windows Phone in those shoppers hand. Read along as I detail my experience, is the US really on the rise in Windows Phone recognition, are people interested in another OS, can CSR’s find a way to be interested in taking Windows Phone seriously?
If you’re from the US, bare with me for a moment. For those outside the US, we have 32 carriers for customers to choose from however the “big 4” pretty much dominate the market possessing around 90 percent of all wireless subscribers. Those 4 major carriers are Verizon(#1), AT&T(#2), Sprint(#3), and T-Mobile(#4). Unfortunately Sprint has no offerings for Windows Phone 8 as their last WP offering was the HTC Arrive, yes that little 1st generation WP with a physical keyboard and tilting screen. For the sake’s of WinPhan outreach I avoided Sprint to better reach people who have a choice on my recent models. Enter #6 carrier in the US, US Cellular, a smaller company that has offered a couple WP’s now, the HTC 7 Pro(Sprint’s Arrive for US Cellular) and now the ZTE Render.
Eagerly I exited my vehicle ready to talk to potential WPers’ and CSR’s. US Cellular is know for it’s ability to get reception to subscribers in more remote areas of the US, so they are important for WP’s success in more rural areas like the area I live in. In addition, I personally couldn’t wait to see if they had improved since I left them for AT&T over a year ago for better WP support. Upon entering the store I quickly realized I was the only customer(poor economy has effects beyond WP’s control), so I stood and eyed their selection until I saw the ZTE Render crammed in between a couple Blackberry’s and Androids, no signs or any anything to draw your attention to it, but yes it was there. More than that, to US Cellular’s credit, the model was a working model unlike previous experiences where their only display was a dummy model unable to be tried or used.
One of the 4 CSR’s quickly approached me and inquired about what I was looking for. Stating that I was interested in WP’s Render, he shrugged and headed off and left me alone to ponder my own thoughts, disheartening at best. Unsatisfied with this interaction, I followed him over to the other CSR’s busily chatting amongst themselves to find out their level of knowledge and interest towards Windows Phone. More unnerved than anything the 4 CSR’s all stammered over what to say the strong points of the Render were, what the specs were, or even what the Windows Phone experience was like outside of the Render. After a few minutes of talking with these guys, I revealed what my goal was. I tried my best to give them a look at what WP8 is and its many strong suits and features. In addition, I showed them Microsoft’s Expert Zone to try and encourage them to better promote WP at Microsoft’s expense. Result, very little interest on their part. Sensing these guys had no interest in learning something new, I knew it was time for this WinPhan to find another spot to get on my soapbox!
Next stop, Verizon Wireless, the largest carrier in the US and recent new best buddy to Windows Phone and Microsoft. I was excited for this visit as I had yet to get my hands on 2 of Windows Phone’s newest models, the Nokia Lumia 822 and Samsung’s ATIV Odyssey. Pulling into the parking lot and saw this sign, thought to myself, ALRIGHT! Anytime I see outdoor advertising, that’s a plus in my books!
The joy stopped right there, dead in its tracks! Upon entering I had hoped to see a dedicated area for WP or maybe some signs spread throughout the store, but much like my visit to US Cellular, there was very little for me to see. This store only had 1 employee and no customers. Tough economy or possible bad location, I wasn’t sure, however later in this article, the evidence leads towards bad location. I wandered about looking for their WP’s and this is what I found from the largest carrier in the US.
This was it! 1 HTC 8X and it was a dummy floor model, meaning it didn’t even work. There as a static cling on the front of the device showing what WP8’s Start Screen looks like. Disappointing to say the least! I asked the CSR if she had any info on WP to which she replied quite flatly, “no”. To her credit, she did offer that she could order any phone that Verizon offers, so I asked her which models those would be and she had NO idea. Completely unaware of the WP’s offered by her employer, she then proceeded to the poster shown below and began reading the small print, I’ll assume in hopes of ascertaining some info on WP and the models carried by her employer.
I’m not making this up, this is what the average buyer faces when entering a store looking to get ahead in the smartphone world. Again, just sad. Thoroughly dismayed with this CSR and quickly realizing she had neither a background in wireless or tech and more than that, just seeming she had no interest in being at work that day, I offered her a lovely day and was on my way again.
Now what started off as an inspiring and potentially fun filled day, was beginning to unravel beneath my feet. I had to regroup and this meant heading to my “Stomping Grounds”, AT&T, where I’m almost on a first name basis with the CSR’s at this particular store. Ahhh, a breath of fresh air…right? A store where I’ve seen them have equivalent advertising for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone in the past, especially after the launch of WP8. Unfortunately, some of that wind is gone from the launch. Yes, their floor models were all there, even showing some of the various color options available for their Lumia 820, 920, and HTC 8X, however the visual stimulation is now gone. No poster on the front windows, no posters and/or kiosk grabbing your attention.
I wasn’t going to let that stand in my way though. I had the opportunity to talk with 2 potential customers, both who were fairly uninterested in looking at something new. One of them actually stated that they wouldn’t even consider looking just because the iPhone is “So Easy”…ironically I saw this book later in the day.
Yep, like I thought, iPhone IS much easier than Windows Phone…OK, whatever! Still not phased by the day, I carried on. I decided to stick around their a bit longer in hopes of a more positive WinPhan interaction! As if the WinPhan Gods had finally had enough, they shone their light down on me by sending in a customer who wandered by the WP section of AT&T and like a tiger gets its prey, I leapt at the opportunity quickly approaching them with my Lumia 920 in hand. I spent the next 15 minutes with them offering a full demo of the potential of Windows Phone, showing how I keep in contact with my wife, family, and WinPhan Family…all from my Start Scree. What was interesting and kind of an honor, 2 of the CSR’s at AT&T also joined in and watched as I demoed my beautiful 920. One cyan 920 sold…BOOM! I demoed a couple more times without leading to a sale, but I GUARANTEE that they will remember WP for the next time they buy and they might even recommend it to someone they know.
With the day progressing rapidly, it was time to make one final stop. T-Mobile was my intention, however, their one store in our area recently closed and in it’s place another Verizon Wireless, and nicer looking Verizon than the first one visited!
Immediately upon entering this Verizon, I was greeted by one of the 5 CSR’s on duty. The other’s were engaged with customers, some looking at WP and some looking at Android. I informed him I was interested in WP and he quickly pointed me in the direction towards their incredible Windows Phone display area. This was what I had hoped to see all along! This particular Verizon was still pushing the WP8 Launch theme and it WAS working!
It was also great to see the JBL Power Up speaker on display, although nothing was playing through it or charging on it. Instead They used the HTC 8X to display wireless charging as it sat its Qi charging plate. In addition to Windows Phones and their accessories being displayed, Verizon took it a step further offering a great video about Windows 8 directly above display area.
The CSR was full of ACCURATE information and more importantly, very open to the concept of a customer appreciating and enjoying the Windows Phone platform. He also informed me that the HTC 8X was their hot seller in that particular store but if I was low on money that the Samsung ATIV Odyssey was a great alternative! Kudos Mr. CSR! At this point, I informed him of my intentions and we discussed WP8 at length in which he really proved his knowledge of our OS.
I decided to hang around for a few more minutes just watching to see what people were asking for upon entering. No great surprise here as 3 people entered during this time, each inquiring about iPhone. The greater surprise came when 2 of the CSR’s suggested that they might find more interest and ease of use by purchasing a Windows Phone! At that point, I knew my job was done for the day!
After spending much of the day talking and showing Windows Phone and being a WinPhan, I was pretty tired and was left with a lot to ponder. What did I learn? Is it all enough? What more can be done? Who should it be done by? So many questions still. I do have one answer to these questions though. The answer is WinPhan. Us the WinPhans still hold an incredible amount of influential power to both the average user and the CSR. CSR’s base their reaction on consumer demand. We must talk to more CSR’s, that is VERY important! It was verbalized to me more than once yesterday, that I was one of the first people they had run across who was verbal about Windows Phone. IT’S IMPAIRATIVE THAT YOU ARE TOO! CSR’s do care what people are interested in, not enough people have gone out of their way to show interest in WP, so why would CSR’s be gung ho? Be excited and tell you local CSR!
Talk to your friends and talk to people you don’t know. If the opportunity presents itself don’t shy away, approach an individual and in a very non-antagonistic way, show them how you stay connected to your network of people! One person at a time, we the WinPhan shall show our beloved, beautiful, and bold OS…Windows Phone!
So say we all!