As telecom companies strive to improve their wireless and connectivity services everyday, so does their flagship stores which got facelifts in the recent times. We take a look at each of arch rivals Globe Telecom and Smart Communications’ newly-designed service centers.
In recent times, telecom networks decided to improve their personal counter services by upgrading their shops. Globe recently launched its Gen 3 store at SM North Edsa, offering a more personal experience amidst all services they are currently offering. There are also the Hip Lifestyle Cafes from Smart, and they are said to offer a better customer service satisfaction than their current shops.
I am really excited to see how they have evolved as they were unveiled just last year, and so I sneaked into their stores to observe and take a few pictures (in secret) to see what they’ve got.
The Problems of Current-Gen Service Centers
I can’t help but sometimes be irritated over the long queue of lines they have when I pay my bills. Waiting isn’t really a problem for me, but the amount of time that often lost to waiting for my turn on the counter is. There is always this feeling that I got nothing to do but to sit down and wait for my turn while doing nothing at all, losing all the time I should’ve done something else.
To add, I have always wished for something to keep me entertained while waiting. While the current Globe Store do have their smartphones on display, they don’t offer much aside from getting a rough hands-on, and they are often played on by trolls who put on device lock pins, making the showcased device rather unusable.
There were also cases of inconsistencies in store design. I’ve seen it mostly in Smart Stores, as some still bear their old logo and their interiors left untouched for years.
Globe Gen 3 Store
The new Gen 3 store at SM North Edsa feels very modern. The company eliminated most of the glass facade and opted for a more open, welcoming design with a plain white entrance, highlighting the content of the store. As dark as it may be, their choice of gray carpet-like wallpapers surrounding the whole area is pleasing to the eye.
Rather than the usual circular table where smartphone offerings are placed and is at the center of attention, the store refocused itself on showcasing services that the telecom can offer with hanging cubicles or stations of different activities with devices, more than just smartphones, to accompany each.
There are stations for music, productivity, and even augmented reality segments, to name a few. You can try and use the devices with some assistance. There are also really cool motion control games just in front of the long counter, where customers get to finalize their contracts, pay their bills, and receive their devices.
You get to have a more personalized service because you are now called by name on the counter, not by number. While waiting for my turn, I went around and checked the stations. Employees can also be seen manning some of them, and they are approachable when I asked for certain questions regarding products and services that are featured. I enjoyed looking that I didn’t notice I am now up for the counter.
If you’re not keen on waiting, Globe also acquired the small adjacent space beside their old store and boosted their self-service options by placing two more touch-enabled Express Payment machines (from the only one before the renovation) and added three customer service hotline panels where you get to talk with Globe Customer representatives via a video conference. There are also rooms available for a more approachable conversations with a Globe Representative.
Smart Hip Lifestyle Cafe
And then we have the Smart Hip Lifestyle Cafe, which has a few stores situated on high-end malls such as PowerPlant in Rockwell and Robinsons Magnolia. The facade is still glass, but you can see from the outside that the store is pretty much adorned with a lot of wood as its primary theme.
Everything is very self-oriented when you come inside. There are two panels which you can choose to operate and get your customer stubs from: The ‘Digital Profiler’ as they call, which lets you decide on choices of plans and gadgets for a new postpaid plan, and the service panel where you get to have your own customer stub.
The Smart Lifestyle Cafe also boasts of several sections, ‘nooks’ as they call it, in partnership with a few mobile apps to entertain their customers: There’s a section where you can sit down and read some literary work courtesy of their own Buqo app. The front part is also a ‘nook’, as they say. You get to test out any device and have a chance to stream some tunes through their own Spinnr app, which I find a bit odd since they are already carrying Deezer in the country.
The same Smart elements are still intact: There’s the lone cashier window, and a lot of the customer service representatives are now situated on the sides. The new layout offers a more personal conversation and customer service experience, but the old Smart design elements that are still intact are contrary to what they want to portray.
The employees gave me really nice suggestions on my next postpaid plan, and even the guard is very approachable and suggests a ton of devices that I can choose from, which are placed on circular tables.
So, who wins?
Over time, the Globe Gen3 design tends to be a bit boring. Add the fact that there are issues with the current lighting, which may hinder people applying for new postpaid plans from writing properly given how dim the setup is, and we’ve got a design that’s downright dull.
The new touch-enabled self-service payment counters could offer a bit of an upgrade too — the screens are resistive and there are no indications whether my feedback was accepted or not. I even had a time where I printed out a lot of balance receipts because it gave no signal that it was already pressed. Despite these shortcomings, the new layout provides the best customer experiences while on queue, which is something not to miss out.
The Smart Lifestyle Cafe’s layout, on the other hand, feels really straightforward and relaxing. I really like how they implemented the design on the new store, but the old Smart store elements still remain intact and take away the purported experience. It’s like an upgraded version of the current Globe store, to say the least.
Since there are a lot more self-service payment counters, I only spend less than five minutes in the Gen3 store paying for my bills than the usual 15-20 waiting at the cashier. The Smart Lifestyle Cafe has no customers when I came in, so it’s safe to assume that you’ll be spending the same time, unless the volume of people racks up and the waiting time increase.
Here’s the bottomline: I really think Globe’s new store takes the cake for having the best in-store experience its customers can have. But hey, we would always clamor for the telecom with the better experience anyway. Which new store do you think is better?
Editor’s Note: We’ve been invited to take a formal visit/tour of the stores but opted to do the visits independently and on our own terms (read: in secret) so we’d really get the perspective of a regular customer rather than as media.