Despite business interruptions, essential wireless device repair stores have emerged from the height of the pandemic stronger than ever. Stores have redefined their operations and continue to deliver critical resources for consumers and businesses. As we settled into a “new normal,” retail service providers had to rethink business models and tighten consumer interaction and store safety protocols by adapting and reinventing their device repair services.
Many of the device repair professionals we spoke to commented that being named an essential business was a privilege and an opportunity. As such, companies were confident that their business and the industry would thrive and grow. They were eager to serve and support communities staying connected to their devices in the safest manner possible. This mindset drove companies to quickly become even more agile by gathering ideas from employees and customers, brainstorming novel solutions and implementing new initiatives in real time.
Device repair companies transformed the retail experience for our industry and consumers. Emphasizing safety first, they added social distancing stickers on floors, plexiglass barriers around registers, and touchless bins for contactless drop-offs. They followed all essential business government rules and protocol. However, the most impactful business evolution occurred in planning, innovating, communicating and staffing. Below are some examples of how device repair companies have worked through COVID-19 challenges to continue to serve the needs of their customers:
PLANNING EARLY AND ENGAGING YOUR TEAM
“Crisis planning started for us in Q4 2019 when our international suppliers started dealing with COVID-19,” explained Jason DeWater, Owner of iFixOmaha. “We got the team together and talked about ‘what if.’ We literally played out the worst-case scenarios to have an action plan—not knowing what the effects of this pandemic were going to be. We opened the brainstorming company-wide and it was really healthy for our company. We collected lots of great ideas that we would have missed if we kept it to just the management team.”
SUPPORT OUR COMMUNITIES
“Supporting the communities, where we live and work is always central to our thinking. We are really proud of our Free Repairs for the Frontline program,” said Paul Walker, Sr. Director NAHQ, Samsung. “We saw an opportunity for us to provide meaningful support and wanted to be able to respond quickly. Offering free phone repairs to first responders was a great way to thank all of the heroes who continue to work in challenging conditions though this pandemic. This program was extremely well received and generated a lot of interest. We are thrilled to have been able to give back to the community and support these front line heroes. I have to add that none of this could have been achieved without the support of our repair partners, who as ‘essential workers’ continue to support our customers in these trying times.”
CONNECT MORE. CONTACT LESS.
“We knew we needed a video app right away to manage social distancing while still giving a great customer experience,” said Jason DeWater of iFixOmaha. “My team developed one that was perfect for our business. It allowed us to maximize technicians’ time as they could virtually help us from their home, providing diagnostics before a drop off. It allowed us to keep our employees safe and minimize contact. We also realized that we could use this video app for remote customer calls to replace our previous onsite visits, which saves time and money. This solution allows us to maximize our resources without compromising service. Our business is more scalable than we thought pre-COVID-19.”
PIVOT THE EXPERIENCE: PLAY BY THE NEW RULES
“The ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ program was developed as a response to many communities being locked down and consumers not being able to leave their house,” said Paul Walker of Samsung. “Usually, a Customer would leave the house to visit one of our Walk-In-Service locations or go to a drop-off location in order return a device to one of our Mail-In-Service locations. To help alleviate this, we created a program where we sent the Customer a box to package their device in, and we then coordinated a UPS pick-up at the Customer’s location, making the process as safe and stress-free as possible.”
THOUGHTFUL STAFFING WIN/WIN
“Over-staffing was the healthiest thing we did,” said Jason DeWater of iFixOmaha. “Obviously figuring out staffing at a time like this was difficult, we wanted to minimize any job loss. Focusing on our people was not only the right thing to do, it helped us build a very strong foundation as we asked them to be part of the solution and they came up with great ideas. We also decided to provide paid leave for anyone that needed to be in self-isolation. The team felt supported and in turn the customers felt the team energy—so our customer satisfaction scores went up. It was a win/win for everyone.” uBreakiFix adopted similar procedures to manage staffing challenges. James Maragh, uBreakiFix, added that “motivating the staff, who are working so hard and long hours, was important to us. We tried to thank our staff by providing lunch. We also wanted the atmosphere to support our team to be positive and that helped with morale.”
TEMPORARY CHANGES, PERMANENT IMPROVEMENTS
Being able to re-evaluate processes and procedures during the pandemic helped drive ideas and improvements. “As we were moving furniture out of the waiting room, we realized we had to move the accessory wall as well,” said Adam Malone, General Manager Same Unit Repair, Asurion, who oversees repair services for customers through the company’s partnership with more than 590 uBreakiFix stores nationwide. “This not only helped with our sanitization and cleaning protocols in uBreakiFix stores, it also gave consumers a better overall experience as staff could be more helpful and focused with them.” Asurion also worked with uBreakiFix to expand its repair service model to include contactless curbside service, mail-in availability, and ‘We Come to You’ appointments. Another example of a change that led to long-term improvements was sanitation protocol. “As we changed protocols, we realized we could have been doing them all along,” said Jason DeWater. “Cleaning the phone before technicians worked on it is a great common practice to support the health of our own technicians.”
In these unprecedented times of redefining the “new normal,” device repair shops have embraced the honor of being deemed essential businesses. Being able to deliver critical repair services to their customers shined a bright light on the device repair industry, and highlighted the importance of the role device repair shops play in the wireless ecosystem of keeping consumers connected when we need it most.