AS: Michelle, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Wireless Repair industry currently?
A: This is a really big question, and one with answers that vary over time, particularly for an emerging channel like device repair. As with any retail or consumer-facing industry segment, there are a myriad of challenges in order to stay relevant and responsive to consumer demand. Some of the most pressing challenges are, well, obvious. Offering quality repairs using best available parts, tools, and skilled technicians to perform the repairs. For retailers specifically, one of the biggest challenges is the learning curve for becoming a ‘merchant.’ Being a good merchant requires a thoughtful front-of-house customer experience and solid back-of-house processes.
Many merchants struggle with scalability. The same formula that worked for a 3-5 storefront operation may look very different when you grow to 10, 20 or more locations. Having a strong supply chain you can rely upon, without cutting corners, is key. Building relationships with partners who are expert in a specific area for retailing is paramount. Storeowners cannot do it all, though many try. As simple as it sounds, many retailers need to focus on building a business plan – monthly, annually, plus five- and 10-year plans. Even though this is a very ‘reactive’ business, you must start with financial and operational goals, supported by processes and systems that bolster reaching those goals. As a merchant, you must understand your specific customer segment. There are not many great examples of exceptional ‘service at retail’ models in the marketplace or role model merchants to follow, not even by the big box merchants. There are very few exceptional retail models to follow in general.
Today, most wireless repair retailers rely solely on foot traffic in a reactive way, versus generating a customer experience from a place where they fully understand their customer base. All customers have similar needs, but not all customer behaviors are the same in each market. Many merchants in this space started out as technicians and are learning to become merchants. Most merchants are learning how to be marketers. There is a lot of learning to master all of these functions at once. Consumers are learning how to utilize this market as well, not everyone even understands all their options for device repair, partly because the market is still fragmented.
Another major challenge today is retailers who are not investing in their brand as much as they are consumed with price-competitiveness. The irony is, with my twenty years in wireless, consumers often seek quality before price. Of course, they seek it at the best price possible but not at the risk of a poor-quality replacement. Merchants need to remember you are repairing one of the most valuable items all consumers own. It is not a race to the bottom for pricing; the race is really about quality at fair market value.
AS: How does the Wireless Repair EXPO help to meet those challenges?
We are passionate about education and networking when it comes to the Wireless Repair EXPO events. We are passionate about showing examples of best-in-class customer experience. We are dedicated to sharing value over lowest cost possible. There are still no clear single winners in this space. There is a community of suppliers, merchants, and other service providers who are helping the wireless repair community win in their own lanes. Our goal has been the same for the last five years with all our community events: to grow together, discuss best practices, and build a community network in a way that supports successful individual business plans that are an important part of the overall wireless eco-system.
AS: What are your plans for Wireless Repair EXPO going forwards and how will it grow with this fast-paced industry?
We will continue to host partner programs where the wireless repair and reverse logistics community can continue evolve. As long as mobile devices are the remote control to our lives, we will continue to support the channel in ways that create an intersection of education and best practices for measurable results for the entire channel. We do expect devices will change over time, and more demand will continue to emerge in Smart Home and other areas that seem to be a natural fit for a network of technicians and store fronts, where consumers can seek local market expert advice for their technology needs.
AS: How do you see the industry changing over the next five years?
It’s difficult to predict where any technology industry will be in five years. The lasting business cycle for device repair sort of surprised everyone, even OEMs. I suspect until the next critical mass adoption of ‘the next big thing’ that replaces the mobile device in your hand today, we are in it for the long haul. I do see further consolidation and maturation of the supply chain, but not in an ‘elimination of players’ way – more in the channel growing and the addition of others playing in this space in a more direct way.