T-Mobile integrates Yext to help customers find T-Mobile faster
‘We have gone to great lengths to manage all our retail stores internally, from a central database, which is something that most enterprises are struggling to get right. We have a centralised system with checks and balances in place, so it all flows out from that one database as a source of truth. Yext came in and helped us do that.’
With over 65 million customers, T-Mobile is one of the United States’ largest wireless providers whose influence only continues to grow. Not too long ago, the company decided to spearhead change and fix its industry — a category that once ranked in people’s minds worse than that of proverbial used car salesmen — forcing the rest of the players to follow. In an increasingly mobile world where people have multiple devices, how were people using its services and how could it best serve them?
"What we do impacts everyone’s daily lives," says Glenn May, Senior Search Manager. "Whether it’s business or personal — whether a person needs to make an emergency call or keep in touch with friends and family — the service we provide is fundamental. We are one of those services that you don’t notice is working until it’s not. We need to always be on, have 100% availability, 100% service for our customers and exceed their expectations at all times."
Of T-Mobile’s expansive retail presence including kiosks and stores-within-stores, over 3,500 locations are traditional storefronts. "It’s a split between franchised and corporate owned," explains May. "We have corporate and then what we call TPR, T-Mobile Preferred Retailer. Lots of people like receiving the value of one-to-one interaction and they don’t want to drive 20 miles to do that." Adds May, "Especially because, as smartphones and tablets become more sophisticated they also become more complicated. It’s so much easier for people to go into our locations and have someone walk them through something."
In this spirit of helping customers find T-Mobile faster, "We want to be in people’s neighbourhoods. That’s really important not only because people want a location nearby, but also because, when it comes to coverage, people want to know it works in their neighbourhood, at their workplace and in their home," May continues. "We want there to be a store in every area where people work or live so they can say, ‘What is my coverage like?’ We can try it right there. It’s therefore really important to be local and present in those areas."
Along with contract elimination, anytime upgrades, free streaming, customer rewards, elimination of hidden charges and a significantly expanded network, the in-person customer experience is one of many improvements or ‘un-carrier moves’ that T-Mobile has spearheaded for its industry and its customers. "We have made huge strides in minimising the amount of in-store time it takes to buy a new cell phone," May proclaims. "Years ago, it used to take two hours for a person to buy a mobile phone, between trying to activate everything, filling out forms. A pain on par with the DMV! Now we have reduced the turnaround time to 25 minutes."
Accurate Mobile Search is today’s bricks-and-mortar imperative
Of course, an excellent and swift in-store experience is great but only if customers know that the store exists. "One of our biggest concerns was basically, ‘Are the stores showing up in Google for the queries they should be showing up for?’" explains May. "’Do they show up on the map accurately, not only on Google, but also on Bing and Apple Maps?’ Those are the top three engines that people use and we want to make sure the store locator pin is indeed in the right spot. The other challenge we faced was making sure that all our location knowledge was correct and updated across myriad other sites so that Google would see that and Bing would see that and pick up positive signals. What we were doing just wasn’t working."
May’s team tried lots of solutions but none were able to tackle the issues at their source. "We’d previously used a directory aggregator which by virtue of being an aggregator wasn’t so successful," he explains. "Sure, we sent our feed to them and they said they’d send it out to hundreds of different websites but what we discovered was that many of these websites were not necessarily consuming that feed. Or their updates were very infrequent, if they occurred at all — maybe once a year! Yet, we were being told that we were updating ‘weekly!’ Google looks at these different sites to validate what we are sending them and that didn’t jive."
A rebranding helped bring these challenges to the fore. "In 2008, we had acquired SunCom, a smaller proprietor operating in parts of the South and in Puerto Rico," May says. "Years later, many of those stores were still showing up as SunCom on Google because dozens of other directories hadn’t removed them. I would contact these numerous directories and they would tell me to contact the aggregator services to change the company name there so that it would flow onto their sites. And I would tell them ‘that is why I’m contacting you, because we have done all that and you still haven’t changed it.’ It felt like Catch 22."
T-Mobile develops a centralised platform to manage its Digital Knowledge so customers can find T-Mobile faster
Right when he felt the most frustrated, May discovered the Yext platform. "We have a centralised database, so all the stores have internal systems where they enter in forms for updated store hours or changing a name, address or phone number. We have therefore integrated Yext with that core system such that the Yext platform has effectively become an extension of that central place," May describes. "Yext also came in and helped us remove a significant number of duplicates which were causing confusion on Google’s end. Getting those cleaned up and maintained on a regular basis has been crucial. I don’t know anybody else who can do that as well as Yext," he adds, acknowledging the unique Duplicate Suppression functionality.
T-Mobile’s local search presence has improved substantially since launching with Yext. In its first year using the platform, 45,000,000+ Yext-powered listings appeared correctly in search results. Overall, the company’s location information is more accurate, more consistent and more reliable — across multiple channels and devices. Brand loyalty and perception have increased among customers, prospects and employees.
"From a client standpoint," Mays remarks, "what I expect from an agency or partner is — one — that they provide the service they said they’d deliver — two — that they provide great customer service, and — three — I expect them to come to the table often with new ideas, new concepts, changes that are happening in the industry and what we need to do to roll with those changes. Yext has been hitting it on all three pillars there."
"We have gone to great lengths to manage all our retail stores internally, from a central database, which is something that most companies are struggling to get right," continues May. "We have a centralised system with checks and balances in place, so digital knowledge all flows out from that one database as a source of truth. Yext came in and helped us do that. We want our local operators and franchisees to focus on helping our customers — not to be figuring out what legal bumpers they need to stay within when posting to Google in order for customers to walk in the door. We do that on their behalf, so they can focus on sales and service."
Looking forward, T-Mobile aims to provide increasingly personalised service, both online and offline. "We are looking at how people are becoming more and more and more mobile," May says. "We are approaching the point where there will be more mobile devices than people in America. So we’re focusing on people with multiple devices now. How do we serve those needs? And what’s unique about those different devices they use? When do they use each one? What purpose does each device serve? And how does their usage vary depending on device? It’s peeling back those layers of the onion. How are people using our services? Ultimately, the question always comes back to, ‘How can we best serve our customers?’"