Unlocking our doors and evolving our service will help open up a new world of connectivity for customers

Bridget Lea, MD Commercial, BT Consumer division 

It’s good to be back.

The surge of people returning to our high streets as lockdown eased last week marked an important step forward for not just our economy, but for our customers too. The pandemic has shown us just how critical the personal, local service my retail colleagues provide can be for so many people.

That’s borne out by the footfall we’ve seen in the first days of our EE and BT stores being fully reopen: it’s already been higher than we’ve seen after previous lockdowns have been lifted. In fact, for isolated and vulnerable people, or those without digital skills who rely on face-to-face communication to fix their service enquiries, our stores are a lifeline.

We’re working hard to make that lifeline stronger than ever. Our store teams’ passion and excitement for reopening has been phenomenal. We have fully reopened our EE and BT retail stores across England and Wales, where my teams are focused on giving customers the best experience possible and keeping everyone safe when they visit with innovations such as our GreetMe virtual queueing system, so that customers do not have to wait around and can better observe social distancing measures. And we are set to reopen in Scotland on April 26, with retailers classed as non-essential in Northern Ireland permitted to welcome customers back on April 30.

I have worked in retail for 25 years, and this next six months is the most important time for the high street to survive. We are here to play our part, serving our communities and helping breathe new life into local economies.

The majority of people visiting our stores have been asking for mobile health checks, help with repairs, managing their devices and – in our new world of connectivity – upgrading their connections. To keep retail relevant and meet customers’ evolving needs, we must continue to innovate. The pandemic has shown us not just how much can be done remotely – but also how much our customers missed face-to-face interaction. So we’ve doubled our efforts to provide home delivery and expert device set-up and invested in a company that does just that. As part of our exclusive partnership with Enjoy, customers who do not wish to visit our shops can still get access to the same in-store experience and set-up support at their home or workplace.

We will soon be providing repairs where our customers are, too – not just where our stores are – with our doorstep repair service. It’s something we’re currently trialling and we’ll be rolling it out nationwide, when you can book in for our experts to come to your front door to repair your device in as little as an hour. You don’t even need to be an EE customer to benefit from the convenience and simplicity we’re striving to provide.

And we’re going further to fix our customers’ issues in-store. We've extended our superfast mobile device repair service to 85 stores in England. Repairs will be carried out, where possible, within 24 hours by trained specialists approved by Apple, Google, Huawei and Samsung, so customers have the peace of mind of knowing that their warranty is still valid. We’re also making free and contactless phone health checks available in our shops.

That tech support and connectivity we provide will be more important than ever as the world begins to open up again in the next few months. Customers will expect the same connectivity they have outside of the home as they have done under one roof during lockdown. We’re continuing to train and upskill the people who help make that possible – my brilliant retail colleagues – so that they can in turn provide the best, personal, local service.

We’re continuing to invest in them so they can do their best for our customers. While our shops were obliged to remain closed, we are proud that we didn’t make any redundancies or furlough any of our retail people. And while many have been doing all they can to support customers through our digital channels, there is often no substitute for being there face-to-face.

Bridget Lea, MD Commercial, BT Consumer division