Mobile phone operator Orange is to trial two new store formats as it seeks to drive a customer service ethos.
The new designs – described as “community” and “multimedia” – could be rolled out across the UK if successful.
The community store opened at Monmouth in Wales this week and is designed for customers who want to discuss a range of topics with staff including making the most of their mobile phone or making internet access safe for children. Shoppers can pop in for “coffee mornings”.
The multimedia store, which is due to open in September in Milton Keynes, is designed to encourage customers to test the latest multimedia technology for mobile phones, such as music downloads, satellite navigation and email access.
In addition, Orange is allowing partners to open franchise stores. The first one opened this summer in Bridlington, East Yorkshire. Orange UK head of retail Sian Doyle said: “The high street is changing and what our customers need for communication is changing.
“What customers needed in mobile phones three years ago is not what they need now.”
There is much more discussion about using mobile phones for email and for watching TV than there was three years ago, she said.
Orange, which has about 17 million customers in the UK, said it will have 394 UK stores by the end of October. Doyle said existing stores could be retrofitted to incorporate the new store formats.
Orange declined to reveal any revenue targets for the store formats, and said new shops would be judged a success if staff were able to answer more customer queries in the store, rather than customers having to phone Orange customer services, and if more customers signed up for multimedia services and contracts.
Staff in the community store will receive commission based on the quality of their customer service rather than the traditional sales-based incentive.
Carphone Warehouse scrapped its sales commission in June in an effort to improve customer service.
Carphone said it found customers are concerned about the mobile phone industry in general trying to sell them things they do not need.