AT&T won J.D. Power's purchase experience full-service study this morning. It's the eighth time in a row that AT&T has received the top accolade and the only time any carrier has been picked as the top service provider in each of J.D. Power's six surveyed categories. The categories include carrier store sales rep rankings, facilities, website sales, phone sales, offerings/promotions and cost of service.
"AT&T was very busy with the integration of DIRECTV this year. For us to win the entire year, we're very proud of that," President & CEO of AT&T Consumer and Mobility Operations Glenn Lurie told TechnoBuffalo. "I'm proud of our ability to stay customer-focused during all of this change. It was a year of systems training and everything else you do when you buy something like DIRECTV and bring it in. DIRECTV didn't know how to sell wireless, wireless didn't know how to sell DIRECTV. It's some of the greatest work the team has ever done."
Lurie had a chance to explain some of the big changes he's noticed in consumer purchasing trends. Last year, for example, J.D. Power said that people preferred to buy smartphones in store. Lurie said that's beginning to morph.
"Customers are blending digital with physical. Very few people walk in without having gone online on their smartphone or tablet first," Lurie said. "Without question, we're seeing a change. Customers still prefer to come in and feel a device but the comfort level is changing as customers are more familiar with smartphones, and more folks are doing things online. Our store traffic is still doing very well, including across dealers and national retailers."
Lurie explained that the DIRECTV acquisition and AT&T's planned purchase of Time Warner helped position the company to sell more than just phones and data. "One big difference between AT&T and our competitors is that our competitors just sell one product," Lurie said, noting that he's noticing a trend where customers come in to buy a smartphone but end up also signing up for DIRECTV, or vice versa. Lurie said that's another reason why he's so proud of his team for winning this award since AT&T's abundance of products makes sales more complex than competitors.
J.D. Power has said device cost has been one pain point among carriers in the past. I asked Lurie how he plans to tackle rumors of a $1,000 iPhone 8 (though that price isn't actually as high as it sounds) and how he will keep customer sticker shock at bay.
"Whether the phone is $500 or $700, you're talking about a few bucks a month," Lurie said, discussing AT&T's device installment plans. "Customers love AT&T Next, they feel it's fair, we give them opportunities to upgrade when they want. We can make an offer to a customer that's currently a mobility customer and if you add DIRECTV to their household, we give them benefits because they have two products from us and now they're more valuable. If you come to AT&T and have DIRECTV and mobility, you can get a very very good deal on an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy. It's not just about the mobile business, we have a video business and we have a broadband business. Giving customers choice has taken the edge off of the phone price because they have multiple ways of doing business with us."
Lurie also commented on the revived popularity of unlimited data plans and how he believes the Time Warner acquisition will speed up innovation in the industry. "The smartphone is the new TV," Lue said ."It's where people are watching a ton of video. Video is what has driven excitement around unlimited. We've differentiated by being the largest linear TV player in the world," he added, noting that the DIRECTV acquisition helped position AT&T in that spot. Time Warner, he said, will help AT&T offer more. "We can deliver more more content than anyone else to that smartphone."
As of last night, Time Warner's shareholders have agreed to sell the company to AT&T, though it still needs government approval. If it's approved, 2017 will test Lurie and his team once again. You can read more about today's news in Lurie's blog post, or on AT&T's site.