O2: Prepared for franchise success

Having made the finishing touches to their O2 store, father and son team Andrew and John Russel eagerly await their first customers. Rachel Spaul reports

Situated on Bangor High Street, a main arterial route, Andrew Russel and son John are confident that they have chosen an excellent location for their O2 store. 'Bangor is a commuter town for Belfast, a main shopping town, and one of the highest populated and affluent areas in Northern Ireland,' confirms Andrew. 'O2 didn't have a high street presence in Bangor so we decided it was a great opportunity.'

In the weeks leading up to the grand store opening Andrew, a semi-retired businessman, and John, a logistics manager, have been put through their paces on the O2 training course which covered key subjects including brand and customer experience, marketing and PR, financial management, in-store training, and supervisor training. 'The training was fantastic,' Andrew praises. 'We've had six weeks' in-store training in England and Northern Ireland, in addition to one week at O2's head office. O2 spend a lot of money on training and are able to impart their experience of business onto new franchisees and their staff very quickly, because it is well organised with the right trainers and facilities.'

Andrew admits that learning the technical side of the business has been more difficult for him than John, but believes this will actually be beneficial when it comes to explaining how products work to older customers. He also identifies the customer experience training as being beneficial:

'O2 treat you from the word go as if you've never dealt with the general public,' he relates. 'They teach you the sales process which involves finding out what customers want rather than telling customers what we think will suit them. We then demonstrate the hardware to them so they can make up their own mind.'

Customer experience is central to O2's philosophy, as Mark Stansfeld, O2 Sales Director, explains: 'It is important that customers can buy a mobile phone in an environment where they feel supported, can ask questions, browse, and find out about forthcoming products and services. By expanding our network of stores through franchising we aim to combine the best of the owner-operator strengths of the franchisee with the strengths of O2's brand, systems, services and products, including the collective benefits of our own brand marketing and advertising programme.'

Andrew and John believe they've made the right decision to get in on the ground floor of O2's franchise expansion programme. O2 already successfully manages over 300 franchise and partnership stores in Germany and aims for its UK network of company and franchised stores to become one of the largest mobile telecommunication retail portfolios in the country.

'We're over the moon,' Andrew confides. 'O2 have delivered everything they said they would and more. We're really looking forward to making our business a success.'