The commercial renaissance that is changing the business landscape of Fort Dodge along Fifth Avenue South - the Corridor of Commerce - was a major reason Cellular Connect moved to this venue in November 2011, according to Jennifer Valdez, store manager.
Previously located at 3037 First Ave. S., Valdez said the Cellular Connect's new home at 3225 Fifth Ave. S. provides the enhanced visibility to potential customers that is crucial to its commercial success. She said the high traffic along this increasingly vital thoroughfare is making it easier for her six-person team to attract new business.
"We've doubled, possibly tripled our business from when we were in the strip mall," Valdez said.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Jennifer Valdez, manager of the Cellular Connect at 3225 Fifth Ave. S. shows off a 4G wireless hotspot device. She said the device, which lets the user use several wireless devices near it, is one of her best sellers.
Cellular Connect is an authorized agent for U.S. Cellular, a company that has what Valdez termed a "dominant" position in wireless communications marketplace in the Hawkeye State. According to information provided by U.S. Cellular, it is the seventh largest wireless and telecommunications provider in the United States. Founded in 1983, the company now boasts approximately 6 million customers in more than two dozen states.
Valdez said a major selling point locally for U.S. Cellular is that the company has a fourth generation network - known as 4G LTE - up and running in much of the system, including Fort Dodge and the larger cities in Iowa. She said it is the only company so far to make this communications advance available to Fort Dodgers.
"It's going in waves," Valdez said. "Most of your bigger cities have it now, but it's going to take some time to get it to the smaller towns. ... Iowa, I would imagine, would be done by the end of this year."
A 4G network offers data transmission speeds up to 10 times faster than is possible in areas where the older 3G system still operates according to U.S. Cellular's explanation of this service upgrade on its website. Valdez said this enhancement is especially important for customers using a wireless system for data transmission.
Cellular Connect offers a state-of-the-art array of wireless communications options. The store sells basic cell phones, smartphones, tablets and assorted accessories. It also markets the full spectrum of service plans available from U.S. Cellular. Valdez said smartphones are becoming the overwhelming choice of customers. She said there is also great demand for a new communications innovation called a mobile hotspot through which it is possible to connect a variety of devices to the Internet through U.S. Cellular system.
Cellular Connect is part of an eight-store enterprise owned by Doug Daniel, of Iowa Falls. Daniel's outlets are located in Boone, Clarion, Eagle Grove, Fort Dodge, Humboldt, Iowa Falls, Panora and Perry.
Valdez said the Fort Dodge Cellular Connect typically has in stock most of the products it sells, but because of the seven other stores can almost always obtain an item that might be temporarily out-of-stock quickly from one of its sister locations.
The wireless communications marketplace has many vendors. Valdez said two important reasons to work through her store are the speed and depth of the U.S. Cellular network. She characterized the reception clients experience as the best available.
Valdez also stressed that customers also acquire points through U.S. Cellular's trendsetting rewards system. She said points are earned just by being a customer and using the system as well as through various purchases. They can be redeemed for an array of upgrades, services and products.
There is more to the story than topnotch products.
Valdez said flawless customer service is an absolutely crucial part of Cellular Connect's business game plan. She said she makes this a top priority for every member of her team and believes the store's success is attributable to a significant degree to delivering on this commitment.
"We go above and beyond for our customers," Valdez said. "Granted, you can't make everybody happy, but we will take time to sit down with them so they can learn their phone."
Simply selling a cell phone or some other product isn't good enough, Valdez said. It is important to help the customer understand how to use it optimally. She stressed that she and her staff are available to provide needed advice and teaching both at the time of sale and long afterward. And should the product be something acquired elsewhere? Valdez said that is not a problem. The team at Cellular Connect will help if they can.
Valdez said the customer service component of the business is not only important to Cellular Connect's competitive success, but also is the part of her job that she most enjoys and finds most satisfying.
"We have a good product to sell so it's easy to sell to people, make people happy," she said.
An added feature of customer service at Cellular Connect is that the store has on staff two employees who are fluent in Spanish.
Repeat customers are a good indicator that a business is serving its clients well. Valdez said she and her associates she many familiar faces in the course of a typical day.
"I have customers that I've been dealing with since I started here (five years ago). And they've referred me to their friends and family," she said, but was quick to add that "it's nice to see the new ones walk in, too."
Cellular Connect is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.