Mystery Shopper – Nottingham

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Vodafone

This was a huge Vodafone outlet on the high street. Its windows brimmed with the latest promotional campaigns. Test drive our new phones inside, read one sign, which was reassuring. Shame it was an empty promise.

The store was extremely spacious and well organised. Dummy handsets were arranged neatly along the walls but it was strangely quiet  I was soon to find out why.

Things got off to a great start. Michael, a lively sales assistant, replied to my Mothers Day request saying: Something slick and easy, then.

He suggested the pink Samsung C300, saying it was probably the easiest handset to use. I asked if I could get a demo, at which point Michael explained he would have to pass me to another staffer. Not a big issue, as long as I got the low-down, but an inconvenience nonetheless.

Marshall, his colleague, was neither enthusiastic or chatty. When he found the model behind the counter, he seemed to take an age to open the box. And then he asked: Would you like me to switch it on for you?

Erm, Marshall, isnt that why Im at this desk? If I didnt want a live demo, Id still be playing with the dummy version on the wall.
When I explained, for the second time this visit, what I was actually after, Marshall fobbed me off on another Vodafone salesman, this time called Alex.

One step forward, two steps back. I sat down with Alex only to hear that the C300 wasnt available on contract, as I had requested  there was a serious lack of understanding and communication here.

Despite trying to force me on to a prepay deal, it wasnt what I had come in for so I swiftly left.

Mobile News Rating 6th

Product range 3
Product knowledge 2
Airtime knowledge 2
Questioning ability 1
Sales ability 0
Shop appearance3
Total 11

Carphone Warehouse

This was a strange looking Carphone outlet from the outside. It had two entrances which appeared to provide access to two different floor levels. Inside, it took a few minutes to get the layout but, once I had, it was well-organised, separating contract from prepay handsets.

A sales consultant in a smart, light grey suit approached me from one of two large tills. When I explained that I was looking for a simple handset for my mum, he paused to consider the best option.

Eventually, he plumped for the Motorola L6. When I said I thought it was a tad unattractive, he replied most of the handsets on view would be suitable for my mums needs  not a great way to pinpoint a sale.

He went on to offer me the device on T-Mobiles U-Fix talk plan, giving me 150 minutes and 75 texts at £25 per month, and explained that after this allowance was reached, it would effectively work on a prepay basis.

But during this helpful explanation of tariff plans, he became distracted by another thought, which started to bother me too.

He suddenly started saying hed been using a Sony Ericsson W850i for five months, courtesy of the store, and that he was going to keep it. Then the Samsung D840 caught his eye, and he took time to talk about this too.

But it was a monologue, not a sales pitch  he didnt seem to be recommending these phones, more just chatting aimlessly.

Hed been doing a decent job at talking me through complicated tariffs and I was a little miffed that he had broken off to chat randomly about his favourite handsets.

Id lost faith in his sales patter, so looked to escape.

Mobile News Rating 5th

Product range 3
Product knowledge 1
Airtime knowledge 3
Questioning ability 1
Sales ability 1
Shop appearance 3
Total 12

O2

This O2 branch was well located on a main shopping street but appeared very small and shabby and, despite its prime retail location, looked just a little bit lonely.

However, it was clean inside and fairly spacious.

Within a couple of minutes I was approached by Eve and, upon hearing my story, she fired off a volley of relevant questions. She seemed to know her stuff and talked me through a good range of devices.

But Id already said, feature-wise, my mum wasnt really clued up, so a high-spec camera would probably be wasted on her. Nevertheless, Eve pointed me to the Sony Ericsson K800i, with its 3.2-megapixel camera. Photography wasnt my mums bag, I explained again. There must be a better value option, I said.

Eve then showed me the Samsung D900, pointing out its smart, slim design. It could easily slip into any handbag, she remarked. Eve also pointed up the Nokia 7373, stating: If shes a typical girlie, shell love it. The picture of my mother in Eves head was far younger, trendier and zanier that the real life version, I thought.

I was interested to try these handsets but there wasnt a live one available. Then, all of a sudden, Eve shifted a couple of gears and pushed me towards an 18-month contract  300 minutes and 100 texts for £25 per month.

She was keen as mustard but, ultimately, failed to pitch the right products and was unable to demonstrate them at all. I decided to carry on my search elsewhere.

Mobile News Rating 4th

Product range 3
Product knowledge 2
Airtime knowledge 3
Questioning ability 3
Sales ability 2
Shop appearance 4
Total 17

3

This 3 outlet was on a street corner and didnt look hugely attractive, but the interior was bright, clean and impressive.

The best feature was the live handsets on display, situated right next to their dummy versions. Its an inspired move, and immediately scored it points where other stores let themselves down. It saved time and hassle and sped up the sales process.

I was approached by an un-named sales consultant as I hovered by the demo units, dressed in black in keeping with the stores cool, ultra-modern feel.

When I explained my situation, he immediately pointed me in the direction of the Nokia 6233, telling me it was similar in style and usage to traditional Nokia handsets. Ease-of-use counted in its favour, he said, and the size and font of the text on the screen could be altered to suit my mums needs.

The live version allowed me to test these features out, and everything he told me was true.

The consultant offered me a Video Talk 500 contract of 500 minutes at £15 per month, even without telling him exactly what I was after tariff-wise. It showed a good assessment of the situation on his part and that he was fully switched on.

The only real minus was he failed to really pursue the sale. It was a convincing pitch, but he might have let a real sales opportunity slip as he showed no killer instinct.

Mobile News Rating =2

Product range 5
Product knowledge 4
Airtime knowledge 3
Questioning ability 3
Sales ability 3
Shop appearance 5
Total 23

Orange

The interior of the Victoria Centres Orange store was smart, boasting a good selection of dummy handsets.

But it took about 10 minutes to get served, with the single sales consultant on the shopfloor desperately trying to attend to everyone. His colleagues, meanwhile, waited behind the counters for customers to approach.

When I eventually told the salesman on the shopfloor I was looking for a handset for my mum, he pointed me towards the Nokia 6300. At first glance, I guessed it would be too complicated for my mum to use on account of its slick, modern styling.

The consultant, however, was pretty frank about its complexity: Despite the nice looks, it doesnt really offer any features that dont come as standard on most phones these days.

He did this by comparing the features on the 6300 to those of other handsets on display. It was a plain assessment, which I appreciated.

He shifted to Oranges price plans, which were on the wall by the handsets. The Racoon 25 looked like a good bet, offering 150 anytime minutes and 50 texts for £25 per moth, with unlimited weekend calls to landlines.

He convinced me why this was the best plan for me but stressed a Nokia 6300 would have to be ordered, as none were in stock. Not his fault, and I was generally impressed by his sales approach.

Mobile News rating =2nd

Product range 4
Product knowledge 4
Airtime knowledge 4
Questioning ability 3
Sales ability 4
Shop appearance 4
Total 23

Phones 4U

I hadnt taken two steps inside this Phones 4U outlet when Lisa approached me.

Enthusiastic and brimming with confidence, she figured out exactly what kind of handset and tariff I was after. She even asked my name  a nice personal touch rarely in evidence in mobile phone store staff.

Lisa continued to chat to me as she led me to a sales desk, where I was introduced to her colleague James, who she assured me would take me through the sale.

On hearing my tale, James paused to think  it appeared less like James was struggling for inspiration than shuffling a large Phones 4U product brochure in his head.

Ive got the one for you, he said, charging off to the stock room. No sooner had James disappeared, Lisa was back talking to me and trying to make me feel at home.

James returned shortly with a live Nokia 6111 handset, and talked me through a live demonstration of the unit.

James explained all the features on the phone.

Its easy to use because its got all the original Nokia features, he said.

He then offered me 150 minutes and 250 texts on Vodafones Stop the Clock at £25 per month, throwing in the first six months line rental for free. It was an impressive performance from James and Lisa, and I left the store a very happy shopper.

Mobile News Rating 1st

Product range 4
Product knowledge 5
Airtime knowledge 4
Questioning ability 5
Sales ability 5
Shop appearance 4
Total 27

Summary
Vodafone started well, but it soon went terribly wrong; the grey-suited guy from Carphone didnt fill me with confidence, while Eve at O2 pointed me to the Sony Ericsson K800i when I wanted a simple phone.

It was too close to call between Orange and 3, which won points for effort and appearance respectively.

Phones 4U was far and away the best visited in Nottingham. James and Lisas constant interaction made me feel very welcome, and asking if they could do anything else to help was the defining touch.

Winner Profile

Name: James Salvin
Age: 22
Job title: Sales consultant
Tenure:Eight months
Best tariff: Vodafone Summer 50 with Stop the Clock. Summer 50 is an impressive new tariff
Best handset: Sony Ericsson W880i. Its a stunning phone, has a very high quality camera and the music capabilities on it are phenomenal
Sales ethos: Always be honest with the customer, serve them in a friendly manner and make them feel as welcome as possible
Hobbies: Playing football and drinking Guinness

 

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