Mystery Shopper – The City

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Chitter Chatter

This was a small yet smart outlet in Liverpool Street station, away from the popular high street stores.

In my cover story of being a surveyor, I was in the market for a smartphone that could offer not only email but also PowerPoint on the move. But I didnt have money to burn  my budget was no more than £40 a month.

As soon as I stepped in I was at the till, where I was approached by a smartly dressed man but with no name badge. I was immediately thrown into shock when he said, Yes boss. Yes boss? What happened to, Can I help you sir? I was afraid of what was to follow.

As I explained my situation to him, he said he didnt normally work at that outlet so it might take him a little longer to find things.

Great, Id have to spend longer in here than I wanted to. Also, as he was looking for something, he was talking to someone I thought was a customer on his mobile. Things were getting worse.

As there were no dummy handsets in-store, he grabbed a big box of phones and plucked out the BlackBerry 8100g Pearl.

Everything he attempted to explain to me was very confusing and he didnt seem to know his prices. He offered me £25 line rental on T-Mobile with WebnWalk, with £60 credit on the handset per month.

The other offer he made me was £35 line rental with WebnWalk as an add-on, with £180 credit per month.

He finished by saying: If you shop around and find a better deal, go with that. Or else come back to us and well look after you my friend. I left knowing I definitely wouldnt be doing the latter.

Mobile News rating 6th

Product range 3
Product knowledge 1
Airtime knowledge 1
Questioning ability 1
Sales ability 1
Shop appearance 3
Total 10

O2

This store was on a street corner, just across the road from Carphone Warehouse.

Advertising was prominent in the window, with a huge promotion for the Nokia 7373 dominating one whole pane.

Another offer was 600 minutes and 500 texts with free calls on Saturday, Sunday and Monday at £35 per month. A board outside told me the LG shine was available in-store and stated O2s new motto, Get the same as new customers and something extra with O2 Treats.

The store looked very gloomy from the outside, but inside it was well decorated  it must have been the grey skies overhead having an effect.

I headed to the smartphones area but some of the dummies were missing and it looked rather messy.

There only seemed to be one person serving on the shopfloor, though there were three consultants behind the till.

Eventually a female assistant came over to serve me, but her long hair was covering her name badge. Whats the point in wearing one? Perhaps she had an embarrassing name.

She offered me the BlackBerry 8100g Pearl but tried to usher me straight into an 18-month contract, without giving me another option.

This really put me off, so I decided to end proceedings. The mystery lady hadnt really gone out of her way to serve me  nor had she made any real attempt to meet my needs.

Mobile News rating 5th

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

Orange

This was another small store, tucked between two large, dark buildings. So small, in fact, it could easily be missed.

Its diminutive size meant advertisements were scarce; the only one on view was £150 on your old phone when you connect or upgrade to a Sony Ericsson K800i or W850i. It was a clean store, though, with just the right number of dummy handsets on display for a shop of its size.

As I entered it was empty, with a sales consultant sitting at a small desk looking rather bored.

He soon got up, but, as soon as he opened his mouth, I could tell he was suffering from a cold, as he was sounding slightly croaky.

When I had explained my situation, the assistant, who was dressed all in black with no name badge, pointed me in the direction of both the Orange SPV M600 and the Orange SPV M3100.

I wasnt at all familiar with the handsets, but he only gave one brief explanation of their differences  the SPV M600 was a touchscreen device and the SPV 3100 had a keypad.

I explained I preferred touchscreen and he offered me the handset free, with £50 credit, on Oranges Racoon tariff.

When I asked if he could guide me through a demonstration of the handset, however, he said it took too long to start up, as it was an extremely powerful device.

Fair enough, I guess, but I was prepared to wait (in an empty store) and wasnt given the option.

All in all, my croaky friend was not overly helpful. Why couldn’t he have made more of an effort, considering he had nobody else waiting?

Mobile News rating 5th

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

Orange

This was another small store, tucked between two large, dark buildings. So small, in fact, it could easily be missed.

Its diminutive size meant advertisements were scarce; the only one on view was £150 on your old phone when you connect or upgrade to a Sony Ericsson K800i or W850i. It was a clean store, though, with just the right number of dummy handsets on display for a shop of its size.

As I entered it was empty, with a sales consultant sitting at a small desk looking rather bored.

He soon got up, but, as soon as he opened his mouth, I could tell he was suffering from a cold, as he was sounding slightly croaky.

When I had explained my situation, the assistant, who was dressed all in black with no name badge, pointed me in the direction of both the Orange SPV M600 and the Orange SPV M3100.

I wasnt at all familiar with the handsets, but he only gave one brief explanation of their differences  the SPV M600 was a touchscreen device and the SPV 3100 had a keypad.

I explained I preferred touchscreen and he offered me the handset free, with £50 credit, on Oranges Racoon tariff.

When I asked if he could guide me through a demonstration of the handset, however, he said it took too long to start up, as it was an extremely powerful device.

Fair enough, I guess, but I was prepared to wait (in an empty store) and wasnt given the option.

All in all, my croaky friend was not overly helpful. Why couldn’t he have made more of an effort, considering he had nobody else waiting?

Mobile News rating 4th

Product range 3
Product knowledge 3
Airtime knowledge 2
Questioning ability 2
Sales ability 1
Shop appearance 3
Total 14

Vodafone

This store was across a busy main road from Carphone Warehouse and O2, but badly positioned.

Apart from looking old and outdated (most Vodafone stores Ive seen have been quite fashionable), it was positioned next to a busy pedestrian crossing and had a set of traffic lights near the entrance  not very easy on the eye.

The advertising was reasonable  free weekend calls and texts on prepay and unlimited calls between four people on Vodafone Family.

I waited about 10 minutes to be served, as all the consultants seemed to be busy. While standing around waiting, I noticed some of the dummy handsets were out of place.

When I saw a consultant was free, I wandered up to the desk just inside the door where a female assistant, dressed all in black and with no name badge, was sitting. However, she was slightly distracted by a man she had just served who couldnt grasp the simple instruction to dial *21 from the store phone to get through to customer services.

She pointed me in the direction of the BlackBerry 8100g Pearl, saying another Blackberry handset had come in that morning, but she hadnt been able to put it on display.

The saleswoman offered me the handset at £30 with 200 anytime minutes and 100 texts, plus three Extras. Altogether, the handset, tariff and additional Internet capabilities would cost me £100 a month.

A bit steep  I swiftly left the store.

Mobile News Rating 3rd

Product range 3
Product knowledge 3
Airtime knowledge 3
Questioning ability 2
Sales ability 2
Shop appearance 3
Total 16

T-Mobile

This T-Mobile store was a little further up the high street from the cluster of Carphone Warehouse, Orange, Vodafone and O2 and was situated on a corner.

It was a bright enough store from outside, but wasnt helped by a bus stop just outside.

Advertising in the shop window was strong. It offered 50 per cent extra minutes or texts with Flext and a free Bluetooth headset with any Samsung phone.

Inside, this was a smart store with a till desk running the length of the floor.

I was approached by Hardeep, who immediately seemed like an approachable chap who wanted to cater for my needs.

He pointed me in the direction of the T-Mobile MDA Vario II handset and explained its specifications.

Hardeep seemed a very knowledgeable guy, answering all my questions and asking if I wanted to receive emails at a regular speed or instantly.

He offered me the Flext £25 tariff with WebnWalk, which would come to £32.50 per month, well within my budget. Hardeep explained the deal would give me up to 400 texts and 200 minutes every month, with a broadband speed of up to 1.8Mbit.

Before leaving the store, he offered me a brochure and very briefly explained the tariff to me further, pointing me to a page where I could find alternative handsets that might also meet my requirements.

Mobile News Rating 2nd

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

Carphone Warehouse

Yet another street corner, this time with roadworks going on outside the door. Not Carphones fault at all, but it must have irritated the people inside the store.

From outside, the store looked tidy and compact. Window space was well filled with advertising, including half-price line rental plus a Bluetooth headset with the Sony Ericsson W850i on T-Mobile, as well as the same offer on the Nokia 7373.

When I entered the store it was quite busy, giving me a little time to view the good selection of dummy handsets on display.

Then, Carlos, who had just finished with another customers query, asked if I needed assistance.

When I explained my situation, he immediately pointed me in the direction of the BlackBerry 8100g Pearl, adding I could have unlimited data at £10 a month or top up my credit on a pay-as-you-go basis.

After explaining this to me, he asked me to take a seat at the desk so we could go through everything in detail  and that is exactly what happened. He opened a brochure and explained everything I needed to know.

He asked me to take a look at his PC screen and guided me through the different price plans, first offering me 600 minutes and 100 texts on an 18-month contract with half price line rental for the first eight months (£17.50).

I was delighted with his manner and alertness. As I left the store, he handed me his business card and said not to hesitate to call him for any more information. A close to perfect sales pitch.

Mobile News Rating 1st

Product range 3
Product knowledge 4
Airtime knowledge 4
Questioning ability 4
Sales ability 5
Shop appearance 4
Total 24

Summary

Apart from not knowing where anything was on his first time in the outlet, the Yes boss? welcome in Chitter Chatter wasnt pleasant. O2 was pretty poor, too, where any hopes of a sale disappeared fast.

The shop size and consultants cold didnt help Orange, but the man wasnt even interested in a sale. Vodafone would have scored much higher, but for a long waiting time.

In the end, it was a close between T-Mobile and Carphone Warehouse, but Carloss business card just added that professional touch.

Winner profile

Name: Carlos Miles
Age: 26
Job title: Sales consultant
Tenure:Six months
Best tariff: A new one thats just arrived. 800 minutes and 500 texts on O2 for £35 a month on an 18-month contract
Best handset: The Sony Ericsson K800i, because of its image capabilities with a 3.2 megapixel Cyber-shot camera
Sales ethos: Show customers the handset, explain the tariff and offer insurance
Hobbies: Im an Arsenal supporter so I love football

 

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