The Cutting Room – Carphone and Phones 4U change pay and targets


The end of the hard sell?

Carphone says it was never about the hard sell, and it certainly proved it last week with the announcement that commissions are to be shelved, possibly across the entire store base, early next year.

But could the concept of a happy team all working harmoniously together for a common goal – and no customer pouncing or snatching because of old school commissions systems – be a fanciful one?

We’re yet to find out, but Carphone seems to have thought of this by not putting all its eggs in one basket and waiting to see if the London trial pans out the way it has imagined.

Carphone appears to be leading the way in creating a new era of truly impartial sales, away from the lying, wheeling, dealing salesman stereotype, and for true staff rewards in the way of a profit share system.

It’s a struggle to envision how this new strategy could fail – will the profit share be measly?

Will staff complain that there is more to gain from the status quo? There will always be a squeaky wheel, so to speak, but surely they will be quietened when they are able to count on exactly how many quid they’ll take home each month, which, as Carphone’s Stephen Blan points out, is sure to please bank managers anywhere.

It will be interesting to see if Carphone’s competitors follow suit.

But then again, at Carphone HQ, there is a wall plastered with an array of LCD screens ticking over with the amount of connections processed by stores across the country, easily visible from the offices of Prince Charles and Prince Andrew.

They’ll be watching with an even sharper eye now to make sure the loss of commission doesn’t see staff slack off, now that there is less pressure to nab a sale, because the money is already in the bag.

They’ll be able to find out once and for all whether commission is a necessary sales driver, or whether staff will be more prone to gossiping over a cuppa in the back room because they will get paid regardless. The promise of profit share will have to be substantial enough to prevent this.

Lower staff targets

Over at Phones 4U, store managers don’t get commission anyway but a bonus based on store targets, which have plummeted 30 per cent, apparently, to combat reduced footfall as punters watch their pennies.

Staff are understandably relieved, but it doesn’t augur well for company profits.

But, lower targets mean lower commission and those sorts of stories don’t fare well with the likes of pushy Phones 4U staff.

Will the old ‘street fighting’ be exaggerated further as staff go desperately for extra high commissions, even during a market meltdown?

Perhaps this won’t happen, and customers will be able to sleep peacefully knowing they have really been given a fair deal.

It seems Phones 4U is attempting to improve customer service as it too has made changes to its commission structure.

Customers receiving a call asking whether they were happy with the service will have the power to reduce staff’s commission. Unfair, or a good tactic to ensure no sneaky wheeling and dealing? Only time will tell.