Store staff: the state we’re in

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In Mobile News issue 430 (January 12, 2009), we polled the industry’s top brass for their opinions on the year ahead. This issue (431, January 26, 2009), we have door-stepped high street independents and network retailers to gauge the opinion of store staff on their hopes and fears for the year ahead.

Store staff from the six biggest mobile retailers agreed to speak with Mobile News on the condition they remained anonymous. This is what retail staffers had to say about targets, bonuses, handsets, mobile broadband, laptops, tariffs, footfall and the job, in general, their employers are making of a saturated market place in a blighted economy. In brief, a snapshot of the state store staff are in

O2

Staff appear happy they work for the premium brand in mobile, boosted by the iPhone and O2 Arena. But beyond that, sales are very tough.

O2 sales assistant, London: “2008 was a good year for sales. The iPhone and iPhone 3G made it exciting, and gives us an edge on the competition. Think of the iPhone, and you think of O2. The O2 Arena also makes us stand out.

“2008 was about broadband. Everything was about broadband. It was broadband, broadband, broadband. Every email and conference call was dominated by it.

“O2 doesn’t want to be seen as a telco, and the emphasis has been completely taken away from selling handsets. For months, it was almost impossible to make Spirit points (commission) on handset sales.

“Instead, the value for staff was in broadband and mobile broadband sales, both tougher to sell. Handsets have come back to Spirit in January, which is good news.

“O2 really needs to sort out mobile broadband. It’s not a good deal compared to other networks. We are surrounded by other stores, and all offer better deals and extras like laptops. That needs to change fast.”

O2 deputy manager, London: “For staff that took time to adjust to O2’s new direction, it’s been tough. Those that have embraced it found it fine, though.

“O2 has concentrated on broadband sales a lot. Overall, business seems to have been down compared to 2007 – there were a lot of really bad months for sales, followed by some good ones. It was really unpredictable, and of course it was always our fault.

“But demand for the iPhone was good. We have to keep exclusivity on it, because we’ll lose customers otherwise. O2 is the dominant brand on the high street because of the O2 Arena and the iPhone, and customer service has improved hugely too. Complaints are down.

“It annoyed everyone when O2 put the prices of handsets up last year – selling them became difficult. That has now changed, and I see us as the best on the high street for deals and service.”

O2 sales assistant, London: “I am finding it really tough at the moment.

“Retail is all about earning extra cash from sales but no matter how much I seem to sell, I do not seem to get anything extra anymore because I sell what the customer wants, and not what makes me money.

“2008 was a tough year, and sales were more difficult. I had to work a lot harder to hit my targets, and 2009 will be the same. I am a lot worse off than last year, which is unfair. The company is doing well; I’m not.”

 

Vodafone

Nokia N96, BlackBerry Storm, flexible broadband bundles, good incentives make staffers happy. But 2008 commission changes are a pain

Vodafone deputy manager, London: “It’s been a good year. Figures remained high in store, which is great news for us, as we don’t miss out on commissions. Vodafone treats staff well – loads of incentives in 2008. A bunch of staff won a competition to go on a cruise to Miami a short while ago; things like that keep staff happy.

“That said, a lot were annoyed when Vodafone changed its commission plan – I earn about £400 less per month now. Hopefully that’ll change this year.”

Vodafone sales advisor, London: “Vodafone adapted well to the credit crunch, better than any of our rivals. A lot are focussed on value and unconcerned by the handsets, but we have deals on SIM-only now for just £10, and half-price deals for 10 months on various handsets. It makes it easy for us to sell right now.”

Vodafone sales advisor, London: “We have all the big handsets, like the N96 and the BlackBerry Storm – which has been massive for us, despite issues at launch. The Storm is better than the iPhone, I reckon.

“Broadband has also been big. Our deals on it are very good and, in London, the signal is also good so it sells itself. We aren’t pushed in to selling it, which is different to other networks.

“We also have prepay broadband, and the data bundles don’t expire until the data allowance expires. It’s great for students.

“2009 will be a continuation. Handset sales are still our biggest focus, but broadband is being pushed harder. Much depends on the economy, but at the moment things are going well.”

Full version of article – including Phones 4U, Carphone Warehouse, T-Mobile and Orange – appears in Mobile News issue 431 (January 26, 2009).

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