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I haven’t previously done an op on a retail outlet before but after visiting the same outlet three times in two weeks, and three different branches I thought I could probably give quite a good opinion of what they are all about. Now remember this is not just one branch, but three. I think you will get a much more all round picture. For simplicity I will refer to them as branches, A, B, C. For branch A’s visit I was with someone else, but the visit was for the same product and I was there throughout the transaction. Branch B, and C was for my own needs, and the same product was required. Now you may ask why we went to three different branches and the reason is, that it is where we were at the time, so it was for convenience, nothing more, and as it was a large telecommunications outlet group we thought it would be very standardized and the product knowledge and products available would be identical.
The product was a new mobile phone on a contract, with as many free calls in the daytime as possible with the lowest tariff and a free handset, photographic if possible, but only if the handset was free for the photos.
In branch A we were approached by a sales rep very rapidly and asked if we needed help. The rep was the assistant manager. We told him our needs and after going through a whole list of options, we narrowed it down to two. Both on an Orange tariff. A Samsung and an Erickson with a camera. I can’t remember the models. The rep seemed very knowledgeable and interested and attentive, and my friend and I were impressed. The shop was laid out very well, was clean and tidy and there seemed plenty of staff to cope with demand. We were given the car phone warehouse buyers guide and told to come back when we had decided which model we wanted. He gave us a card with his name on and told us to phone if we were not sure about anything. So far, so good. There were no very young staff; no one was under about 30. They were all impeccably dressed.
In branch B a few days later we entered the shop and browsed for a few minutes as there were about four people being served and a couple more waiting. After about 5 minutes we went to the counter and we were asked if there was anything they could do to help us. This time we were served by a young lady of about 23-24. She offered us about 8 or 9 different handsets, I can’t remember them all. She also offered us about the same amount of tariffs on almost every network, except the car phone warehouse tariff, which she unbelievably said was to expensive. We were confused by the amount of different tariffs, networks and handsets and left the shop. The rep was helpful but we could not make our minds up due to the conflicting advice the two different reps and branches had given. All the staff was well dressed and again there seemed plenty of staff to deal with the amount of demand.
Branch C was a totally different proposition. We entered the shop and again browsed for a couple of minutes. There were 8 people in the shop and only 2 were being served. Two other staff was larking around in the corner with a display. We joined the queue and waited. Five other people joined the queue behind us. The two staff serving customers kept looking up at the queue getting larger and looking over at the two staff mucking around. Two people got fed up and left the queue and walked out. After 25 minutes, as we got to the front of the queue, the two staff playing games went out to the back of the shop. They emerged a minute later and left the shop with their coats on. Then another member of staff, a fifth one, and her badge revealed her as the assistant manager, emerged from the back of the shop and started to serve customers. She was scruffily dressed and seemed annoyed that she had to join the fray. Oh dear what a nuisance us customers are. We were served eventually by a young male sales rep. He quickly offered us one handset on one tariff and one network. We asked about the previous offers we had had and he seemed very nonchalant about the whole subject. We were not happy about his disinterest in us and when we asked for a buyers guide, he then told us they had run out. We left the shop and I will not buy my phone from this retail outlet.
I haven’t gone into great detail about the handsets and tariffs available because I am giving an opinion about the retailer, not the products. I was surprised at the differing wide range of offers that were made to us. Different products were suggested at each different branch by different sales reps. I found this alarming, surely they should all have the same product knowledge, which suggests to me that product training is lacking. I am not the most technical person when it comes to mobile phones. As long as I can receive and make calls I don’t really care what extras the phone has. I thought my demands were simple but at the end of the interaction I was very confused. All the staff with the exception of one member of staff at branch C were very well dressed. The range of products on display seemed quite impressive and all the shops were spacious, clean and tidy and well laid out. Their price ranges were wide ranging and it did seem they catered for every demand. From really cheap or free handsets to the much more expensive specialist demand. Overall I suppose I can see why they are a popular outlet, but I still had that feeling of being a number to be kept happy at the expense of the human touch. Just sell me a product and add their commission up. It reminded me of a prison, lining up to get your porridge and moving along the line. Maybe I am being harsh but it is just my opinion, I will leave you to form your own conclusion, I have just given you the information.