Most of us visit high street shops when we’re looking for a new mobile phone deal, so we went undercover to see whether the advice they give is up to scratch. What’s your experience with mobile phone shop advice?
There are more active mobile phones in the UK than there are people. It’s a stat that’s rolled out time and again to reinforce Brits’ love affair with our mobile. But mobile phone deals are complicated beasts, with lots to think about to ensure you don’t get landed with a dud for a two year stretch.
It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that Which? research shows nine out of ten of us use mobile phone shops when we’re looking for a new mobile or accessory. This means the advice we get from shop assistants can have a huge influence on whether we end up with the right deal.
Mobile phone shop saints…
Historically, my overriding perception of mobile phone shop advice has been one of suspicion. Perhaps it’s because my job means I hear more horror stories of pressure selling and abysmal customer service than most.
So I was pleasantly surprised when our recent undercover investigation into mobile phone shop advice revealed that not all mobile retailers are out to upsell costly, lengthy and inappropriate deals that disregarded our actual needs.
We mystery-shopped 50 high street mobile shops (five branches each of ten brands) posing as a current PAYG user in need of a new handset and wanting advice on a new deal. Happily, 40 out of the 50 assistants we spoke to gave advice we rated as at least ‘OK’, and often better.
Carphone Warehouse stood out by offering excellent advice in four of the branches we visited, while the fifth was rated good. When we shared the results with Carphone Warehouse, it told us it’s been working hard on a new company-wide initiative called ‘Trust’, which is all about offering genuinely impartial advice to gain consumer trust. It seems to be working.
On the flipside, 10 of the stores recommended deals that were either significantly more expensive than our current spend, or that locked us in to unnecessarily lengthy contracts.
Some managed to combine both of these to push us towards expensive 24 month contracts with far more inclusive usage than we’d ever need. Three chains – 3, Orange and FoneHouse – gave us poor advice in at least two of the five branches we visited.
Doubters will surely cry ‘small sample size’. We’re not claiming our investigation was fully representative of the service stores offer on every visit. But we designed our scenario to be representative of a real life predicament – as a relatively low mobile user, should you stay with PAYG, or switch to contract? Even two poor recommendations out of a hundred visits would have been two too many, in my opinion.
The advisers we spoke to had the opportunity to shine by asking all the right questions, offering good explanations, analysing our usage levels and outlining the pros and cons of different tariffs. And some did just that. But others fell well short, sticking to the stereotype of a pushy mobile salesperson out to upsell at all costs.
The mix of advice we received – even from different staff from the same chain – shows that, for many retailers, there’s still more work to do to offer customers a consistently great experience. But it also shows that we shouldn’t resign ourselves to poor advice – it’s always worth getting a second opinion if you’re uncertain.
What great or poor experiences have you had in mobile phone shops, and what do you think they could do better?