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UK let down by ‘abysmal’ mobile phone shops

In-depth survey puts spotlight on shoddy service

Mobile phones may be ubiquitous but we are all being let down by sub-standard phone shops that fail to deliver an appropriate level of service. That is the conclusion of an in-depth report released today by Strand Consult.

Strand Consult visited 132 mobile phone shops dotted around London and marked each on the quality of service and technical knowledge. The results make depressing reading.

In each case, a couple with a set need entered the shop. Shops were graded on the location and design but most importantly on the salesmen - did they approach the customer, did they ask the right questions, was their recommendation the right one, did they say enough about the alternatives, did they demonstrate the phones, did they know about the latest technology etc etc.

It would seem that while the number of shops selling mobile phones has proliferated, the companies running them have failed to keep the training of sales staff in line with demand. In less than half the shops were salesmen obliging. In only five shops were the couple asked the basic question whether the phone was for private of business purposes.

Only half the shops asked about a budget; only 26 per cent asked how much the couple would spend on the phone; just over half managed to ask when phone calls would be made. And so on and so forth.

Instead, sales staff tended to concentrate on the mobile phone itself rather than the operator or the cost of calls. Very few mentioned or even knew about WAP (although we don't necessarily count this as a bad thing). More worryingly, the salesman failed to make a recommendation about a certain phone/tariff unless pushed to and when they did, the arguments used to support it were weak.

It would seem that very few shops knew where the market was headed either - not useful when 3G starts entering the public consciousness. Any shop that can answer people's queries will find customers coming back later.

The report treads a fine line in accusing any shops of favouritism but does point out that those brands advertised most extensively in store are often the products recommended by sales staff. Probably just the power of advertising ;-).

So what you really want to know is: where should you go and which shops were the worst.

The Orange Shop in Hampstead High St is the best mobile phone shop in London apparently. However the Orange shops as a rule are not the best choice. They tend to be bunched in the middle of the shops reviewed. Instead, the best chain - no surprise here - is clearly Carphone Warehouse, swiftly followed by DX Communications.

The Link, part of the Dixons Group, tend to be spread out across the whole board, which probably says more about the company's management structure than anything else. It also has the unlucky moniker of running the worst shop in London, on the Broadway in Ealing.

So, which are the worst shops? Well Virgin Megastores don't do themselves any favours, but then to be fair phones are just an offshoot of the music/video bit for the stores. No, the worst two by far are - would you believe it - Dixons and Currys, both part of the Dixons Group.

We should point out that the report, called The Moment of Truth also offers advice on how to improve sales staff etc etc so no doubt it would love companies to cough up for a full copy. Go here for more info. ®

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