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Silly Name But Excellent Service
Member Name: Hishyeness
Advantages: Intuitive store layout and impartial, stand-out customer service
Disadvantages: No cars or warehouses evident.
I left my job last week and was suddenly faced with the prospect of finding a new mobile phone at very short notice. It's been four years since I have had a personal phone, so, feeling a little out of touch, I descended on Guildford town centre with a subject matter expert in tow (my 21 year old brother-in-law) to get myself sorted.
I knew what I wanted - a Nokia phone with a modest text and talk package with the option of internet access - and had a budget of £20 per month in mind. I wasn't really bothered about which mobile network, and was determined to keep an open mind despite having worked for O2 in the past.
When I last had a personal phone, I had sourced it at Carphone Warehouse (CW), and having been impressed with the impartial advice and excellent service I had received there many moons ago, it seemed the obvious place to start. Of course, the down side of reviewing well known businesses with lots of high street outlets - whether they are selling specs, electronics, or in this case, mobile phones - is that your experience is invariably coloured by the service you receive in a particular shop. As such, this review is limited to the Market Street branch in Guildford.
When I entered the shop, I was immediately struck by how ultra-modern, spacious, well lit and well laid out it was. In the past, I was used to finding and speaking to "floating" staff on the shop floor, but the new system requires you to queue in orderly fashion in front of a counter with three manned sales positions. The desks where "business" is done (i.e. signing up to contracts etc.) are out of the way, at the back of the shop.
The displays are effective, well spaced out and ordered according to type of use and method of payment (i.e. pay as you go phones are grouped together, as are pay monthly, and the new whiz bang phones like the iPhone and its contemporaries occupy pride of place on a separate display).
Phones from the same manufacturer are grouped together as well, so, if like me, your heart is set on a Nokia, its easy to compare various models side by side. A useful summary of phone features is provided with each dummy phone on display, as well as the networks and packages that are available with it.
For those unfamiliar with the CW model, CW are not tied to any one network - they sell phones on all networks other than 3 (Three). CW handle the handset end - so if anything goes wrong with the phone itself after sale, they will deal with it, but anything to do with tariffs, billing or the call package is handled by the network provider direct with the customer.
When my turn came up at the counter, I was warmly and cheerfully greeted by a well turned out chap named Nick who then spent an unhurried twenty minutes or so with me from the time we first spoke to the time I walked out the door. As I knew what I wanted out of my phone package, it was a relatively easy job to narrow down the search to three or four options, and after talking things through with Nick - who was impressively knowledgeable and down to earth (there was none of the smarmy slickness I usually associate with sales people) - I settled on a Nokia 6600 Slide on a 24 month O2 package with 200 minutes and 200 texts included in the £20 monthly charge.
Having chosen the phone, we sat down at the desks at the rear of the store to do the paperwork. All I needed were my bank details and a credit card to get the process kicked off. Nick undertook a credit check which I passed (phew) with flying colours and explained the package to me in more detail and dealt patiently with my many questions (I can't help it - blame my analytical lawyer's brain!).
I was surprised to be given the option to choose my own number, and even more surprised to see that people actually pay serious money for some of the more memorable numbers (rather like car number plates). I stuck with the freebies, of which there is a seemingly endless choice, and, feeling inspired by the recent arrival of my newborn son, opted for a number ending in his birthdate.
I was then asked if I wanted insurance on the phone and was quoted an extra £7.99 per month on top of the monthly phone charge. However, I was also told I could insure it within 28 days if I didn't want to commit at the point of sale, and that it could be cancelled at any time.
Keeping in mind the Nokia 6600 Slide is already a year old, I was pretty sure I could get a replacement handset on eBay for less than £100. CW charge £15 for a replacement SIM card, so I weighed the maximum figure of £115 to replace a lost or stolen handset with the £190 it would cost to insure over the term and decided against it. Out of curiosity, I asked Nick if he was paid commission on insurance sales, and he honestly and candidly replied that he gets a small fixed bonus.
With O2, there are a number of bolt-on packages at £7.50 a month that you can get (such as free calls to friends and family on O2, or unlimited internet access) but I was advised to "see how I go" in the first couple of months, as I could always add these on later if it made sense. I was impressed by the absence of "hard sell" and felt comfortable and relaxed throughout the whole in-store experience.
I was offered, and accepted a CW car charger for half price (I tried to get it for free but Nick wasn't budging), and with the paperwork filled in, SIM card inserted and the phone confirmed as working, I was let loose to enjoy my new mobile phone.
As mentioned, the impression you get of a chain is most informed by the staff at the sharp end, and in that respect, my man Nick did a stand-up job of selling his organisation and doing himself and his company proud. I was pleasantly surprised by the efficiency, impartiality, genuine friendliness and product knowledge exhibited by this particular chap, mainly because I usually have such low expectations of service - a view formed over many years of receiving apathetic or downright poor customer service on the high street.
I was seen to quickly and efficiently, despite the fact that the shop was busy. I was actually listened to and not pressured into buying something I did not want or need. My questions were answered courteously, patiently and most importantly - effectively, and I walked out of the shop feeling very happy.
In conclusion, I am fully conscious that my experience at CW derives from my interaction with a single member of staff at a single store, and as such, will have limited application to those who can't visit this particular outlet, but what an experience it was, and if Charles Dunstone can get a few more chaps like Nick in his stores, I bet he will find himself even richer than he is now. Highly recommended.
14 Market Street
08701 682 014
Monday to Friday: 09:00 to 17:30
Saturday: 09:00 to 18:00
Sunday: 11:00 to 17:00
© Hishyeness 2009
Summary: In Guildford? Need a Mobile? Go visit Nick!