Phones 4u is setting out a string of changes in what is hoped to be a complete overhaul of the company’s approach to sales and customer service.
Every member of the company’s salesforce will be sent on a training course as the central pillar to the new service-based strategy. The training will be followed by continuous workshops for staff.
‘Street fighting’ has also been banned with the threat of zero commissions for anybody found to be stopping members of the public outside stores.
Suspicions among staff are that the changes are a response to the investigation being carried out by Ofcom over the next six months over allegations of mis-selling.
Phones 4u bosses insist that the changes are being implemented separately, and were conceived before Ofcom revealed that it would be investigating Phones 4u.
A central objective of the new strategy is to make Phones 4u staff improve their product and service knowledge.
Phones 4u managers have welcomed the changes. One manager told Mobile: ‘There was a rapturous round of applause when the measures were announced at a managers’ briefing.
‘They should have been put in a long time ago. Now we have the autonomy to do the right thing by the customer.’
Phones 4u’s operations director, Tom Shorten, said: ‘We have got a set of policies and procedures aligned to make sure good customer service behaviour is reinforced.’
Independent retailers such as Phones 4u and Carphone Warehouse are understood to have been affected by the downturn in the mobile market. Phones 4u is looking to make improvements in its service to give it an edge on the high street, especially with more complex products being made available.
‘Being an independent specialist retailer, customers have a right to expect a higher degree of product knowledge,’ said Shorten.
Phones 4u staff will be asked to focus on a particular product genre for greater specialist knowledge.
Shorten added: ‘The training will be very experienced based. For instance the navigation specialists may have to go orienteering using navigation phones to learn more about how they work.'
1. All 3,200 sales consultants will be sent on a training course over the next 80 days.
2. ‘Training hour’ from 9am to 10am for all sales staff every Friday, with stores closed to the public.
3. Staff to become specialists in areas such as navigation, smartphones and imaging.
4. ‘Street fighting’ outlawed.
‘You won’t see 4u street fighting anymore’
Phones 4u has banned the practice of ‘street fighting’, which has, for many, symbolised its poor reputation.
Street fighting is where staff approach customers with leaflets walking past the store. The practice now constitutes ‘gross misconduct’.
Anyone now caught street fighting by a mystery shopper will automatically score zero out of 100 for customer service.
Shorten said: ‘You won’t see Phones 4u street fighting anymore. That has now stopped, but of course it takes time.
‘We cannot blame the previous regime for all of this because it also happened under our watch.
‘I was in Birmingham as part of our Sky pilot and I watched some street fighting going on.
‘It hit me that we did not need to do it anymore. A lot of staff did not enjoy it and it caused tension between staff and management.’
Phones 4u’s new commission structure splits the incentives between sales and customer service, replacing a structure that encouraged staff to maximise gross profit above everything else.
Sales staff will now be partly judged on their monthly mystery shop score and customer feedback. Staff who fail to hit customer excellence targets will only get 75% of their commission bonus, while those who hit the target get 125%.
Store managers face losing up to 50% if their store performs poorly on customer service metrics. Stores will be treated as a team and can benefit from a bonus where everyone’s pay can increase by 25% if the store gets a good score.
Shorten said: ‘It is a dynamic where the team has to take responsibility collectively.’