Our Mystery Shopper checks out the customer service in Swindon's IT stores

Mystery Shopper: Swindon

This month our Mystery Shopper went to Swindon to look for a protective case for a 15-inch MacBook Pro. Here’s how they got on…

It was mid-week, and whilst I didn’t expect many shoppers, this store was really devoid of customers, save one who was buying a laptop. It was like walking into a warehouse full of stock. However, rather than being stacked on high shelves wrapped in cellophane and cardboard, I was greeted with low-level shelving units brimming with products.

As I looked around the store, I saw four staff members, three of whom were talking together by the helpdesk, the other serving the customer.

The bags and cases were stocked to the right of the store, relatively near the helpdesk. There was a large selection of stock, from generic black bags to branded products in differing materials and colours.

I looked through all of the stock for some time, hoping that someone would come along to speak to me. Alas, no one came over, which surprised me somewhat as I was studying each of the products, picking them up, looking at them closely, and taking in product USPs from the shelf information for quite some time.

Available products included a Logik Red Neoprene case priced at £12.99, Logik Red Slipcase for £12.99, Logik Black nylon slipcase costing £19.99 and a Tucano Grey case with a £34.99 price tag.

Whilst there was a good range of products, I did not receive any help whatsoever when deciding which one would be the better case to choose.

This store was next to the PC World store I had just visited. Again, this store was fairly quiet, although there was a little more life.

I was greeted by a friendly staff member as I walked through the entrance who was holding a few Maplin price guides. There was another staff member helping a customer roughly a third into the store, with another available to serve.

This retailer is full of smaller electrical items, so it took me a couple of moments to get my bearings towards where the cases and bags were displayed.

The choice was a lot smaller than PC World, with only a few displayed on a triangular wooden unit.

There were three products available for a 15-inch MacBook Pro. These were the Falcon envelope priced at £9.99, the Port Livery Notebook case with a free mouse, which was £19.99, and a Falcon bag costing £15.99.

The products were displayed well and all were easily available as ‘pick up and purchase’ items.

Again, no-one approached me as I browsed the stock and like the PC World store just visited, the staff seemed quite relaxed on this very ‘customer free’ mid-week day.

I would measure this store slightly higher than PC World, largely due to staff member’s proactive approach to acknowledging me as I entered. But apart from that, I was still disappointed that no other members of staff attempted to advise me when making a purchase in their store.

The retail park was certainly a ghost town; this was the third store visited and here there were no customers at all. There were a couple of members of staff talking near the front of the store behind the printing counter and one on the checkout tills near the entrance.

There was no approach by any staff when entering. I took a brief moment to look around to check where the stock was placed and quickly went over to it. As I passed, one of the staff, who I assumed may have been management due to the fact that he was wearing a tie, gave a glance in my direction.

This store boasted quite a range of bags and cases, all neatly merchandised near the laptops. I took some time to look through the stock, noting the brands, design and prices of each of them. There was a Targus pulse skin priced at £15.99, a Belkin sleeve costing £22.00, a Targus clamshell nylon bag for £29.00, a Built neoprene sleeve priced at £30.00 and a Targus backpack for £28.00.

I was not spoken to whilst looking through the stock but made up my own mind which ones I preferred in terms of design and price.

There was a fair amount of stock to choose from in a variety of price ranges, but once again no members of staff seemed to be eager to help me in my search for a protective case for a 15-inch MacBook Pro.

I was also surprised that the manager didn’t say hello to me as I walked past, offer his assistance, or ask another member of staff to help me.

By contrast, this store was a hive of activity. There were more staff than in the other stores visited, pretty much most of which were talking to customers. That’s right, I said customers, meaning plural. This store was the busiest so far in terms of sales people and potential shoppers. There was also the largest range of cases and bags.

Applying a similar approach to the other stores I visited, I decided to look at stock myself, carefully considering my choices, product design and price. There was so much stock that I seemed to be doing this for a while. I was beginning to feel a little self-conscious when an eager salesman bounded over in my direction having just finished with his previous customer.

I told him what I was looking for and within seconds he had narrowed it down to four choices. The first of which was a 14.1-inch case which he insisted may fit my MacBook Pro. He even tried to slip it on a Mac on display to prove it. Alas, this didn’t work and he returned to the section to go through the other choices, all of which were at least 15-inches in size. He also showed me a PC World branded essentials bag priced at £9.99, then moving up to £12.99 for a Case Logic neoprene case.

He seemed very pleased with his ability to narrow a large selection down to three products. I thanked him for his help and he left me to look through the stock with a greater amount of knowledge of cases and bags than when I came in.

This Mystery Shop was an interesting one; although there was quite a wide selection of cases for a 15-inch MacBook Pro in each store I visited, I was shocked that out of the four retailers, only one had a member of staff who was willing to approach me and ask if I needed help in making my decision.

While Currys was the only store where I was approached by a member of staff, it also had the largest selection of cases, therefore I was most impressed by this retailer and I would consider visiting again for the excellent customer service that I received.

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