This month our Mystery Shopper travelled to Reading in search of a Smart TV, armed with a budget of £800. Here’s how they got on...
PC WORLD - 7/10
Walking into this store I could see it wasn’t busy. I could count the number of customers on one hand and the same number for store staff. As all staff were busy, I decided to look around myself. I found the TV section pretty quickly and there seemed to be a variety of Smart TVs to choose from.
I walked around the TVs a couple of times noting features and prices. They started from £379 for non-3D Smart TVs with 37-inch screens. The best price was £768.97 for a clearance-priced item, a Panasonic 47-inch HD 3D LED TV with 300Hz, built-in Wi-Fi and Freeview HD.
Eager to speak with someone, I spotted a sales person nearby and tried to gain his attention. He indicated that he was with another customer and asked me to bear with him. A short while later another sales person appeared offering to help.
After explaining what I was looking for I asked for recommendations. She noted that Samsung was a specialist in the TV market and as such prices were higher but the products were popular with customers.
I spotted a term that I had not come across before, ‘CMR’. Intrigued, I asked her what that meant. This was a conversation killer as she very politely advised that she didn’t know.
Although the store was tidy and there was a good range of products to choose from, the sales assistants couldn’t help me with all my questions.
CURRYS - 8/10
I was greeted immediately by a sales person as I entered this store. I went straight to the TV section, which seemed to have a large choice. Remembering my £800 budget, I looked along the line of TVs to compare. Whilst doing this, a member of staff approached politely, and asked if I was ok. I confirmed that I was looking for a Smart TV and that I had a fixed price range in mind. He gave me a brief overview of the stock and indicated which ones were 2D and 3D with prices between £350 and £800. Again, the sales person recommended Samsung as a technology leader of televisions, followed by Panasonic and LG.
I think he must have been fairly new to the store because another sales guy came over to help and lend his knowledge. The new assistant asked if I was looking specifically for a 3D TV. I said that I didn’t mind as I may not use the 3D option all the time. Noting this point, he showed me a few more TVs, all of which were within £800 and not necessarily 3D.
He took time to reflect on the features in each product and confirmed the manufacturer recommendation from his colleague.
Products recommended were a reduced Toshiba HD 40-inch LED 3D at £579.00, Samsung 40-inch at £729.97 and Panasonic 47-inch at £768.97.
I was shown a wide range of TVs and both assistants were very polite. The second assistant spent a lot of time talking me through the various features of the products.
JOHN LEWIS - 10/10
No-one was shopping for TVs today; I found the electrical department in John Lewis devoid of customers. The section was very well laid out, with a range of televisions nicely banked on higher plinths towards the rear of the department, which showed an attractive array of screens before me. I navigated up and down the lines looking for models within my price range, noticing the 50-inch screen in a dedicated corner inviting me to take a good, long stare.
Deciding that I needed help, I approached a nearby member of staff to assist in my selection. Initially she showed me a Samsung 3D 40-inch screen priced at £949, which was above my advised budget. It boasted a slim line appearance, edge-to-edge image and a flat rear; “important when fitting on a wall as the unit did not protrude”, she offered.
As we browsed, the sales person chose two more models, a Samsung 42-inch at 699.95 and a Samsung 40-inch at £999.95; the higher priced product offering improved sound quality over the cheaper model. That said, she insisted that if I felt that I really couldn’t go higher than £800, the lower priced options in the Samsung range were still very good, it was just that design and thickness were some of the factors which increased price.
We talked for some time covering screen quality, sound, design, 3D effect and Smart functionality. It was a fantastic conversation with someone who clearly knew her area of expertise and was only too happy to help me find the perfect TV.
ARGOS - 9/10
This was a medium-size store with plenty of areas for displaying stock. Towards the store entrance there was a wall of televisions on display with varying screen sizes and features. I only found two Smart TVs on show here, a Samsung 40-inch at £429.99 and a Bush Edge Lit 32-inch at £229.99. Not much to choose from in terms of displayed product but I guess this is not the focus from this retailer. A quick flip through the catalogue pages and I found the appropriate section which featured a range of Smart TVs from Samsung and Philips.
Wondering what the recommendations from staff would be, I approached an assistant. He offered Samsung as the brand to choose above any others. He based this recommendation on the fact that he had purchased a Samsung Smart TV himself and was very happy with it. I wasn’t expecting him to go into vast detail, I guess because my perception of Argos was that it was mainly a pick and purchase retailer, however, he knew his stuff and explained some Smart TV features including available applications, picture quality and edge-to-edge picture.
Helping me to make a more informed choice, he led me to the catalogues nearby and explained that I could find out additional information by selecting the stock number on the instore order system.
Before leaving me to browse through the catalogue, he explained that if I had any further questions I could come and find him.
Overall, this was a pretty good Mystery Shop, there was good customer service and product knowledge given in all stores. Every shop had at least one Smart TV that was within my budget of £800.
Some sales assistants went into greater detail than others and it was obvious that Samsung was the brand of choice amongst every store visited.
It was a very close call between John Lewis and Argos for the best customer service, but John Lewis just won it with fantastic product knowledge and enthusiasm from the sales assistant as well as a wide variety of Smart TVs to choose from.