Which?’s Mystery Shopper: Christmas shopping – The best PAYG phones

Episode 4 – Christmas shopping – The best PAYG phones

We all know how important customer service is. To help uncover which phone networks and retailers provide the best service, every month our mystery shopper contacts each of the operators found on the Which? website and asks for their help with a range of common scenarios.

This month’s challenge: Christmas shopping – The best PAYG phones

It’s not easy to buy someone else a mobile phone. You have to take into account what they want from the hundreds of available options, while making sure you get the right tariff and don’t pay over the odds.

This month our mystery shopper is on the lookout for a blower for her niece. They’ve got £80 to spend on a pay-as-you-go mobile and want to know which is the best one for a teenage girl.

We were keen to see what phones the providers would offer us. Would they to push us to spend over our budget? And would they know which features we’d need to make the present a hit?

The questions we asked and the responses we wanted

>               What kind of deal am I after? Pay-as-you-go is definitely the way to go when it comes to Christmas presents. While you will have to pay up-front for the handset, you won’t be tied into a long and expensive contract. If they go on to suggest an appropriate PAYG tariff then all the better.

>               What’s the best phone I can get? The rep should ask what my budget is and should stick to this rather than trying to get me to spend more.

>               What features should I get? Some advice about which features are useful, and which I’m unlikely to use, would be excellent, but mainly we’re looking for the basics – a reasonable camera, touchscreen and the ability to download apps. Our ideal recommendation would be budget smartphone such as the Huawei Blaze, Samsung Galaxy Mini or Samsung Wave 525.

But that’s not all, we were also looking for a good customer experience. Did the rep go out of their way to help? Did they speak clearly and explain themselves in simple language?

Mystery Shopper summary

Eighth place: Talk mobile

We ended up speaking to two different reps but neither were able to provide any advice. And they weren’t too friendly either.

This poor performance meant that our call was a waste of time for everyone involved.

Seventh place: 3

Our second call to 3 was excellent and one of the best performances – unfortunately our first call was a complete disaster.

The rep told us that they don’t sell PAYG phones over the phone – which they do – and didn’t offer us any advice other than to visit a 3 store.

Sixth place: Virgin

While the rep from Virgin did manage to provide me with some suggestions – these were all contract deals and he refused to listen to me and offer me what I was after.

He constantly tried to up sell me into a contract which led to a very frustrating call and ended up getting neither of us anywhere.

Fifth place: Vodafone

While the rep from Vodafone was willing to give advice and did suggest some good suggestions her lack of knowledge – particularly with a Vodafone branded handset – was disappointing.

This meant she ended up trying to get me to buy a more expensive option rather than a cheaper device that did actually have the features I was after.

Fourth place: Tesco

The rep from Tesco performed reasonably well, suggesting a suitable devices that fit within the budget and an Android that just exceeded it.

Unfortunately he was just a bit flat and it felt like we were being an inconvenience to him by asking for advice.

Third place: Orange

It was a good display from the Orange rep who was friendly and suggested some good devices, but she was let down by a sudden and inexplicable urge to sell us a Sim only contract.

Not only was this not what we asked for, it was completely the opposite of our request and would have saddled our relative with a monthly fee and no new handset.

Second place: O2

The O2 rep did well asking relevant questions, providing good suggestions and was friendly.

In fact there was little wrong, other than the fact she didn’t check what my budget was first before launching into her recommendations.

First place: T-Mobile

A great performance from the rep from T-Mobile who was not only pleasant but asked the right questions and came back with good recommendations that were within budget.

It was also refreshing that she didn’t then try to pressure me into a sale but was content just to give advice.

Want to check out all the options available? Check out our PAYG mobile phone reviews.

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