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Four pieces of advice for the Verizon Wireless store

Posted on Jul 17, 2012 by in Blog | 84 comments

Four pieces of advice for the Verizon Wireless retail store.

Four pieces of advice for the Verizon Wireless retail store.

Dear Verizon,

I just spent about 40 minutes in your retail store, most of the time spent playing with the new Samsung Galaxy S3 – that new Android phone that everyone is talking about. I’m not desperate to have it right away but I had money in my pocket and was prepared to buy the phone right there on the spot, yet not one of your half-dozen sales people approached me or even asked how I was doing. It hurts to be ignored.

But I spent that time listening to salesperson after salesperson push the Galaxy S3 and some of what I heard made me cringe. So I have some advice for you. Some of it fueled by the nearly 3 years I spent selling cameras in a Best Buy and the rest from my gut. But I warn you now to take it with a grain of salt, because I’m just a 20-year-old college kid and my family still pays the phone bills.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is an awesome phone, but is it really right for everyone?

1. Stop talking, start listening

There are two lines of thought in product development: Users know best what they want (called user innovation) or the idea that ”people don’t know what they want until you show them.” (Jobs) But in the world of retail sales, you have to do a little bit of both and you have to start by listening.

When a customer is looking at a smartphone, ask open-ended questions. What kind of phone do you have now? What are you looking to do with your phone? How frequently do you use your phone? The sales reps I listened to asked none of these types of questions.

This one phone might have face and voice recognition, but that might not impress this customer. What if you find out that they’re most interested in video chatting with their brother in the military  (real customer I met). Not only is that a great conversation to build a relationship off of, you can show off the features that matter most and create a more confident buyer and user.

But when it comes to features, sometimes you have to…

2. Forget about features, demonstrate usability

There were two demo Samsung phones to play with. While I was at one, another woman was playing with the other. When the salesperson approached her, she said ‘Yes, this phone looks nice, but it seems confusing.’

The first things he showed her was S Voice, to which it was unable to say what . Then the camera, google maps, S Beam, motion gestures and widgets. And don’t forget about the Google Play store where you can download a million other apps. And did you see this cool slip cover it comes with?

Don’t forget that what your selling is still, primarily, a phone. And those brave people that are confused by smartphones but are still interested should at least be able to make a phone call or send a text. Show off how simple it is to call somebody. Then put the phone in their hands and let them do it. Don’t overlook the fact that these phones are intimidating as they are powerful and you should make it as approachable as possible.

Similarly drop the ‘tech talk’. Using terms like RAM and mAh will just go right over the customer’s head.

Verizon Wireless Stores

Cell phones aren't just for construction workers and business people anymore, so stop dressing like it.

3. Your image no longer reflects your products

I think there was a day when the most-expensive phones were made solely for middle-age business people in suits. I’m not sure about now, but you could ask Nathan. We’re living a post-BlackBerry phone world and smartphones are for everyone, not just the business class.

This might be the most vain piece of advice I can offer, but stop wearing ties and shirts. I know that if Google ever opened up their own retail store, they’d certainly be looking a lot more hip than that. Even the people working at the Microsoft Store are wearing t-shirts.

It’s not because I don’t think you look nice but shopping for technology in 2012 needs to be a fun experience, and that should be reflected in your image. Also remember that your clothes aren’t going to sell the product, your knowledge will. Customers recognize that now.

4. And stop bashing Apple
  • “They released the iPhone 4S because Steve Jobs died so they just threw in a couple more features and pushed it out.”
  • “Apple’s servers are really small and when you use Siri it normally redirects to Google anyway.”
  • “Every icon looks alike on your homescreen and it’s really hard to find applications.”

All things I heard salespeople say in the 40 minutes I was there. I’m certainly not an Apple fanboy. I was in your store to buy an Android phone. But you’re really trying too hard to steer people away from the iPhone and I’m not the only person that’s noticed it.

But you’re forgetting that not every person wants what you have. Not everyone is meant to have a Samsung Galaxy S3 bundled with a Bluetooth headset and case. So when a customer asks about the iPhone, don’t dismiss it immediately as a bad phone. Ask questions and figure out if this is a customer that will still be better suited for an iPhone. If you need help figuring out who that customer is, walk over to the always-crowded Apple store and cautiously heed advice #1.

And sure, the iPhone 4S isn’t as powerful as the similarly-priced Android phones but why not talk about what Apple has planned with iOS6 or the rumored iPhone 5? Maybe even arrange with Apple a way to sell pre-orders. You’re making it sound like Apple isn’t a mobile competitor anymore and your unanimous distain for their phone doesn’t help the trust between you and I.

But I guess the goal is to close the sale as soon as possible. And the goal of any business is to make money.

I might be naive but I think you can still turn profits while building meaningful customer relationships. And for your sake I hope so, because in this smartphone-era those relationships are the only thing brick-and-mortar stores have left to hold on to.

Write back soon Verizon,

Jeff

Update: Verizon wrote back!

Update #2: On Aug 1, 9-to-5 Mac linked to this article and people took off with my 4th point here. Thanks to everyone who’s read and commented so far! If there are any Verizon Wireless salespeople out there who would be willing to talk with me off-the-record about possible store biases and incentives to sell certain products, please send me an email at jeffstern.ny [at] gmail [dot] com.

Update #3: Verizon releases statement, Verizon salespeople sound off

84 Comments

  1. Sound advice, Jeffrey. However, my personality when shopping is a bit different to yours, and I have my own suggestion. There should be a table next to the door as you go in with 2 types of stickers or buttons you can wear. The first type says, “Help me!” to inform retailers that you desire assistance, suggestions, and all the lovely things you’ve mentioned here. The second (the one I would wear) would say “Leave me the fuck alone, hippies!” to inform the t-shirted hoodlums that I’m just fucking browsing, I can do my research on the internet, and if they so much as say hello to me I will bash them to kingdom come on my blog.

    • you must be a hoot at parties.

    • Derek, I think it is reasonable for *a* salesperson to approach you and ask if you need help. If you respond with “no”, then I agree with the rest of your statement with the bashing and the mouth-frothing.

      Jeff’s article is well-written and I believe serves as best practices for how tech retail should work today.

    • So much anger Derek – you might want to do something about that.

      Great article Jeff – I worked sales through college and I hated it when managers wanted us to push products regardless of the needs of the customer. A good sale is one where both parties are satisfied, not where one of them leaves feeling they’ve been talked into something or duped.

    • If nobody approaches you, how are you going to buy that so well researched device? Just linger indefinitely? It’s shop-sales 101 that you acknowledge the customer asap, even if it’s just to say hello, because it gives them a way in if they need to ask you anything.

      • @Adrian. You go up to a salesperson and say “I’d like to buy this”. It’s not rocket science.

        • I was sold a Samsung Galaxy S 4 Cell phone at a kiosk in a shopping mall by salesman who didn’t tell me the FULL MONTHLY BILL AMOUNT when he said it was only $60 he didn’t mention the surcharges now it’s $100 a month. When I asked him if there are discounts for the people on disability with social security he said no so crowded toward me to sign the contract, I signed it thinking it was only $60. When I got home used calculator and discovered it was expensive for 2 years. The return is expensive though not as high as contract. When I returned to kiosk was told can’t return it at this location only corporate office (is in same city). Aren’t there even State sales rules to mention the full amount and not play games? Do the sales people think – “I don’t like to cheated” not just be thinking of their reward from Company. If someone wants a cell phone I’ll say ‘don’t buy from Verizon’!

    • Well done azzwipe

  2. I wish people would realize that retail employees only parrot their own ignorant opinions and the sales literature their bosses gave them. If they were truly knowledgable, they would have better jobs – not working in retail for minimum wage. Remember this when asking questions to sales staff. Appropriate questions are those with absolute answers like “how much does this cost?” or “how much storage is in this phone.”

    Do not expect to get a useful answer to “what do you receommend?” They recommend the product that gives them the highest spiff, or the one they use themselves. They don’t care about your needs.

    • That’s not fair. I’m a retail sales worker, and I sell technology (not mobiles, thankfully). I needed a job quickly to pay bills. This job does it and isn’t terrible. I’ve worked much worse ones. That said, yes, our sales materials they teach us from are biased – they bash Apple when we complete against Apple products. I don’t follow them. In fact, just today, I had a customer who wanted a 13″ laptop. We did not have one. I showed her three laptops that might fit her needs, despite not being 13″, and she wasn’t thrilled with any of them. So I told her that the most popular 13″ laptop is the Apple Macbook. I said since we didn’t have what she wanted, she might be more happy with a Mac, and told her the locations of local Apple Stores. She left happy for the honesty. My goal is a happy customer who wants to return. We sell a lot of things – I might not have made the store the 20$ profit a laptop she’d be unhappy with, but when she needs a printer, she’ll return for a printer and ink which is more profit right there. She’ll also tell her friends how good her experience with us was, and they’ll come in for help.

      That said, I’m not a commissioned sales person. I don’t make more selling one brand over another, save a few tiny bonuses for things like extended warrantees and a few small bonuses. So don’t judge all retail sales staff. Some of us aren’t idiots nor are we maliciously evil.

      • Good for you. I also worked in retail and, sure, there were people that aimed to do as little as possible. But there were a lot of other great people that truly aimed to make the customer happy. Some of my best customer experiences came when there was no sale at all (I helped one person set up a new camera) and those were the moments they remembered.

    • I hope a sales person kicks you in the crotch. Idiot.

      • Wow, way to show him how sales workers aren’t mindless drones. Oh wait.

    • Ummmm…Verizon Wireless reps do not make “minimum wage” In fact, you need to have a college degree to get hired! There are reps that make a very good living at very young ages (50-75k a year) so don’t assume. Wierdo

      • @Nicole… So true and not to mention anywhere from 2K to 4.5k per month commission and that is not including the other spiffs and contests that are there. so yea id say successful reps at VZW make on avg. 65K salary.
        So before you spout off like an ignoramus … Check yourself

    • We give advice based on your needs. You generalize, there are people that will sell you anything to make a spiff. However, when you return that product, it hurts us just the same, as if we never sold it. I’d rather have you leave with something your happy with, then for you to come back in a week and return it. It’s called getting the job right the first time.
      For the record, retail isn’t minimum wage, 40,000 a year for me isn’t the best, but its certainly not I need to go rob a bank to pay my bills status either.
      *In reference to what was written, we gauge people based on their age, and show you whats important to you. If your 20, its safe for us to assume that you know how to make a phone call on an S3 even if you’ve never used a smart phone before. If your 65, the first thing I’m showing you is how to make a phone call. But in reality, people aren’t lining up to buy the S3 because its super easy to make a phone call with, if they wanted that, they would have kept their basic phone. They want to see the unique features that gives it the “smart phone” identity.

    • Good Reply here. Also this article is so right, no one knows anything about what they are selling. They hate it when you bring in a trouble phone and make them feel even stupider, because they have no clue of how to use it, like you don’t either. They are the one’s that are supposed to know about all of these gadgets. To me they should know every gadget inside, out, to properly sell their products, and fix problems when they arise, which can be quite often to me. yet they are the ones that make you look like the stupid, idiot. Here when the jokes on them they have no clue either, Ha, ha. Car sales man are the exact same way also, they have no clue of what has what, and who they are dealing with, and what their needs might be. They only sell what the Managers are pushing to sell, because the general public is not stupid, and most of us do know what we want, in no matter what we buy. It’s called look on the internet, who doesn’t have some form of internet??. I loved this article, I so agree!!. Awesome Job!!.

      • What an over generalized, close minded opinion you have of salesmen. I’ve sold home audio and video equipment since 2007. I am VERY knowledgable, honest, and find the solutions that best suit the needs of my customer, for EVERY customer. That’s what makes me so successful. I probably have more knowledge and skills suited for my career than you do for yours. Based off of your ignorant comments I’d assume I make more than you do also. Maybe that’s where your bitterness for sales associates come from.

    • Good Reply here. Also this article is so right, no one knows anything about what they are selling. They hate it when you bring in a trouble phone and make them feel even stupider, because they have no clue of how to use it, like you don’t either. They are the ones that are supposed to know about all of these gadgets. To me they should know every gadget inside, out, to properly sell their products, and fix problems when they arise, which can be quite often to me. yet they are the ones that make you look like the stupid, idiot. That to me is Not Cool for supposed College Educated, Poo, I say. Here when the jokes on them they have no clue either, Ha, ha. Car sales man are the exact same way also, they have no clue of what has what, and who they are dealing with, and what their needs might be. They only sell what the Managers are pushing to sell, because the general public is not stupid, and most of us do know what we want, in no matter what we buy. It’s called look on the internet, who doesn’t have some form of internet??. I loved this article, I so agree!!. Awesome Job!!.

    • Hi Jimmy,

      Just started working for verizon. I was reading old blogs to see what people thought of my company. Glad you think salespeople there make minimim wage there. I am currently on pace to make six figures this year and can answer questions on any device we carry. Have a great day at the fry-a-lator man

      • That’s excellent pay. I start at Verizon in June. Excellent benefits and the pay structure is great. Maybe not six figures great here in Oregon. Still pay well above many other places though. What location do you work at? I got on here for the same reason you did. To see how we as accompany are viewed by the public. You know, a little research. Lol

        • Hi 06sales, hi Jeff,
          I start training tomorrow Monday June 2 /2014 and I’m extremely excited about this sales opportunity.
          I’d love to get some pointers or advice about the job from you guys if possible.

      • Hi DDM, hi Jeff,
        I start training tomorrow Monday June 2 /2014 and I’m extremely excited about this sales opportunity.
        I’d love to get some pointers or advice about the job from you guys if possible.

  3. Verizon pays more for Apple phones.
    Apple will not allow bloatware on their iPhones.
    iPhones don’t have LTE yet but will soon.
    But the first tow points are the more relevant ones. Thats why Verizon stores put iPhones in the back.

  4. That happened to me at the Verizon store as well. Wen I asked about the iPhone, they told me Android was better. They were pushing the Androids so much I had to ask if they got a commission for selling it instead of the iPhone. I asked several of my family members who are on Verizon and they stated similar stories about being pushed to buy an android instead of an iPhone. Very weird.

  5. one of the many reasons I left Verizon.. Hello AT&T!

    • Recent reports are that AT&T is engaging in the same sort of anti-Apple sales tactics.

      Verizon, AT&T – Dumb & Dumber.

      • I havn’t experienced this anti-Apple bias at AT&T, just sayin’

  6. Nice write-up. Sad to Verizon doing this. The choices for a mobile carrier in the US are getting more narrow every year. Also, seems like other carriers are trying to slow the growth of the iPhone http://daringfireball.net/linked/2012/08/01/bgr-att.

    Is it because Apple is a bully in negotiating because of their new-found power, an Android phone sale being more profitable to the carriers or something else?

  7. Derek, I couldn’t agree more. The stores here in the UK, namely Currys, PC World and Comet, are pretty depressing places to go now. You either get completely ignored or jumped on the minute you walk in the door. And if you do ask a question about a product you get a complete bs answer.

    The best tips are, do your research online, preferably buy it online, and if you have to visit the store, best of luck.

  8. I notice this pretty much any retail place I go to. I think that sales people feel that they need to be authoritative regardless of how much knowledge they have on a subject. They tend to say things very declaratively. If you question them on something that sounds off, they come up with an even bigger lie or story that proves they’re right.

    I tend to call this bullsh*tting. It seems to be very big in sales. And I am guessing it works to some degree because a lot of sales people do it. I think this was traditionally how things were sold and it’s still part of the sales culture, but now there are customers who are more informed. In the old days you would expect a sales person to be knowledgable and help you understand things. And if you aren’t knowledgable you still have to strive to have the appearance of being knowledgable. As far as the customers who aren’t informed and are being bombarded by tech specs, that’s just bad salesmanship. You should only show one feature and benefit at a time.

    I will slightly disagree with the thing about the iOS icons. That’s the type of thing a sales rep could point out to you that isn’t something either Apple, Google, or Microsoft compete on publicly or mention in ads, and is a place where a sales rep could add value to an interaction. Maybe it is hard for some people to read the icons. It’s like if you go to a car dealer and ask which cars are good for tall people or which ones tend to have cup holders that don’t break, etc. There is value in hands on experience and going beyond the features companies talk about. Each company has its selling features it wants customers to care about, but there are always little things that make a big difference to customers that aren’t in marketing. As a poor example, say an old woman plays bridge online through a specific web-site that uses flash and wants to play it on her phone. Prevailing wisdom would tell the old bag to get over using old technology, but if it’s important to her, it’s important to her, regardless of whether a new phone has Siri or not. She’ll be at home with Siri and not have her old bridge community. I say it’s a poor example because I don’t even think Flash is included on new Android phones, but having dealt with customers in tech support (not sales) I can say that there are always little hooks for some customers that are more important than what the company wants the customer to focus on (sometimes they don’t make sense just like the sales reps don’t make sense, I worked for Apple’s iOS tech support team and had a caller yell at me that his new iPhone didn’t come preinstalled with Microsoft Office like his old Android phone did, but there were other examples that made more sense, I just can’t think of them now). That’s where a sales rep could be of value in this world of not relying on sales reps so much anymore.

    Then there is the BS about Steve Jobs dying leading to the iPhone 4S, which is just . . . anathema.

  9. Point of order: I believe those “construction workers and business people” in the Verizon advert are there to represent the personnel who work together to run the network for the Can You Hear Me Now guy — they’re not representative customers.

    That ad campaign is really old. It might pre-date your teenage years.

  10. I wouldn’t be surprised if running down Apple is policy. From Verizon’s point of view, the primary value of Apple to the company is probably getting the customer in the door. Otherwise, from the point of view of the carrier, Apple is a pain in the butt. They don’t let the carrier put their own name on the phone. They don’t let the carrier install their own software on the phone. They probably cost the carrier more. So far better to redirect the customer to an Android phone if possible.

    • How do those “features” make anything better for the customer? IMHO, it’s like Verizon wants to make you think THEY made the phone, rather than the manufacturer who ACTUALLY made it. I believe this is one reason Verizon carries only one Windows Phone in their line up (the HTC Trophy) and only three models of Blackberry. These are what we used to refer to in car sales as “lot leaders;” they get people that have heard of Windows Phone or Blackberry in the door so they can steer the customer to Android. Now they’re doing that with the iPhone.

      At least on iPhone, Blackeberry and Windows Phone you can uninstall the carrier bloat (when did you ever use VCast Music?); this is anathema to Verizon. This is the main reason they are embracing Samsung as I believe Motorola is going to go with a more stock expeience for Android (look at the new Atrix on AT&T, it is the only phone apart from the Galaxy Nexus to have the soft buttons) and do less to “differntiate” their devices from the pure Google experience.

  11. Nice article – I’m reminded of the Apple Retail Steps of Service that were drilled into me back in my Mac Genius days, still very applicable here…

    A – Approach the customer
    P – Probe (lol!) for what the customer needs
    P – Position a solution
    L – Listen to any objections
    E – End with a fond farewell.

  12. They’re never going to stop bashing Apple. In fact, Apple’s success frightens Verizon, and AT&T, and Sprint, and every other mobile carrier. It’s in their interests to downplay the iPhone as much as possible and to sell literally any other phone instead.

    Why? Well, when you fill your car with gas, are you brand-loyal about which gas stations you use, or do you fill up at the cheapest or most convenient gas station and leave it at that? Most people don’t care which gas they buy because they can’t tell the difference between different brands of gas. They just buy whatever is the cheapest, and that drives the price of gas down, which lowers revenue for gas companies.

    Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and the rest of them are deathly afraid of that “what’s the difference, I’ll just go with the cheapest” phenomenon happening to them. So they have to differentiate themselves from their competition somehow. They can see that in the not-too-distant future, they’ll all have nationwide coverage and 4G LTE bandwidth, so what will be the differentiator between carriers? The smartphone experience itself, that’s what. Because Android is “open” (to carriers, not to customers), they can differentiate the user experience on the phone itself by modifying the OS, by including built-in apps, etc., and making their version of Android carrier-specific. It’s the same thing that happened with the PC industry—when every PC vendor is selling a Windows PC, why buy from one company instead of another? And that’s how we get crapware, and that’s why the profit margins on PCs is infinitesimal.

    What does this have to do with the iPhone? Apple doesn’t let the carriers affect the phone’s software, period. An iPhone on AT&T looks and behaves exactly like on iPhone on Verizon, which looks and behaves exactly like an iPhone on Sprint, etc. The iPhone is the great anti-differentiator, and the carriers can see that the more people buy iPhones, the more they’ll start treating the carriers like gas stations and the more the carrier’s profits will shrink. The carriers would be only too happy to drop the iPhone completely, except for the one thing they fear more than shrinking profit margins: that customers want iPhones so badly that they’ll switch carriers completely just to get one. Which is exactly what happened to Verizon when the iPhone first came out, and what happened to AT&T when the iPhone came to Verizon. Customers have demonstrated a willingness to abandon their carrier in order to get an iPhone, and as long as that’s true, the carriers will be forced to support it. The minute that stops being true, they’ll drop it like a hot potato.

    And so it’s very much in Verizon’s interest to bash Apple. They’ll sell you an iPhone grudgingly, because they’d rather you bought one from them than from AT&T—but really, they’d rather you didn’t buy one at all.

    • And so it’s very much in Verizon’s interest to bash Apple. They’ll sell you an iPhone grudgingly, because they’d rather you bought one from them than from AT&T—but really, they’d rather you didn’t buy one at all.

      Most insightful comment.

  13. Verizon has been doing this for quite a while, this is nothing new. There’s a video spoof of a Verizon commercial out there that has the salesperson talking mostly in acronyms that’s pretty accurate. Their push of Android phones has also been going on for a while and I think it’s mostly due to spiffs from the handset manufacturers. When a friend of mine went in looking for her first smartphone (and pretty set on an iPhone), the salesperson pushed the new-at-the-time LG Thunderbolt and used a lie to get her to think the $250 Thunderbolt was a better deal (he told her that the iPhone *required* an extra $100 warranty coverage.)

    I’ve never been the biggest fan of any of the carrier’s business practices, but Verizon seems to be, by far, the worst.

  14. Makes me wonder how many iPhones Verizon might have sold (and how many Androids they wouldn’t have sold) if they had give then iPhone equal billing.

    Basically good evidence that the numbers for Android market share are temporary. Wait two years and see what they buy next time. Considering 94 percent of iPhone users (and remember, only 50 percent of them owned an iPhone before) are going to buy another iPhone. The similar number for Androids is vastly lower.

    • This is evident in the market share for tablets. There are no carriers pushing Samsung tablets and bashing iPads, so the true popularity of these devices are reflected in their sales. And Apple is killing everyone in the tablet market. The carriers are the only reason that the same is not true for smartphone market. Tablets are bought. Phones are sold.

  15. They are pushing android because they more profit off each device and they don’t want Apple to have to much power to dictate to them. Google dropped the ball and caved into the carriers. Apple hasn’t’

  16. The problem is simple. AT&T and Verizon have sold a ton of iPhone’s and need to push the competition which in turn is suffering. It’s totally not fair, but these recent reports don’t surprise me one bit.

    In all honesty, this is how I feel. If you have an internet connection at home, then you should take the time to research your choices. Don’t walk into Verizon and AT&T clueless. Decide on a few models that you want to demo in order to make a final decision. Don’t let these sales reps sway you in any way. You cannot trust them.

    This really applies to any electronics. In today’s age we have countless YouTube video reviews or written reviews for every single major popular device. It’s up to you to do your homework and enter the store prepared. The people that leave it in the sales reps hands are going to be taking a chance. Before the internet, you were more at their mercy, but today, there are no excuses.

    I’d like to close by saying the Lumia 900 sucks and so do any smartphones with Amoled screens. Lastly, the One X has comical multitasking abilities. I would recommend everyone get the next iPhone or, if you hate the iPhone, get the Atrix HD or the next Nexus phone.

  17. There is a big reason that AT&T and Verizon employees push Android over the iPhone, the salespeople don’t get commission on iPhone sales. I worked for a short time for an AT&T authorized dealer who sold both U-Verse and cell service. Though I was selling U-Verse I worked with a number of guys who worked the cellphone side in the retail stores.

    In these stores the iPhone was rarely mentioned and had little to no marketing push, if you didn’t know to ask you wouldn’t have had any idea that they carried it. After asking I was told about the commission policy. When your pay is almost totally commission based and it takes the same time to sell an iPhone as a Galaxy, your going to push the one that makes you money.

    • exactly right. i used to be Apple Store specialist and heard this anecdotally all the time. one time i was talking to a verizon store employee and asking him about it and he was pretty candid – they don’t get any commission on iPhones whereas with other high-end smartphones they typically do. So i don’t think there’s any other motive or lack of the phones “capabilities” that the salespeople have for doing this – simply they a bonus moving something besides the iPhone.

      could be a lot of reasons for this: Apple doesn’t pay their store employees commission so that surely wouldn’t offer that to salespeople at another retailer. Could be Verizon or the manufacturer paying a commission for a number of reasons. Either way i think A LOT of customers who aren’t tech savvy are walking out of these stores with Android phones as a result and it’s certainly has an impact on the market share.

      • That explains why salespeople push it, but why does Verizon set up incentives this way?

        • Could be a number of reasons:
          - The iPhone (currently) doesn’t offer 4G, maybe Verizon sees it as financially beneficial to move most of the smartphone purchasers to their 4G network
          - Verizon has more opportunity to add features/crapware to other models, such as add on services for video and music that bring in additional revenue. that don’t have that option with iPhones
          - the OEMs (HTC, Samsung, LG) may actually be offering these incentives directly to the sales staff – as they have more of a need to distinguish themselves from other Android competitors than Apple does

        • The answer is simple: money. Carriers make very little money off of iPhones so they incentivize their salespeople to sell the products with higher margins.

          The reason carriers don’ make any money off of iPhones is because Apple negotiates brutal contracts with the carriers where almost all of the profits flow to Apple. They do this because they can. Apple knows they have a popular product that consumers will buy no matter how much carriers bash their products and promote others. They also know that carriers have no choice but to accept the brutal contract terms and carry the iPhone, again because of the popularity of the product.

  18. Recently I had to visit a Verizon store in effort to activate my daughters less than smart phone. In the ten minutes of waiting at the counter, I was forced to listen to a twenty something year old sales counselor explain not the virtues of an Android phone, but the vices of an IPhone to a couple that we’re well into their 60s. After the counselor (fanboy) explained that you had to have a both a computer and iTunes to use an iPhone, I felt obligated to clarify.

    My question is, are these guys that uninformed, biased or just stupid? Or are they getting “spiffs” for selling certain phones?

    • Are they fanboys or are they MAKING MONEY selling other phones? It’s the latter, clearly.

    • I used to intervene when I heard retail sales monkeys spew false information. Don’t BS the consumer if you don’t know the answer.

  19. Verizon management would do well to have their reps listen to people and then summarize those conversations and highlight issues that arise. That would create a great CRM knowledge base that make the reps far more productive and let Verizon get feedback and suggestions from people who are using the network all the time. They could have a part of the website titled “What Customers are Asking and Telling our Salespeople.” How novel. I am a 14 year user of Verizon and am quite annoyed when I go into stores and speak with salespeople who know so little and can’t be bothered to even take an interest in the smallest problems. They invariably say, “needs a reset.”

  20. Hello, why doesn’t a Verizon employee come out and reveal what the sales commission is on an iPhone vs. an Android phone?

    Sure Verizon makes more money on Android, or they wouldn’t be doing it. But they must get their employees to care, and so I am sure there’s a higher sales commission on an Android sale than there is on an iPhone. Or there are quotas. There’s got to be some financial incentives for the employees on the ground. I would love to hear what they are.

    • I make commission on iPhone and Android sales. My commission is SLIGHTLY less on iPhones than on MOST Android devices. Also, commission has more to do with the service than the device, guys. We initially sell EVERY Android and iPhone at a loss. We make that money back in the 24 months you’re with us. That being the case, why would the device have any sort of strong bearing on what we sell? An iPhone and a Galaxy SIII cost the same for us to purchase (give or take a laughable amount) and carry the same amount of loss in a sale, therefore offer nearly the same incentives. Let me try to explain a few things, at least from my situation and perspective. The iPhone is not a device that we are told to steer the customer away from. Quite the opposite actually, as most of my store’s business is iPhone driven. I talk to my customers about what would suit them, and show the relevant options. If price is your central concern (i.e.- I’ll get gas where it’s cheapest) then the iPhone is not for you. Believe it or not, most walk-in customers want cheap and easy. Also, why would any salesman in their right mind try to steer a customer away from what they truly wanted? Why run the risk of putting unnecessary doubt in a customer’s head? A senseless bet is never as good as a sure thing. Also, many of these salesmen are enthusiasts and have tried a majority of these devices that they sell. They have the first-hand user experience to share with the indecisive or uninformed consumer. If sharing this information based on a customer’s inquiry or relative conversation is tough for you to stomach, please understand that we are just acting on real-life experience and not bias. Like I said, my store, my perspective. And yeah, sometimes the occasional idiot slips in to the staff because he/she knew somebody. It sucks. You need to find a different sales rep/store. Don’t hesitate to see for yourself if the rest of the staff is composed of decent human beings. We don’t want to crowd you.

      However, a little food for thought. Phone salesmen are nerds. Phones are all we think about. They are our livelihood. Forgive us if at times we get a little excited about a new device.

      • Earl —

        That’s my impression from 7 years with my Verizon store. They are hugely pro-Android, but it reads as genuine to me. I read it as having a lot to do with the number of Android devices and simply its boring to sell the same phone over and over and over.

  21. And this is exactly why Apple invested millions to create its own retail distribution channel. Apple products back in the late ’90s were never properly displayed or maintained by ignorant staff. They almost always steered customers to the gaming systems they knew more about.

    History is repeating itself with the iPhone, but this time Apple owns the world’s most popular and profitable retail chain.

    Shame on the retailers.

  22. What ever happened to one of the prime principals of sales…..???
    You never bash the competition! Especially when a customer directly asks you about a competing product.

    In an apple vs. Android situation they may ask about the iphone because they heard from their 20 friends and family who have one thats its great just to see what you say
    And when you turn around and immediately bash it you make youraelf look like a fool and immediately give the customer a bad impression.

    Never ever talk bad about another product.

    Say yes its a good phone but here may be some reasons why you might be interested in an android phone.
    If they push back then you better lead them back tothe iphone table or they will leave and not come back or return the phone you shoved down their throat.

    I was in my local USCC store recently where a 75-ish yr old guy was returning the samsung aviator; a brand new 4g phone.
    He said “i dont even know how to use it. All i do is make calls and sometimes an email.”
    The lady who sold it to him was so deft dumb and blind she completely ignored what the cuatomer needed and sold them something they just returned

  23. I never worked mobile phone retail, but I did tech support and rubbed shoulders with plenty of these salespeople.

    As others have surmised, the iPhones sell themselves. I don’t know for a fact if theres NO commission for them anywhere…. but the manufacturers, such as Samsung, make their own incentives for selling, say, the most S3s at a certain store. Oh, and the sales employees get top of the line phones at no charge. The logic to putting them in the back of the store is not because Verizon ‘hates’ Apple or whatever, they sure as hell are profiting from iPhones, but rather it’s the same logic as grocery stores putting Milk and Eggs on the back row of the shop- it’s what most people want, and forces them to traverse the length of the store to get it.

    Android phones are all too frequently a complete disaster in the hands of consumers with a low-medium knowledge of technology. People install all sorts of dubious apps- battery extenders and taskkillers were my favorites- and blame the carriers when the phones choke.

  24. it’s pretty obvious that they make more money from selling Android phones than iPhones. So this is not really that difficult to understand.

  25. Jeff Stern, you are a moron and I hope you realize that.

  26. Until a few weeks ago, I was working in IT retail, and let me tell you, there is a lot of bad feeling towards Apple products from management. It mostly stems from the fact that they don’t actually know much about them. We’ve had employees who believed that Macs don’t support Flash (because iOS doesn’t), we’ve had employees who didn’t know you could run Windows on them, and so on. Management hated the idea of having to support Apple products. But in reality, we never sold a “bad” Apple computer or iOS device. We have had many confused users who didn’t know how to install apps, and so on, but that’s a part of it.

    Most importantly, however, is the profit margins. The RRP of Apple products isn’t outrageous compared to others, but the manufacturer has no room to maneuver, no way to offer discounts, because the profit margins are razor-thin, and I mean it. We’d often make more profit off a cover than off the iPad it was bought for. Compare this to the much larger profits on other products, and it’s easy to understand the traditional mindset. I remember working extremely hard to strike a balance. I use a MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPod touch every day, so I know their strengths. That said, I also know that many people barely use their computer for an hour a week and aren’t looking to spend more than €350-400. In that case, it’s tough to recommend an Apple product (although I did shift iPads in their place quite often).

  27. Verizon won’t be selling direct to consumers within 5 years. They don’t need a network of stores to help users choose either a real iPhone from Apple or a fake iPhone from Samsung and absolutely no other phones. The carriers are setup for a phone market with hundreds of devices, not an iPod/PC market with 1–2 platforms. The phone market is gone, now. So here you are encouraging Verizon to be more like an iPod/PC store (Apple Store) and less like a phone store.

  28. It’s not just Apple-bashing and it’s not just mobile phones.

    I was in a Supermarket the other day and heard a salesman trying to sell an iPad, and he still did it with a bunch of lies and rubbish (‘it browses the web faster than a laptop’ – what???).

    Equally I heard a salesmen in PC World claim an AMD based laptop (in answer to a question about what that meant) reply ‘it’s the same chip they used in the XBox’. And this is a company who advertise that their staff are supposed to be informed.

    I was in there with my father-in-law who wanted to buy a Windows laptop, that day (because he knew I would be around to set him up and he doesn’t trust online retail). And I was astounded by the lying, and the attempts to direct you towards the product they wanted to sell (presumably the one with the best commission) rather than any attempt to find out what you need or want.

    (Similar lies heard over Microsoft Works).

    Best part – a salesmen telling me which laptops they had on display weren’t in stock, rather than showing me what they actually had. Because I’d quickly have assessed they only actually had 2 models actually for sale.

    I’d say that I suspect the same thing happens in other kinds of retail, but despite my ignorance about fridges, ovens and sofas, I’ve not really noticed the same hard sales culture. (Exception – double-glazing where salesmen are more interested in selling you the finance than the product. I bailed until I found a company where the first thing they did was measure up and give me a price, rather than trying to find out how much I could pay per month).

    What I do think is that, as with financial advice, anyone on commission should be forced to declare their interest. It would at least make consumers question the impartiality of product advice.

    And I agree with all comments that challenging the customer is always the wrong thing to do, but it must be a deliberate strategy (‘first, make them doubt their decision’).

  29. …….. also read somewhere that Google pays the telco and the phone manufacturer a certain percentage for each Android phone sold which explains why the telco would rather push Android phones rather than iPhones……

  30. Hi Jeff,
    I think your ideals (wonderful, by the way) get in the way of seeing something obvious to old timers: at this point, Verizon’s customers are the marks, the victims, the suckers to milk for all their worth using current technologies.
    In my cranky opinion, there’s very little competition between AT&T and Verizon, and they have a comfortable “duopoly”. At the same time, each uses advancing technologies to position itself for a future with no guarantees.
    Best,
    Andre

  31. I think this comment section has gone a bit off the tracks. Yes, the salespeople were dissing the iPhone, but that isn’t the only phone they are disparaging. Two to three years ago, the phones the carriers pushed were Blackberries. Recently, it’s been Androids (pick the flavor of the week/month). Later this year, perhaps Lumias or something else.

    The bottom line is that customers go into a store with a wide variety of goals and agendas, ranging from purchasing a specific phone to finding the solution to a nebulous set of needs. Most phone store salespeople seem to have one goal: sell as many units of the carrier’s preferred phone as possible as quickly as possible. Both customers and carriers need to recognize that this disconnect will result in unhappy and, eventually lost, customers.

    It’s good that Verizon noticed this post and did some outreach. Let’s hope they start to get the message. The market needs to change.

  32. People still go to stores to buy electronics? I haven’t purchased anything other than food in a retail store in years. Why would you subject yourself to that when there is far better info on the web, and better prices too?

  33. (Ouch, I can’t believe I’m about to defend Verizon….)
    In fairness to Verizon, given the reports about relative phone subsidy levels for iPhone vs Android phones, Verizon SHOULD want to sell more Android devices than Apple devices.

    Now, can they try to do so without unfair bashing of Apple? I would certainly hope they wouldn’t lie to and mislead customers to increase their profit. They could try, I don’t know, focusing on the strengths of Android rather than disparaging Apple and see what happens. Or, earthshattering idea here, maybe sell the Android phones for less upfront than the Apple phone?

    The rest of your article….spot on….and I hope AT&T & Sprint & T-Mobile & Best Buy & many others are all listening to your advice as well as Verizon. Excellent article, glad I clicked on the link.

    • What would be fair bashing of Apple?

  34. Thanks Jeff Stern for a refreshing read deserving much praise for youthful insight into damaged *modern* commerce ethos where the customer, as correctly stated elsewhere repeatedly, is but a moneybag to be steered and confounded even at the expense of professionalism and self respect. Lordy do we despise car-sales-con-men and are surprised when we find honest few among them. Now the same myopia has steadily crept into the tech world but not to worry, consumers are gradually wising-up to treating the hucksters for what they are. I’m longish here but I’m drawn to say I return to stores that offer selfless sound advice then recommend them widely and do bother e-mailing to encourage their bosses to pass my message to the named employee. This may be for naught but in my estimate marginal managers know neophyte workers (too often sadly rushed through Com 101) are easily incentivized with frivolous stipends and the less savvy newbies make-up their lacking with blunt lies to erringly bolster their credibility. Regrettably by embarrassing them with their own techie-jargon admixed with plausible techie-nonsense most times steers me to the more knowledgeable staffers or pivot my exit, often at their mid-sentence to signal my displeasure. Insensitive maybe but there you have it, I will not tolerate posers and I make a point of it at corporate level that I admire a sales person who turns to better placed colleagues to answer my questions. Awareness of the pushy-ill-practice has made Apple’s new-hires better sales-critters I enjoy dealing with, both on-line and at their stores where I have never heard a single slam against competitors. Yes, polite customer service is added value to APPL’s products and is what made me a longtime fan. /++Alex, Jeff B, thanks for good feedback and beat-sand to neigh sayers and shills.

  35. Nice and insightful, customer-based article/blog. I AM an Apple zealot and have learned to just keep my mouth shut when people complain about their Android phones…and I mean I know of only one person who has an android phone who likes it…not loves it, but likes it. My wife is a windows person with an Android phone and when shopping for her I ask all the questions about her needs (Im the tech guy, even though she is way more web savvy than I). She wanted an actual keyboard and got an Android phone and constant problems with the damned thing. the same with her laptop…constant problems. I am an Apple Zealot because of my experience with the platforms they produce… and I have used windows pretty extensively over the years. Apples systems just work…simple and to the point. they are easier to figure out than PCs/windows/android.

    It does not surprise me you found this happening and would surprise me even less that it was a business policy for all the reasons others have stated here. the state of customer service has been declining for decades. I always go in to the store with more research than the tech/sales people and use it to test them, all the while seeing if they will follow the party line or actually ask about my needs. if they fail I walk out. I think everyone should do the same.

    • BTW…my wife bought her father an ipad and fell in love with it as she learned how to show her dad to use it. I bought her one as a much deserved Bday present and she now hardly ever toughs her windows laptop. Since it has GPS, and her android’s GPS has always been buggy, she now uses her ‘smartphone’ primarily as a phone and text device.

  36. Jeff, I wanted to let you know I really enjoyed reading your article and also appreciate what you said in terms of customer service in general, having worked most of my jobs under customer service. I can sympathize with you about how awkward and awful it feels to be ignored and misunderstood at a retail store. Some stores are just clueless, yet sometimes there is just one employee who can turn the situation around with their positive attitude and ability to connect with the customer. Thanks!

  37. When I look at other phones, I try to see “what I am missing.” I love my iPhone, no amount of chatting with a store rep is going to get me to go back to Android. I had a Droid 2, and the second I got it, it was obsolete. Not that is how it is with the iPhone too. But, Apple is the only one making an iOS phone. When I bought my Moto Droid, a week later HTC had something better, then the Droid 3 was announced, I checked to see what my upgrade options were. None was the answer. After using an iPhone, then switching to Android, and then switching back to iPhone. I don’t think Google is going to add anything to it to make me want to stay with Android.

    Some of the features are nice, especially the flip clock from HTC Sense, but nothing I can’t achieve with Jailbreak apps on iOS. This is purely my opinion, but I think the App Store for iOS is much more solid. I never felt so unwelcome from an appstore until I opened up Market.

    I have never had good luck in any store either. I am the type of person that turns into a dick the second you treat me like I am dumb. I know technology, and in most cases know more about the phones they’re selling. A handful of stores Apple, BestBuy, and Verizon are all guilty of having employees that do that to me.

    I don’t think I have seen the bias first hand, because I normally am not buying. Like I said, I have the phone I want, and I just like playing with WP7 and the new Android phone.

  38. I think Verizon is regretting getting the iPhone. Verizon pays Apple more for the iPhone than it would an Android phone.

    I was due for my Verizon renewal middle of last year, passed on the tiny-screen, stuck-in-slow 3G iPhone, and I’m very happy with my big-screen 4G LTE Galaxy Nexus that I got in January.

  39. Point #4 — That would be: “between you and me.”

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    You have touched some good factors here. Any way keep up wrinting.

  41. I really enjoyed your article. I speak to countless customers everyday that tell me how horrible their store experience was. All I can do is send feedback. For all I know a store manager marks it as read and goes on with their day. It’s only getting worse with each new phone launch. There was a time that you could go in a Verizon Corp store and they took care of customers(I know because I was customer before I became employee). Now I’m just disgusted with the stories my customers tell me. As much as I stand behind my company I believe most store locations are damaging our reputation. To anyone upgrading or buying a phone call us and ask for tech support. We have the knowledge, correct information, and we ask those questions Jeff talked about. Also we are happy to hear about what you do with your devices…we might even teach you something you don’t know if you give us a chance. We don’t get commission and we have no quotas to fill. We want you to get the best phone for you…because in the end that store location just tosses a card at you with our number if you have any problems so why not call us first.

    • Tech support? There’s a joke. I rang VZW tech support a week ago because my 4G LTE data stopped working. I had already completed three hard resets and the problem persisted. Tech support told me to do a soft reset. I asked what that would achieve, since I had already done hard resets, and the answer was “I’m just reading from the card to try and solve the problem”. In the end, I went to a Premium Retailer store and they solved the issue.

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  46. I am a formal Naval Officer and Western Region Sales Manager, as well as Pharm Sales Rep. Whether retail sales or B2B sales, this is cliché, but it is ALWAYS about relationships and Jeff hit it on the nose. I have had the best sales training a person can get and do you know the most important tactic in a successful sales person is….LISTENING, followed by open ended questions, what there needs are. You sell a person a phone they don’t need you will never see them again. Consultative selling is the only sales philosophy that will keep these companies stores open. Consultative selling is establishing relationships, finding the customers needs, 90% of people let alone business people DON’T need a Droid MAXX. The goal is to make their shopping experience memorable and pleasurable..why…SO THEY COME BACK…Hence Consultative selling. How is this done, by what Jeff didn’t get, SUPERIOR CUSTOMER SERVICE. There was a theory that Consultative selling only works in B2B sales where the company you call on for a year eventually becomes your friend and you talk business for 10 business then about each others families because that trust has been earned by a fantastic sales person. I believe this works even more in retail, a 1 on 1 intimate interaction with a customer and meeting THEIR needs, then you can up sell and do what the company wants, sell the head phones, the cover, blue tooth etc…This customer will remember that shopping experience and the help they got and the questions they got answered and the phone they got to fit who they are. THEY WILL COME BACK!.

    I left a 80K Base salary to get into retail, I heard Verizon’s benefits were ranked first (I heard, I don’t know for sure, I do know they are great). The base salary is well below average, but I know many reps that make 60K in commission on a bad year. I start in a 3 weeks. We will see.

    I never understood why people get into customer service related fields then get mad. For example, United Airlines Ticket counter, you know your going to be working with disgruntled passengers, YOU TOOK A CUSTOMER SERVICE JOB, these Ticket Counter employees are the RUDEST people in customer service. WHY DID YOU TAKE THE DAMN JOB WHEN YOU KNOW YOU WILL BE DEALING WITH RUDE PASSENGERS. Same here, why did you apply. You want to be a successful rep, get training….and listen and listen actively don’t try to sell them something they don’t want because if you do and they don’t like it, when they come back they are going to request another rep if they come back at all.

  47. Jeff, you are spot on. So wise for someone so young! My experience at the Verizon store at the Auburn Supermall last year was similar, but I did get help and ended up with the Droid Razr M. A young man named Wil helped me, or should I say, SORT OF helped me. I needed a smartphone, I was actually going to a Verizon interview and was told I’d have to demo my phone but didn’t want to use my old flip phone. Wil was obviously disinterested in my choice and even after the fact I had a hard time getting a copy of my new contract out of him. It took several emails and a phone call. Needless to say, my Verizon job interview went well but I was not offered a position. This is a good thing since I don’t want to be part of a company who does business in this way and I don’t think Verizon likes to hire middle aged but white women…My smartphone wouldn’t get reception inside my house and I ultimately ended up having to use my old flip phone anyway. When my contract is up, I’m done with them. Every Verizon store I’ve been to has been a less than stellar experience, across the board. BTW, I’ve been with them for ten years, but this will end in 11 months.

    Thank you for writing this. People need to know. It wasn’t you, it was them.

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