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Friday, 25 November 2011

Love and Betrayal on the UK High Street: A Tale of Two Brands

By Nuno da Camara, Director, ReputationInc

How long does it take to win over the loving adherent of a rival brand? Well, in my case, I thought it would take years for me to consider betraying my favourite provider of consumer electronics, the much loved John Lewis, to go with anyone else. I love John Lewis with a passion. They have excellent customer service and product knowledge and are polite and charming. And they always give you such good advice on what to buy. Then there‘s the free guarantee, always longer then you get at other stores. What’s not to like?

Well, nothing, but as I sat on my sofa last weekend watching TV I was intrigued by PC World’s latest advert: staff that are trained to deliver amazing customer service is their hallmark, they claimed. Really? Surely not as good as John Lewis though, I thought. Nevertheless, having decided that it was finally time to get that home cinema sound system I had been dreaming about for months, I set off to my local PC World. Is this the beginning of an amorous betrayal, I hear you cry? Well, no. And, actually, yes. You see, I only dropped in to assess the lie of the land, an initial reconnaissance mission if you will, because the PC World store is near my house. The plan was to go to John Lewis next. However, as the autumn leaves whisked around the high street, strange things started to happen to PC World. I wanted to ask a question and a member of staff was immediately on hand. I told him what I was looking for and he gave me a useful tour of the products. I asked for an opinion on the best quality products and received a quick and sensible evaluation.

Slightly taken aback, I pressed on with my barrage of increasingly deft (or so I thought) questions, trying desperately to test his product knowledge to the core. I fully expected this informational assault on the senses to floor him at some point. But it did n’t. He just carried on being really polite and giving knowledgeable answers.

By this point, I was confused. “Is n’t he behaving just like a John Lewis person?”, said a little voice in my head.  He homed on his prey. He asked me what I would use it for: mainly TV and films? Loud music for parties? X-Box? It was a sensible attempt to fit the product to the person. The little voice got louder. And the cognitive dissonance started to get painful. I was on the ropes and he delivered the sucker punch:
“The Panasonic will be perfect for you, Sir. It’s great quality and has everything you need. And it’s £30 off, so it’s a great price as well.”

So, that was it really. How could I possibly stay faithful to my favourite retailer? A few minutes later and I am inserting my PIN at the point of sale. The betrayal takes place to the tune of £258.51. I feel slightly guilty. But the facts are irrefutable. A quality product at a great price bought on the back of good advice.
So, how long does it take to win over the loving adherent of a rival brand?? In my case, about 17 minutes. Yes, it took PC World exactly 17 minutes to convert a vociferous adherent of the John Lewis brand to a paying customer of their own. Don’t get me wrong, I still love John Lewis. But now I would recommend PC World as a good alternative option. What’s the secret? Something to do with training staff to deliver amazing customer service I guess...


  1. now the challenge for them is to be consistent and ensure that they deliver that same level of service on every store :) good luck!

  2. Glad to see you slipped the old 'cognitive dissonance' in there, who knew our training in this area would prove so fruitful??! By the way, I can vouch for PC World's customer service, as my bursting into tears whilst pregnant once saw the manager dash over and agree a £50 cash refund for a computer accessory I didn't even buy in PC World! - Connie

  3. A very good article Nuno and little did they know how difficult it would be to change your mind over something like that. They must be really good - it could not have been because of the £30 discount, so I guess the guy was very well trained to win you over in just 17 minutes. Congratulations PC World!

  4. EEW said...
    PC World customer service in our part of the world is really bad. Like Ana O'Reilly, I hope it improves in all their stores. How can you betray Peter Jones? Simply my favourite shop in the world.

  5. Nuno this rocks!
    Used some big words i didn't understand but thats a good thing i guess.
    From your FAVOURITE cousin - Izzy :)