Bias: The killer of innovation, the dasher of dreams, the destroyer of hope and something that MUST be put down!
Dear MNB readers,
Before I start, let me put out a disclaimer: This article is LONG…over 3,500 words. It is a subject that I feel strongly about and if you would afford me the space to write about it and some of your time in joining the discussion, I thank you in advance. If so, you may want to grab a snack and a drink, if not, I understand and you can skim through as there are some nice pictures of Lumias that were taken with my 808 PureView for those of us (myself included) who love photos :). On to the topic at hand!
During the Lumia 1020 announcement Q&A session with Stephen Elop, Joan Lappin from Forbes had this to say:
As some of you may know, Elop countered with a response that took the responsibility off of AT&T and put all of the blame on Nokia. His response was given with confidence, sounded good but the reality is that no matter what Nokia builds, no matter what kind of stellar training they provide, no matter what kind of marketing materials, kiosks or CEO endorsements that the budget allows, the fact is that the consumer decision to purchase a WINDOWS PHONE is HEAVILY swayed by the amount of OPERATING SYSTEM BIAS that the in store rep has!
Notice I didn’t say a Nokia Lumia smartphone purchase. It is not about Nokia and what Nokia can do, it is all about Windows Phone and the how the in store rep feels about WP. There is an OS war going on and the front line soldiers, the very ones that have been trained and armed with the tools (exclusive tools at that – 1020, 920) may just be doing all that they personally can to fight against the charge that they have been given, all they can to push their OWN agenda to what is their OWN expected sales end.
What do I mean? Let me share 2 vastly different experiences that I have had over the past 2 days:
Ever since news broke that some 1020s have arrived at AT&T stores, I have been visiting our 2 local AT&T stores and also our single T-Mobile (all the photos are from the T-Mobile store..more on that later) store to check up on the status of their Windows Phones, especially Nokia devices. I have been calling each day, speaking to different reps to get a sense of the amount of training or effort and attention that they have given to Windows Phone and the Lumia range. Neither of the AT&T stores have the 1020 as of today but what was alarming is what happened when I went to one of the stores…
2 Days Ago…
So I happily go into an AT&T store after work, armed with my trusty 808, prepared to talk up some 41MP goodness, give some demos like I always have since the N82 days. I am standing around the WP section, I see the HTC devices, then the 820 and 920 (in stunning glossy red) yet no sign of a Lumia 1020 coming soon poster. Ok, nothing strange yet as they have more than a week to get the 1020 materials out for display. I am there so long that my attention goes to a huge screened Android phone, 5.5 inches of 1080p HD sharpness..impressive and NO, it was not a Samsung phone 😉 . Nothing wrong yet. I move back to the WP section and now I’ve been in the store about 10 minutes without any help. Maybe reps called out sick. Nothing wrong, I am still in a chipper mood.
A customer comes over while I am holding the 5.5 big screened Android phone next to the red Lumia 920 and I say “Wow, this screen is soooooooo big and pretty, the screen is almost bigger than this phone (pointing to the 920) she says yeah. Clearly NOT interested in the big screened Android phone but leaning towards the various WP devices. We continue our chatter and then a sales associate finally arrives. The lady and her daughter have been checking out the HTC 8X (I am ready to counter with the red 920, having pros and cons on the tip of my tongue)…….the customer tells the sales rep “I like this phone here!”, holding the 8X, ready to dive into WP….and then it all goes down hill from there…
BIAS BIAS BIAS BIAS…B……I…..A…S ALERT!!!!!
Bias: is an inclination of temperaments or outlook to present or hold a partial perspective at the expense of (possibly equally valid) alternatives in reference to objects, people, or groups. Anything biased generally is one-sided and therefore lacks a neutral point of view. Bias can come in many forms and is often considered to be synonymous with prejudice or bigotry.
Definition Source: Wikipedia
The AT&T sales rep FROWNS and says “but it runs WINDOWS PHONE!!!”. The rep looked besmirched by the words Windows Phone!
Now……the entire time, I am standing maybe 3 feet away, I am thinking.. “PLEASE, PLEASE don’t let this conversation go where I think it is going…please!!!” I felt the urge to speak up, I felt all of my attention focus on the rep, BUT I held my peace….at that moment.
The customer looks at the Rep almost as shocked and says “Oh??????” in a slightly confused or “What’s the problem with WP” manner. The rep takes it to another level of bias.
Rep: Windows Phone is, you either love it or hate it!
Customer: And you?
Rep: Hate it. I don’t like Windows Phone. (frowns, shakes head in disgust and TAKES THE 8X FROM THE CUSTOMER AND SAYS:) But we have this…picks up the 5.5 HD Android Phone.
Rep: I like Android better than Windows Phone. Android is better.
Customer: Oh…looks at Android phone and INSTANTLY drops all appearance of wanting a Windows Phone.
Me: (Having had ALL THAT I CAN TAKE!…calmly joins the conversation) To the rep: Oh, you say you don’t like Windows Phone?
Rep: Yeah, I don’t like it.
Me: Why not?
Rep: I just don’t like it. (now holding the red 920… with a disgusted look on her face) I like Android better.
Me: You know, that comes off VERY negative towards WP and turns people away from it when AT&T reps say and do things like you just did.
Rep: (shrugs shoulders) We sell plenty of Windows Phones
Me: Why don’t you like Windows Phone? (I am in full interrogation mode)
Rep: I’m used to Android, that’s what I have been using.
Me: BUT why don’t you like Windows Phone, you can tell the customers you don’t like it but WHY don’t you like it!!!???
Rep: Windows Phone is designed for kids and people who have never had a smartphone. It doesn’t have a lot of apps. It’s too simple, like the iPhone. I just don’t like it. I like Android. (Takes customer away with the Android phone)
Me: (Fuming) Left the store. No pictures, took a store card and called to speak to the store manager, whom wasn’t available.
That is the POOREST customer service I have ever seen in person. It was SO FULL OF BIAS!!! The Rep sold the customer what the REP wanted. So selfish….so rude….so dishonest, pushing her own agenda, her own opinions on the customer! Now the customer is not going to even buy a WP and will probably tell their friends and family the same biased comments and lies that the rep told them, swaying their opinion away from what may be a viable solution for the customer. The rep’s job is to assess the customer’s needs and wants, not to push their own needs and wants on the customer.
it is Nokia’s fault (thanks Janne!) it is “a fundamental challenge that Nokia faces and that Nokia owns”. (ED. The challenge is in the stores IMHO) The battle isn’t even about Nokia, the customer wanted a HTC Windows Phone, the war (challenge) is about Windows Phone and the ignorance that a lot of people have about it. The rep seemingly forgot that Android had to start from somewhere, that it once was new and unknown, not familiar, didn’t have many apps, NO choice in phone type/style (one phone at first on one carrier: T-Mobile G1) and that people had to LEARN how to use Android, WAIT for apps to be developed, HOPE for better processors, screens, build quality! That was a colossal disservice to the customer, a disservice to Microsoft, all the WP partners, carriers, supporters and even to AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph De La Vega. They all make promises, try hard, work hard behind the scenes just for the positive work to be torn down by the reps that are supposed to present the information based on what the customer wants in an informative and unbiased manner.
So I left the store. Moving on to yesterday….at T-Mobile
While getting out of my car, I honestly expected worse situation than at AT&T. I had dealt with this T-Mobile store in months past, they lacked a WP display, associates had NO IDEA what WPs I was asking about, they didn’t know release dates, didn’t even have live WP demo phones, no Lumia 521, a non working 810, and they discontinued the 710. I was expecting NOTHING but to my surprise…..
WOW! Working Lumia devices, a large display with looping videos highlighting the features…what a surprise and a welcomed sight! Ok, there MUST be a catch! I just knew that some rep would come over with chronic Biasoris and start speaking of Android, iOS, apps, cores and moars. I find myself standing there oogling over the 925 as it was my first time seeing it in person and I begin taking photos with my 808. There is one rep in the store and 3 other customers. The rep takes care of everyone fairly quickly and efficiently and then he comes over to me.
Rep: I see you are looking at our Windows Phones. Are Windows Phones the only phones that you are interested in?
Me: Yes, pretty much. I have had many Android phones, and iPhones.
Rep: Me personally, I don’t really like Windows Phone that much…(I felt a Hulk smashing rage coming on) BUT..I think that the Windows Phones are great devices. They are doing a lot better that when they started. They have more apps, their phones look better too. (false alarm…no gamma charge today)
Me: Yeah (holding the 925) This phone looks great!
Rep: It’s the best Windows Phone we have. The screen is great, it’s fast. I like what they are doing with Windows phone. It (WP) isn’t up to where Android is (lifting his hand in the air) but I can tell that one day it will get there.
Me: I agree.
Rep: This one here (925) takes the best photos out of any phone we have. The GS4 has a 13 MP camera and this one only has 8.7MP BUT it has a Carl Zeiss camera and that makes the pictures better.
Me: Oh wow! (I honestly COULDNT BELIEVE HE KNEW HIS STUFF AND WAS BEING HONEST AND UNBIASED!!!)
Rep: It’s a really nice phone. We also have this one (521), it is cheaper. It is really nice but in my opinion, the screen is better on this one (925) I think it is because of the 1080p HD screen (yes, he said 1080p, I don’t care one bit that he misspoke, the man was TRYING HIS BEST to inform me based on what I..I…I..not he…not him…not they…nor them…but I…I…the CUSTOMER…was interested in).
Me: yeah, looks MUCH better.
Me: (seeing the 810) Wow! I though this phone was discontinued!
Rep: Well, we haven’t gotten any in a long time. I think we are discontinuing it.
Me: It’s strange to be discontinued, it has better specs than the 521, the camera is better.
Rep: I believe it was the price that hurt it. It’s cheap now but at first it was $400 something full price. Yeah, I think it was the price that was bad. It’s still a good phone, it has a front facing camera. The 521 doesn’t.
Rep: You can’t go wrong with any of these Windows Phones.
Me: I Nodded in agreement. I didn’t say anything. Loss of words! WHAT just happened!
The rep then goes on to encourage me about T-Mobile’s new plans, reasons to switch, the pros and CONS of their data pricing (he said, you may want to get more than 500MB because that lasts like 4 days and when it’s up, you’ll get 2g speeds and you will be mad at T-Mobile, saying our data speeds suck and are slow). He talked MORE about WP, tailored to what he perceived to be my smartphone needs. He only mentioned Android once, recommending a cheap phone for my daughters if we were budget conscious after I told him she had an iPhone 4. He provided EXCELLENT CUSTOMER FOCUSED customer service. He made Windows Phone seem to have hope, more life, a brighter future, far outclassing the stunning design of the 925 that if I wasn’t 100% behind WP when I came in, I would definitely walk out with a WP or two!
He did not, I repeat, did not let his own experience with Windows Phone stand in the way of what I liked. He didn’t push his own agenda or try to sway me in the OPPOSITE direction. It was such a stark contrast compared to my experience at AT&T, Nokia’s premier WP partner, exclusive U.S. carrier for the Lumia 900, 920, 1020 flagships that some people really want to buy. Whomever manages the store on Veterans Parkway, Angel B. deserves recognition. He deserves a raise, a free lunch, a work smartphone, VIP parking or something because he showed that he can put his personal opinion aside and provide excellent customer focused customer service. He deserves something! I’m not with T-Mobile anymore but that level of UNBIASED service made me think about switching to T-Mobile and buying 5 925s for my family, if only it was that simple and easy.
Mr. B. would not hinder WP (or any other OS) or the customer in any way. He knew his material, remembering his training, pointing out features that would interest the customer, who appeared to be interested in Windows Phone. He didn’t lead me to a big screened Android phone that I didn’t even look at (can’t miss the big screen so obviously I am not interested in it). He didn’t spout apps apps apps or insult my OS choice by saying it is made for kids, when clearly I am interested in it. He examined the situation, tried to sell me devices and services that fit my family’s needs and wants. THAT is the kind of representative that Microsoft needs in the stores, that Nokia needs, that all WP investors and fans need to see. T-Mobile isn’t even the premier WP partner. They have barely supported the 710 and 810 and they are clearly as a company, on the Android bandwagon, being the original Android launch carrier with the G1 after all.
The fault isn’t on Nokia, the WP ecosystem is directly strengthened by exclusive releases on certain carriers, 41MP means nothing if a rep is SOOOOOOOO BIASED that they can’t see the customers wants beyond their own. All of Nokia’s hard work and AT&T top level training means nothing if I can walk in the store and be basically told to not buy a WP device, no matter how awesome the phone may be.
Windows Phone isn’t at the level of individual acceptance to where it really stands a chance at retail unless there are some good and honest employees like Angel B. who just want to do a good job and provide unbiased service.
Now, as I draw to a close, I want to make it clear, I am not praising T-Mobile. I have my fair share of bad, biased experiences with them as well. There are recent reports of people having similar experiences of EXTREME bias, especially towards Windows Phone as well. Windowsphonecentral has an article about the lack of information at certain T-Mobile stores and some of the comments are even worse than my AT&T experience. Similarly, comments on a TmoNews article echo the level of bias that some consumers face when they simply want to purchase a device that THEY like. This comment from reader Random3 is an example of extreme bias that makes it difficult for consumers:
White, They don’t even have the charging cases. I can only hope this means Nokia plans to give some freebie love there. My experience in the stores was HORRIBLE. I went into a store last Friday to ask about the phone and reserve one, and the guy spent the whole time trying to argue with me about why WP sucked and I should get a Samsung something or another. He used the “apps” argument, so I asked him to name the apps he needed that weren’t on Windows phone, and everything he said (Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, etc) I just kept responding “got it”. The only one he had me on was Instagram, where I said “we have several instagram apps but you’re correct, there’s no ‘official’ one. But yeah, I’m going to change my mind because of Instagram. I’ve been buying windows phones since the HD7 was released, you can see that on my account, but because you pointed out that one app that we don’t have an ‘official’ app.” There were a few more back and forth exchanges then I just left because I didn’t want to argue with this guy about what I want. It was annoying because I never see them have any problems with selling someone an iPhone or BB or Android, its not that they aren’t informed, they are truly biased to the point of not wanting to sell you something even when you ask for it. 2nd store: Yesterday went to go pick one up in the morning at a store by my office. After repeating myself 4-5 times about what I wanted (to the point I started to wonder if the girl was slow) it finally clicked in her head that I wasn’t asking for an android phone (my guess) and she looked it up In the computer, then went into the back of the store, while she was there the other sales person in the store asked what I was there for, and I said “the new 925” the guy started like the girl, so I spelled it out “the nokia 925, the new windows phone…You know?” he had a blank look on his face so I continued… “You know the phone they announced along with the Sony Xperia?” To which he answered “Oooooh, you want an Xperia? I think we have those in stock” and I corrected, “No, I want the OTHER phone they announced. I do not want an android phone” and that seemed to puzzle him. Just then the girl came back and told me they didn’t have that phone, but she could sell me an Xperia instead. I walked out (again). Does tmobile actually train reps to be this unhelpful or to push android/iphone at all costs or do they just not train them in customer service (if a customer asks for A, and you sell A don’t try to sell them B unless B is a better version of A).
In all fairness, the third store, I called first (learned my lesson), the rep never mentioned Android to me, let me know everything I needed to know before I came in, talked about the product while he was ringing me up and I left. Exactly the experience I was looking for
There is no place for bias in a customer service and sales environment. Bias (OS bias in this case) is like a disease that spreads from the heart of the person (rep, manager, friend, coworker) to the mind of the listener. It is powerful, easy to get yet hard to get rid of. If the same bias that is being shown towards WP was shown towards iOS or Android, they would be in the same boat. Nokia can do all they can do. MS can do all they can do but if those on the front line, down in the trenches, the ones that make or break a product are extremely against selling your product, it will never gain the traction that it deserves, and that is a shame.
Thank you all for reading and bearing with me during this super long article. Please comment below about your thoughts on the subject. Have you experienced extreme bias when shopping, whether it is for phones, homes, cars, food or any other thing to where the representative pushed their own agenda to a fault? I will end with this, Random3 had his mind made up and determined not to be persuaded otherwise and in the end, he got the device that works best for him. We all have different needs, wants and standards that help define our purchasing decisions but when we are given the responsibility to serve the customer, it is not about us, what WE like, it is simply about the customer and what THEY like.