Elliott-Whattingham There's more to working in an O2 Shop than simply mastering the latest mobiles. From helping customers to handling the pressure of a major launch day, the people who serve you need to be at the top of their game.

We talked to one of the country's very best, Elliott "Ells" Whattingham of O2's Aldershot branch. He made it to the grand final of Mobile’s Shop Idol, a national search for Britain's best mobile retail employees, and we quizzed him to discover his O2 Shop secrets… 

It helps to be more than a phone fanatic

While having a great knowledge of mobile phones is obviously vital, knowing how to talk and engage with people is an even more important skill for O2 Shop employees. In Elliott's case that comes from a career path that's always been rooted in relating to others.

He explains: "I played golf professionally for two years on the EuroPro Tour and it's a really social lifestyle. You have to put yourself across professionally. Before that I worked as an electrician so I've always had jobs where talking to people is important. I treat customers how I would expect to be treated. If I'm not engaged in a shop, it really bothers me. People want to feel relaxed when they're shopping."

Customers often have unusual questions

Working with such a wide range of customers means O2 staff have to be ready for any question and often find themselves faced with odd queries. "The most common," says Elliott, "is people asking what the difference is between a BlackBerry and a blueberry.

“Most of the time they're confused and genuinely say the wrong thing, but you do get people who are trying to catch you out."

Helping someone find the right phone is also about asking them the right questions. As Elliott says: "About 50% of the time, when someone comes into the store, they're certain they want a particular phone but end up choosing something different once I've shown them the options. People tend to have their minds set on something, but it isn't always what they really need."

Keeping calm is vital

The Shop Idol judges praised Elliott's "quick wit under pressure" while dealing with the tricky queries posed by a mystery shopper, and his day-to-day experience serving Aldershot's diverse population prepared him for that. Big product launches can be especially challenging and call for a cool head.

Elliott says the iPhone 4 launch day was a particularly pressured but fulfilling day: "It was very exciting and very hectic. When the iPhone 4 launched we had three members of staff in the store and one of them had only started two weeks beforehand! We all got in at 6.30am to prepare, and had sold out by 2pm. It was great to interact with customers but when you run out you've got to know how to handle disappointed people." 

To master phones you’ve got to play with them

While O2 gives all its staff thorough briefings on devices when they arrive, the best way to get to grips with a new mobile is to get hands on with it. Elliott says: “If you physically do something you remember it much better, and that makes it a lot easier to demonstrate features to customers.”

It’s more than just a job

Outside of his work at the O2 Shop, Elliott is heavily involved in O2’s fundraising group and working with O2 Think Big, an initiative to help young people deliver projects in their communities.

Tapping into his experience playing professional golf, he organised an O2 golf day for the southern region and is now working on a national event. He says: “We’re raising money for Think Big and Naomi House children’s hospice. We’re hoping to raise at least £20,000.”

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