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— Mystery shopper findings reveal lack of knowledge among DIY outlets —

Eighty five per cent of Focus, Homebase and B&Q staff approached in a mystery shopper experiment offered shoddy advice on lock requirements, new research reveals.

Commissioned by the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) the mystery shopper investigation found that  63 per cent of advisors in some of the UK’s best known DIY outlets rated poorly  when it came to basic lock knowledge;  while  only 15 per cent  of  ‘shoppers’ would rate advice received as satisfactory.

Three    scenarios   tested   lock   knowledge  on   various  locking   systems    (open, restricted  and  patented  systems)  multiple  occupancy  housing  regulations  and insurance stipulations.  Mystery shoppers found a lack of understanding of lock  requirements among staff meant they were not offered the right advice or asked appropriate questions.

Across all of the scenarios some vital questions were missed by sales staff,  often meaning they were unable to provide appropriate advice on lock suitability.

Following    the  initial enquiry  only  a  quarter  (25  per   cent)  of ‘shoppers’  were pro-actively  asked  for  more  information  about  what  type  of  lock  they  needed, while  only  seven  per  cent    of  assistants  enquired  about     the  number  of  keys  required and just five per cent asked about insurance requirements.

In addition, none of the staff asked if locks were required for escape doors while less than two per cent asked if locks were required for fire doors.  Factors which greatly  affect  let  properties  for  tenant  and  landlords,  while  facilities  managers need to be aware of these requirements for accommodation such as hotels, care homes and boarding schools.

Across all scenarios open, restricted and patented keys were only mentioned by seven per cent of assistants; only three per cent mentioned keyless exit options (vital in  the case  of  a fire)  and 12 per cent  spoke  of  security  requirements.   In addition, less than a quarter (23 per cent) referred to Kite Mark and only a third (33 per cent) spoke about BS 3621 standards.    Alarmingly none of the ‘shoppers’ were told about some of the most common  lock standards  –  PAS 24 or the BS3621  family of standards.

Commenting  on  the  findings  Dr  Steffan  George,  development  director  for  the MLA said: “This research  shows that  some  of  the  UK’s leading home  and  DIY outlets appear to be making big mistakes when it comes to lock safety; which is particularly  disconcerting   given  the  Government’s   recently  launched   home security pack includes discount vouchers for all three outlets.

“Selecting  the  correct  lock  should  not  be  a  simple  case  of  picking  one  off  the  shelf –  consumers really do need specialist  advice when  choosing  which lock is right for them so it is disappointing to discover that these well respected outlets rated so poorly in this research.

“As  well-trained,  licensed  and  trusted  professionals  MLA members’  knowledge on occupancy numbers, insurance stipulations, British Standards and legislation is  vital  in deciding  which  lock  best meets  homeowners,  landlords  and  tenants needs.”

Research  was  conducted  nationwide  by  Launchpad  Research  over  a  ten  day period with trips divided  equally between 60 outlets of the three retail brands by Market Research Society (MRS) trained field interviewers.

The research also found:

  • In  the multiple occupancy regulations  scenario  none  of  the  interviewers were advised  to buy  a BS 8621 lock  – the one which should have  been recommended, while 10 per cent mentioned an unsuitable lock.
  • Six  in  ten  (62  per  cent)  ‘shoppers’  were  referred  to  at  least  one  other colleague when the first staff member felt unable to handle the enquiry
  • Ten  per cent  of  mystery shoppers  were referred to three staff  members when the first  member  of staff  did  not feel  able to help  with  an enquiry, while two per cent of participants were referred to four members of staff
  • Nearly  eight  in  ten  (76 per cent)  ‘shoppers’  were not  satisfied  with  the accuracy of the information received across all three scenarios
  • More than eight in ten  (83 per cent) felt that the response they received did not fully match that which was outlined in the scenario provided
  • In  more than  nine out  of  ten  instances  staff  were not  on  hand  to  offer advice,  with  90 per cent of interviewers having to leave the lock aisle to actively seek assistance

“MLA members are trained to ensure the advice consumers receive is up-to-date and appropriate to individual needs. Members will also supply a specialist fitting service  to  ensure the recommended  products  are  securely  installed and  whilst locksmiths  are  on-site  they  can  assess  your   situation  thoroughly  and  where  required  offer   further   advice  on  increasing  overall   home  security,”  added    Dr  George.

“Although  the  research  did  show  that   some  members   of  staff  offered   great  advice,  overall there  is  a widespread  lack  of expertise across the outlets. The ‘shoppers’ felt that although staff understood what was required they did not have  the knowledge to be able to offer guidance on suitable products.

“Our  advice  is  simple  –  when  it  comes  to  your  security  it  is  not  worth  taking  chances so hiring a regulated, respected professional is the only way to ensure a strong, robust and long-term solution.”