In case you haven’t heard yet, there is a viral recording of a war between a customer named Ryan Block and Comcast Customer Retention Rep. Mr. Block just wanted to cut the Comcast cord and move on. Unfortunately, Comcast is a whole lot like an overly attached girlfriend who just can’t seem to understand that you’ve moved on.
Of course, as soon as the recording went viral, Comcast issued an apology for the Rep’s actions.
But I’m just not buying their bullshit.
My husband has worked for both Comcast and AT&T over the past ten years. The AT&T gig ended up landing us in a contract that we can’t get out of without paying for the entire rest of the freaking contract. You see, a Customer Retention Rep’s job is one thing…make you not leave. The guy on the other end of Block’s call is actually a model employee according to how Comcast handles breakups. He is doing everything completely by the book as far as his training goes. I’m going to bet he’s even been given bonuses for how well he does his job.
Because that’s all that the poor rep is doing…his job. And by the sounds of it, he’s damn good at it. Only now that Comcast is “sorry” he’s probably just lost his job…the job that he is doing exactly the way they want him to.
AT&T gangs up on you in your own house
But AT&T is even worse. If my husband showed up to a home where the customer is tired of the shitty service and wants to cancel their service my husband’s duty, as prescribed by AT&T, is to then call the customer retention department and have them speak to the customer before they cancel.
Now let’s picture that…You’re a customer who tells the tech (a complete stranger) who is standing in your living room that you want to disconnect your service. Normal people would assume the tech would then do as requested, say “have a nice day”, and then leave.
Nope. The tech is then expected to talk you out of it…for several minutes. When that doesn’t work, he calls for backup. The tech then phones the call center to get you hooked up with a retention rep. You, the customer, now have two people, one of them a stranger who is standing in your living room, trying to convince you that you don’t want to quit. You have now been ganged up on to keep you from leaving.
That’s right, I said that you will have someone standing in your house as well as someone on the phone trying to talk you into doing something you don’t want to do. And, according to the company’s rules, if you kick them out, you are still stuck with the shitty service because you have to call in to cancel. If this was anything other than sales, it would be considered a crime.
Now, when you do decide to cancel anyway, even in the face of two people trained to harass you, the tech and the rep are both punished for failing at their job.
But it’s not just cable
And this doesn’t just happen with your telcom companies either, if an employee in any sales position can’t force a customer to buy more than they wanted to, the employee is punished for it. We aren’t there to serve the customer. We’re there to serve the company’s bottom line.
I worked in a Kangaroo gas station not long ago. The company puts together these sale packages for things no one wants to buy anyway. For example, we had one package where you could get a fountain drink and a couple of gas station roller hot dogs for a “low” price. Since no one actually likes roller food, we didn’t sell many of them. That was seen as our fault…not the crappy food’s fault.
To punish us because they felt we just weren’t trying hard enough, we had to track each time we actually sold one of these bundles. If we didn’t sell so many per person, per shift, we were punished. Why? Because if the product doesn’t sell, the company didn’t see it as “no one likes roller food” but instead saw it as “you didn’t sell hard enough”. So now, we get disciplined if you don’t buy crappy gas station hot dogs, or two candy bars with your morning coffee, or a bag of chips with your soda, or whatever. But let’s be real here folks, it doesn’t matter how clean I keep those rollers, most reasonable people still avoid them because you don’t pop in to a gas station for the food.
Kangaroo loved the “up-sell”. Let me explain what an up-sell is…you come in to a gas station to grab a pack of cigarettes. When you get to the counter, the cashier is supposed to tell you that you can get three packs for a cheaper price per pack. You say no thank you. The cashier then has to ask if you want a lighter…no…lottery ticket?…no…the cashier is expected to then continue to ask you to add something to your order until you do. Come in for a bottle of water, we have to tell you that you can get two of this brand and size instead. Just want to pay for your gas? Nope, we have to try to sell you a candy bar, lottery ticket, soda, tell you what specials we’re running, etc. These places are supposed to be considered “convenience” stores, but our job is to make it as inconvenient as possible. And when you don’t fall for the up-sell, because you’re only buying one soda, or because you’re paying for your gas with a handful of change, or because it’s a crappy gas station hot dog, it’s our fault.
This tactic means that each customer transaction takes twice as long as it should…the exact opposite of convenience.
I worked for Advance Auto Parts. We, as cashiers/sales associates, know that the people who are buying their own parts are doing so because they can’t afford to take their vehicle to a mechanic. But our corporate office doesn’t realize that. As soon as you come into the store we are supposed to come around the counter to greet you, hand you a sales paper, go over all of our deals, and only then can we actually ask you what you need. We’re supposed to do this at every store and for every customer. And if you went through it all already when you walked in, we have to do it again if you come within ten feet of another sales associate.
And then there’s the “add-ons”. If you come in for a set of brake pads, I’m supposed to also sell you a ton of other add-ons like rotors, brake cleaner, anti-seize, lubricants, and anything else I can think of. And we aren’t supposed to take no for an answer either. If you say no, we’re expected to keep naming off stuff until you say yes. Come in for oil, we have to try to sell you a filter, drain pan, gaskets, shop towels, hand cleaner, oil dry, etc. Every month we have something they call the feature item of the month; usually it’s a can of spray lubricant or some useless fuel treatment that is already overpriced. They track how many we sell each day. If no one wants to buy some useless fuel treatment it’s because we didn’t sell hard enough so we get written up for not selling enough.
I broke all of my other sales goals every single day at Advance…but I kept getting disciplined because I couldn’t get people to buy a $2 can of WD-40 for $5. (This is also where my former manager, Randy Tibbetts, told me “The way you knock on the door makes me want to punch you in the face” Classy!) We’d occasionally have a district supervisor pop in to check on us. When she was there, she would harass each customer to add on a bunch of stuff. Sometimes they would….and then bring it all right back the next day because they never wanted it in the first place. We’d get in trouble for too many returns at that point.
Making all of this even worse is that they never had enough people on shift to handle all of our customer traffic. Meaning that now we have to add an extra ten minutes of bullshitting to each transaction…while a dozen other customers wait.
At Walmart, we had to ask you to sign up for our credit card…meaning run your credit. If you say no (because responsible people don’t just arbitrarily agree to have their credit run) we aren’t supposed to accept that. If you still don’t want to just randomly agree to have your credit run, it’s our fault for not selling hard enough.
This is why so many low wage, front line, employees seem so jaded. We need the crappy low paying job too much to quit, but we’ll never do the job well enough to satisfy our corporate office. We eventually just stop caring.
At Kangaroo I was expected to smile and greet each customer…then I was written up because someone complained that I was too friendly with her husband because I smile and greet everyone who comes in. (The assistant manager who’s face seemed like it would break if she ever cracked a smile was still good though.) I got wrote up because a customer mistook me doing my job the right way for me wanting to run off with her husband. And after she got away with it the first time, it kept happening. They never checked the myriad of videos of the store to see if she was telling the truth. They just kept going with “the customer is always right” instead. The store never stopped to think that this woman was a nutcase who wanted attention…they just kept punishing me for her complaints. Oh, and occasionally adding to my write ups that I wasn’t up-selling enough.
Customers please be aware that we hate this bullshit as much as you do. We really do. Selling you one more item does nothing for our pay. We don’t get bonuses for how many hot dogs we can sell. We don’t get rewards for harassing people into arbitrarily running their credit. We honestly don’t care if you buy the WD-40 or the Liquid Wrench because they are really the same thing anyway. But if we don’t extol to virtures of WD-40 to you when it’s on sale this month–even though we told you last month when the Liquid Wrench was on sale that it was soooo much better than WD-40–we get in trouble.
We risk losing our jobs if we don’t harass you. As well as risking losing our jobs if you complain that we harassed you…even though we’re just following orders.
And don’t even bother complaining to us about how annoying it is to have to be told what you really wanted to buy, or to have to take twice as long to run in and grab a pack of cigarettes. Trust me when I say that we have all really tried to get them to stop making us do this, but it doesn’t matter.
I’ve actually LOST sales because I couldn’t break script and just ring up the purchase….of course, then I’m the one who gets in trouble for losing the sale.
This is why I am so grateful to see how Mr. Block is reacting to his horror show call. He’s come out saying that he doesn’t blame the Retention Rep for doing his job as it is dictated by his company.
From the bottom of the hearts of every person who is being driven to be the biggest asshole they can with customers in exchange for crap wages, Thank you Mr. Block!