Thursday, October 9, 2008

I used to be disgusted...

...but now I'm just amused. Elvis Costello said it best.

It always boggles my mind as to how the corporate world can manipulate language to make anything different than what it truly is. Case in point:

Over the past two weeks or so, we have been receiving e-mails from the powers-that-be at work advising us lowly grunts of a "special event" that was to occur yesterday, and that we were all required to attend. They blocked off 30-minute sessions throughout the course of the day so that the entire staff could attend without seriously impacting their staffing levels on the phones. (A reasonable approach.) However, when these e-mails went out, they gave no hint whatsoever as to what this "event" (read: mandatory training session) was all about. Some of us had our suspicions. They were confirmed once we got into this "event."

In the world of corporate operations, there is this little device called "up-selling." Essentially, it requires tech support folks like me to ask the customer if they are interested in adding additional services onto their account. If they respond in the affirmative, we route them to the sales dept., where the hard core sales people put the real squeeze on them in order to earn their commission. This is not a judgment on the sales folk; they're just doing their job. Now personally, I find the whole concept of up-selling distasteful. If I wanted to be a salesman in any shape or form, I would have become one. Unfortunately, this is one of the most closely scrutinized aspects of our "metrics," or standards that we need to meet.

As anyone who has ever worked in a call center knows, the "script" that you are given to use while conducting a call is a prime example of what can be described as "corporate-speak." It is so heavily laden with false pleasantries as to be more insulting than helpful. My experience tells me that most customers far prefer straight talk, and quick answers and solutions to their issues rather than convenient social pleasantries. But, let's take it the next step.

This "special" event was nothing more than a training session conducted by a representative from the main office, that flew here to Rochester to basically whip us into line. While we were doing fine in all our metrics, there was one area that was lacking, and that was, you guessed it, up-selling. So, groups of us were treated to the why's and wherefore's of up-selling, why it's important, and what we can achieve out of it. They do try to sweeten the deal by giving a small bonus for every up-sell that results in a completed sale.

Here's the thing though; the trainer they sent here must have thought we were all idiots, or at least some of us. He would ask a question such as: "What is the goal of being a salesman?" I piped up, "To sell the product." Pretty easy to understand, right? BZZT! Sorry, wrong answer, thank you for playing. "The goal of the salesman," he intoned, "is to overcome objections."

What? Really? Silly me, I actually thought having the customer purchase the product the company was offering was the main goal, but hey, what do I know? Now, overcoming objections is an objective, or even a tool, but it is not the goal. Any first year marketing student can tell you that. What was the real kicker was when he told us that our goal as tech support was to "offer value to our customer." I just sat there dumbfounded. This guy was drinking the Kool-Aid by the gallon. Spare me please. The goal of our efforts as tech support people is to offer a first-call resolution to the customer's issue, plain and simple. We may offer value in certain customer service options we give them as well, such as taking payments, and perhaps correcting certain account issues, but as for it being a main goal, no, sorry, not buying it.

One has to wonder when corporate America is going to get away from this type of useless language get down to what being in business is all about: get the customer to buy your product over what the other guy is offering. One can do this in a simple and direct manner, that does not insult the customer's intelligence, and actually persuades them that what you offer is best for them. I also wonder when they will get it through their heads that speaking to me like a child does not help as well.

I needed a real release when I got home, so I pulled up one of my favorite movie scenes, such as this one from "Charlie Wilson's War." Aside from the fact that I am a big fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman, there are times that I wish I could do what he did and get away with it.


Peter said...

Same experience here.

I recently had a tech issue and called the company's 900 line

Kind of classic overhere, getting costumer service in Belgium automatically implies dialing an expensive toll line. Even if you want to reach the Belgian equivalent of the AAA if your car breaks down and you're already a paying member...

Anyway, while I was "assisted" I was rather inappropriately offered all kinds of upsell services I hadn't asked for, while I was paying for that expensive 900 support call.

Like you noticed from what I experienced, up-selling during a service call can even get worse...

Jay said...

Does this guy not know that 'up-selling' and 'overcoming objections' is what gets salesmen such a bad name with the public. Does he not realise how our blood pressure rises and how determined we get to do anything rather than buy the product when we're approached like this?

I'm afraid I for one get rather bloody-minded when I meet with this kind of garbage and I'd cut my nose off to spite my face rather than play that game and actually buy something. In fact, it gives me perverse pleasure to lead them on, then put the phone down and buy it from someone else with a better attitude - and I dont' think I'm alone. ;)

Mr. Nighttime said...

Peter - You have to pay a toll call for customer service? Oh man, and I thought we had it bad here. That just adds fuel to the fire.

Jay - Of course he realizes it, but he is so deep into what he is doing that he is probably in a huge state of denial. He is forgetting that the best sales people don't push things on a customer that they don't need or want. The best salespeople get to know the customer and what their needs truly are, and then try to meet them.

I guess I forgot to mention that I got pulled into the office this week because I did not pass a single up-sell last month. I finally got one last night, so I got my "Get out of jail free card," and will start working from home again. Sorry, but I will not force myself on people.

gemmak said...

Ugh...It's all just so much corporate dishonest bollox! Can you tell I have been there?! ;o)

Mr. Nighttime said...

gemma - Yes, but with an English accent is would sound so much more civilized. ;-)

Bina said...

As a customer who has called cell phones companies, cable, etc, several times, I HATE when they try to offer me other services, especially when they say, "I see you qualify for ... blah blah blah." It took a while, but I learned to "just say no" and keep on going.

having my cake said...

... but I loved Charlie Wilson's War!

I hate it when they offer me other services and Im calling an 0870 number to rectify a fault with one of the current services that I use so Im paying for the call!!

Guyana-Gyal said...

Don't let me tell you how this made me laugh: "The goal of the salesman," he intoned, "is to overcome objections." In some weird way, I love it! I think this is my family's motto [aunties, cousins, in laws, etc] when we're having a lively discussion.