Merely two months after a report alleged that Bell employees are pressured into selling products and services that customers might not need, a number of Rogers employees have spoken to CBC News about similar pressures.
According to employees who spoke with CBC News’s Go Public team, Rogers managers and supervisors also pressure workers to “hit sales targets or risk termination.”
“You’re supposed to look at a customer’s account and sell them cable, home phone, home security, a credit card — whatever is missing,” said an anonymous employee who spoke with CBC News.
“While we do not believe the concerns raised in a recent media report represent our values or sales practices…”
An employee even said that when Rogers workers are struggling to meet sales tactics, they sign up customers for internet services to “customers who actually do not have a computer.”
Employees went on to suggest that sales targets aren’t adjusted unless employees go on short-term disability leave.
For its part, Rogers told MobileSyrup that the CBC News report is not a perfect representation of the carrier’s values or sales practices.
“We want to be clear, simply and fair with our customers every time they contact us,” reads an excerpt from a Rogers spokesperson’s email to MobileSyrup. “While we do not believe the concerns raised in a recent media report represent our values or sales practices, we take them very seriously and we will work with our team to respond to these concerns.”
Rogers further noted: “To best support our agents and customers we believe in sales targets that are achievable and sales tactics that are fair and transparent.”
Later in the statement it adds: “The best way to serve our customers is to maintain a healthy, supportive workplace for our frontline team with the right training, support and ongoing coaching.”
Rogers further told MobileSyrup that the company only employs 800 sales agents, in contrast to 4,500 ‘consumer care’ agents. However, the carrier did later clarify via email that those 4,500 agents can also address additional products or services changes or additions to the account.
The company did not clarify whether customer care agents earn any commission when adding products or services to an account, which would add incentive for upselling.
Rogers did clarify that ‘consumer care’ agents do not have individual sales targets.
Rights advocates aren’t surprised
John Lawford, the executive director and general counsel at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, told MobileSyrup that he’s “not surprised” by this corporate environment.
“I just believe that the way the market works in Canada for telecom and internet and [television] services — it being fairly concentrated — I’m not surprised that Rogers is trying to keep the average revenue per user up,” said Lawford, in a phone interview with MobileSyrup. “I’m not surprised that it’s major players being accused of these sorts of things by their staff and customers.”
Lawford believes that Canada’s carriers aren’t trying to be transparent but are “promoting sales environments where their staff are tacitly encouraged to not say all the details or to omit certain things or to switch people to plans that have different cost structures and turn a blind eye to it.”
“How big telecoms train their employees and how they’re trained to deal with customers… I think I’m not surprised.”
“That, to me, isn’t trying to be transparent,” said Lawford. “It’s trying to get greedy and juice the system by getting people to sign up to the things that are not suited for them.”
Katy Anderson, a digital rights specialist for digital advocacy group OpenMedia, echoed Lawford’s comments.
“How big telecoms train their employees and how they’re trained to deal with customers… whether honest customer service or upselling comes first, I think I’m not surprised,” said Anderson, in a phone interview with MobileSyrup.
A formal inquiry into carriers sales practices
It’s important to note that this recent CBC News story comes roughly a week after the PIAC submitted a request for inquiry to the CRTC to conduct an investigation into the sales practices of Canada’s telecom industry.
In his letter to the CRTC on behalf of the PIAC, Lawford argued that “many of these aggressive sales practices appear to have targeted vulnerable customers, including older Canadians, grieving spouses and blind customers.”
“Wireless Code does not address sales tactics…”
The CRTC told MobileSyrup that it received the PIAC’s letter, but that the commission “cannot comment further at this time.”
As for the CRTC’s own jurisdiction over telecom sales practices, a commission spokesperson told MobileSyrup via email that the “Wireless Code does not address sales tactics; instead, it targets the clarity and accuracy of information provided by service providers to consumers in their contracts and related documents, which set out the terms and conditions of their agreement.”
A Rogers spokesperson told MobileSyrup via email that the carrier will answer any questions that they may have, in regards to a potential CRTC inquiry.
Update 15/01/2018: Article edited to clarify that ‘consumer care’ agents do not have individual sales targets.