AT&T Changed My Data Plan Without My Permission

High pressure sales quotas drove a salesman to change my data plan without my permission.

It seems like everywhere you go these days, businesses ask you to add something additional to your purchase. Everything from, “you want a drink with that?” to “if you sign up for our customer loyalty program, you can save 15% on your purchase today.”

Most of the time, a simple “no thank you” will do. There are also those times where an employee won’t let it go. I was a victim of a high pressure sales situation before the Thanksgiving holiday. It did not end well for me, the employee, the store manager, or the company.

I went to my local AT&T store to get a new phone. The sales rep that I was working with kept trying to sell me a new data plan as well. When I said, “no” he continued on, explaining how I would be getting a better deal, because the new data plans are way better than the old ones. Still, I said, “no thank you.” On my way out the door, I overheard the store manager scolding the employee for failing to upsell me.

This made my experience in their store even worse.

Over the next few days, I noticed something was different when I received a text from AT&T saying I was about to reach my data limit for the month. That definitely sparked my curiosity since I have never in my life with AT&T (17+ years) had ever gotten that text before.  Especially strange since I was on an unlimited plan I’ve had for 10+ years now.  I checked and soon found out that AT&T had changed my plan despite me turning down the offer. I walked into the store about a later to explain to them what happened and how displeased I was with their decision to change my plan without my authorization.

Before I was able to get them to restore my plan to the one I have had for over 10 years, the manager raised his voice and told me I was stupid and he couldn’t help me if I didn’t want to save money and move to a better plan. The whole store turned to see the scene the manager was making.

Sales are a tough job and upselling customers is even harder. While companies have goals to make, these types of high pressure sales situations do more harm than good. Here’s why.

Companies set unrealistic sales goals that they fail to meet

Companies often use sales incentives as a way to motivate employees. If they aren’t used to meeting unrealistic goals, sales incentives can hurt a company. The Harvard Business Review explains,  “Sales managers, too, are rewarded for goal achievement, so they put pressure on salespeople to deliver. Salespeople are enticed by the promise of the large reward, or perhaps they are fearful of losing their jobs. Either way, they do whatever it takes to make sales goals.” Pressuring employees to meet unattainable goals sets the company up for failure. The relationship between management and the sales force crumbles, ruining an organization’s reputation and sales.

Inc. Magazine columnist and Founder of Social Marketing Solutions, John White worked in the wireless industry for 13 years prior to opening his own marketing company, “The sales quotas set by upper management are often very unrealistic. The overly optimistic goals, causes previously ethical employees to sometimes compromise their ethics in order to hit their quota. Sales reps feel enormous pressure to obtain the numbers because they work in a culture that constantly threatens their jobs if the numbers aren’t hit every month.” White added.

Employees are unethically coached to upsell customers

The employee at the store changing my plan underneath my nose isn’t the only one guilty of doing so. Some of the largest corporations in the world are guilty of coaching their employees to upsell customers who don’t qualify for certain programs. In an interview with CBC, Andrea Rizzo, a former Bell employee reveals the unethical tactics the company coaches their employees to use. “‘They’ll sit next to you and say, ‘Don’t tell them that. No, put the call on hold,’ or ‘No, tell them you have no other options, this is the best choice they’re making,’ says Rizzo.” Rizzo goes on to say that the company asks her to speak quickly to hide the price of products. This type of sales coaching is a great way to push customers away versus keeping them.

Tricking customers into purchasing add-ons leads to bad press

AT&T isn’t the only company guilty of adding purchases to a customer’s account without their authorization. Bloomberg View reports that in 2011, Wells Fargo was fined a hefty $100 million for opening up fake bank accounts. The report goes on to say that employees that opened these accounts were fired for doing so. While that may make sense, the whole reason those employees lost their jobs were because the company asked them to open these accounts. After hearing that, how inclined would you be to use Wells Fargo as your bank?

High pressure sales compromise leadership

It’s no fun to work in a company where leaders choose to admonish employees publicly. When the store manager caused a scene, it hurt the image of AT&T’s company culture. Not just from a customer’s perspective, but also from fellow employees witnessing the manager’s behavior. Psychology Today warns leaders to stay away from this type of behavior. “Some toxic leaders cause loss of face by including a half a dozen or more administrators and colleagues in on an email that seriously scolds and belittles a targeted employee.”

If you are in a leadership position in your organization, know that you’ll be more respected if you handle an employee’s mistakes privately. Also, do so in a way that encourages them to be more careful in the future.

There is no rhyme or reason behind high-pressure sales. If you are an employee of an organization that asks you to upsell, do so in a way that respects a customer’s decision to say “no.” If you are a leader of that organization, instruct employees to sell in a way where you can meet realistic and achievable goals. A company maintains a mutual bond when they run their organization in a respectful and ethical manner.

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