Thursday, 28 March 2019 12:03

Telco sales practices called into question by ACCAN

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Telco sales practices called into question by ACCAN Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Telecommunications customer service representatives are being encouraged to concentrate on selling over service, with the result that consumers are confronted by questionable sales tactics.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network made the claim in its Spotlight on Telco Commissions and Targets report, after listening to a number of troubling stories from consumers who were sold plans or products that cost more than they expected or were beyond their means.

In a statement, ACCAN said it had interviewed 30 former staff from Telstra, Optus and Vodafone and heard that the financial incentives offered to these employees were built around sales targets, not customer service and satisfaction.

ACCAN chief executive Teresa Corbin said: "This research tells the story of team members who were under intense pressure to meet sales targets. This has the potential to create an overly-competitive culture where the sale comes first and consumers’ needs are an afterthought.”

The report found an industry push on selling, up-selling and cross-selling, resulting in consumers being exposed to questionable tactics by customer service representatives. In many cases, this was done by twisting the language used for offers and even suggesting that the staff themselves used a particular product.

Customer service representatives said those who were less informed, confused or unsure about what to buy were softer targets and could often be made to buy more than what they needed.

ACCAN said the report also found that some representatives were not properly trained about consumer protections available to consumers.

“This research raises questions about not only the effectiveness of these consumer safeguards but whether the Australian Communications and Media Authority has sufficient tools to intervene when systemic issues do arise,” said Corbin.

“As we’ve seen this week with the formal warnings issued to telcos who violated their responsibilities to provide information to consumers with disability, investigations by the ACMA can have a tangible impact on consumer safeguards.”

ACCAN said it had asked the telecommunications industry to make changes for better customer outcomes, including:

  • An ACMA investigation into telco selling practices and their impact on consumers;
  • Restructuring of sales incentives so that they take into account the best interests of the customer;
  • Requiring sales staff to ask the customer what they need and to identify a range of alternatives that will suit, including low-cost options;
  • A ban on unsolicited up-selling; and
  • The introduction of responsible credit assessments at point of sale to ensure that all post-paid customers can afford the deal they’re signing up to.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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