Call centre employees working for Rogers Communications say the telecom company is pressuring them to try to make a sale on every call — even to elderly people who don’t understand or need certain products or services.
In emails and interviews with Go Public, dozens of Rogers workers say they’re under “extreme pressure” to hit sales targets or risk termination.
Their claims come on the heels of Bell Canada workers revealing similar pressures to upsell customers, often at the expense of ethics.
“You’re supposed to look at a customer’s account and sell them cable, home phone, home security, a credit card — whatever is missing,” says an employee who currently works at Rogers’ major call centre in Ottawa and has asked CBC to conceal his identity to avoid retribution in his workplace.
He says even when people are off sick, their sales targets aren’t adjusted unless they go on short-term disability, “so you’re at home, trying to get better, but stressing about how you’re going to keep your job.”
He admits when he is “desperate” to earn sales points, he signs up seniors for internet service, and then tells them a technician is going to come to their house “to install a modem for their TV” — modems are required for internet, not TV.
“We’re giving internet service to customers who actually do not have a computer,” he says.
He also admits to not telling [mostly older] customers about installation fees for TV and internet ($49.99 for both), internet activation fees ($14.95) or cellphone activation charges ($25) and to sneaking extra products or services onto a bill.
“Even customers who have home phone service, I say, ‘How about I add a second line for your home phone and I’ll give you a discount for your other product?’ Which makes no sense.
“It feels really bad,” he says. “But you have all this pressure on you. All your managers are around you, telling you to sell, sell, sell.”
Jessica Robinson recently quit working at the Ottawa call centre after seven years.
She, too, says employees are expected to try to sell on every call, even when customers want to cancel services, complain about malfunctioning products, or are grieving the loss of a partner.
“When I had my interview … they actually asked me ‘If an elderly lady calls in to cancel her sports package on her TV because her husband just died, are you going to convince her to keep it and add more?'” says Robinson.
Robinson says she dealt with a lot of calls from customers who were angry about confusing or increasing bills, a concern echoed by other past and present Rogers workers.
“They teach us how to be empathetic. To say things like ‘I understand how frustrating that must be,'” says Robinson. “I’m like, why? We’re the ones screwing them over.”
‘Most managers know’
Rogers employees who contacted CBC say the pressure to mislead customers comes from their managers, who turn a blind eye to sales reps who are selling a lot of products or services, by not monitoring their calls as closely as others.
“Managers know these reps are unethical,” says James Woodward, who worked in a Rogers call centre just over two years ago. “So they try not to listen to those calls.”
He says managers are less focused on customer satisfaction than they are on making money.
“I would get five cellphone activations in a day and sell a bunch of cable products, and then my manager would say, ‘No credit card?’ It was always what I didn’t do.”
Woodward says he was expected to try to sell a product or service even when customers were just calling up to say, “I hate you guys!”
He admits to misleading customers, especially at the end of the month if he was shy of meeting his sales targets.
‘Customer service doesn’t want to help’
Many of the Rogers employees Go Public spoke to say the pressure they’re under to make sales actually prevents them from providing good customer service.
They described how they “drop” calls when it becomes clear a customer is calling to cancel a service, because it will count against their sales targets.
“That’s why most customers have to call in three, four, five times to get a problem resolved,” says the employee currently working at Rogers’ Ottawa call centre. “This is normal.”
Rogers takes concerns ‘very seriously’
No one from Rogers Communications would give an interview, but in a statement to Go Public, spokesperson Paula Lash wrote, “While we do not believe the concerns raised represent our values or sales practices, we take them very seriously and we will work with our team to respond to these concerns.”
Lash also wrote that sales targets are achievable and that employees may be placed on performance improvement plans, which can lead to termination, for a variety of reasons including low attendance, concerns about behaviour, customer feedback, low sales, or a combination of reasons.
‘It’s bait and switch’
Sheldon Snider believes he was deliberately misled and confused when he called Rogers a year ago.
The 72-year-old from Richmond, B.C., says he wanted to upgrade his phone and find out whether he qualified for a 25 per cent corporate discount.
He says a sales rep told him he did qualify, but then talked to him for an hour and a half, convincing him to add a phone for his granddaughter, while Snider tried to make notes and keep track of various fees and offers.
When he received his next bill — a 17-page document — he discovered it was $135 more than he had initially been paying, and that he now didn’t qualify for the corporate discount.
“I think it’s a bait and switch because they bait you with a discount, then switch it and don’t give it to you. It’s a simple as that,” says Snider.
In an email to Snider, Rogers acknowledged a sales agent “misinformed” him, but did not offer the 25 per cent discount he was seeking.
After Go Public made inquiries, Rogers credited Snider’s account about $360 dollars for other issues, and replaced his granddaughter’s phone after it cracked, but Snider says his bill is still unclear. He’s still stuck in an expensive contract that wasn’t properly explained, and says Rogers did not address his concerns about “troubling” sales tactics.
CRTC urged to hold telecom inquiry
These recent Rogers allegations and previous Go Public stories revealing high pressure sales tactics at Bell Canada have prompted an Ottawa-based advocacy group to call on the CRTC to hold a public inquiry into telecom sales tactics.
The executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) says there are no regulations around sales practices, and no requirement that telecoms sell customers products that are suitable.
“It’s completely appropriate for the CRTC to say, ‘We’re going to set out rules,'” says John Lawford. “I think it’d be quite eye-opening to have an open, public consultation at the CRTC about sales practices of big telecom companies.”
In a letter to the CRTC, Lawford wrote that many of the aggressive sales practices appear to target vulnerable consumers, including older Canadians, grieving spouses and blind customers.
A spokesperson for the CRTC, Patricia Valladao, acknowledged receiving PIAC’s letter, but would not comment further on an inquiry.
She did acknowledge that the Wireless Code governing telecoms does not address sales tactics, and encouraged consumers who feel their wireless provider hasn’t provided clear and accurate information to them, to “try to resolve the issue with their service provider.”
If that fails, Valladao suggests contacting the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-television Services, which mediates disputes between customers and their telecom providers.
‘Stop pressuring us’
Many of the dozens of Rogers and Bell workers Go Public spoke to had similar recommendations when asked what it would take to improve customer service and curb unethical behaviour.
“They should take the pressure off the sales people,” says the current sales rep in Rogers’ Ottawa call centre we interviewed.
“Stop increasing our targets. Stop pressuring us to try to make a sale on every call. And remove these [performance improvement] plans to get you fired.”
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Edmonton Alberta News Headlines
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Edmonton /ˈɛdməntən/ (About this sound listen) is the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta. Edmonton is on the North Saskatchewan River and is the centre of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region, which is surrounded by Alberta’s central region. The city anchors the north end of what Statistics Canada defines as the “Calgary–Edmonton Corridor”.
The city had a population of 932,546 in 2016, making it Alberta’s second-largest city and Canada’s fifth-largest municipality. Also in 2016, Edmonton had a metropolitan population of 1,321,426, making it the sixth-largest census metropolitan area (CMA) in Canada. Edmonton is North America’s northernmost city that has a metropolitan population over one million. A resident of Edmonton is known as an Edmontonian.
Edmonton’s historic growth has been facilitated through the absorption of five adjacent urban municipalities (Strathcona, North Edmonton, West Edmonton, Beverly and Jasper Place) and a series of annexations ending in 1982.[ Known as the “Gateway to the North”, the city is a staging point for large-scale oil sands projects occurring in northern Alberta and large-scale diamond mining operations in the Northwest Territories.
Edmonton is a cultural, governmental and educational centre. It hosts a year-round slate of festivals, reflected in the nickname “Canada’s Festival City”. It is home to North America’s largest mall, West Edmonton Mall (the world’s largest mall from 1981 until 2004), and Fort Edmonton Park, Canada’s largest living history museum.
Further information: History of Edmonton and Timeline of Edmonton history
The earliest known inhabitants settled in the area that is now Edmonton around 3,000 BC and perhaps as early as 12,000 BC, when an ice-free corridor opened as the last glacial period ended and timber, water, and wildlife became available in the region.
In 1754, Anthony Henday, an explorer for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), may have been the first European to enter the Edmonton area. His expeditions across the Canadian Prairies were mainly to seek contact with the aboriginal population for establishing the fur trade, as competition was fierce between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company. By 1795, Fort Edmonton was established on the river’s north bank as a major trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company. The new fort’s name was suggested by John Peter Pruden after Edmonton, London, the home town of both the HBC deputy governor Sir James Winter Lake, and Pruden.
In 1876, Treaty 6, which includes what is now Edmonton, was signed between the Aboriginal peoples in Canada (or First Nations) and Queen Victoria as Queen of Canada, as part of the Numbered Treaties of Canada. The agreement includes the Plains and Woods Cree, Assiniboine, and other band governments of First Nations at Fort Carlton, Fort Pitt and Battle River. The area covered by the treaty represents most of the central area of the current provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The coming of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) to southern Alberta in 1885 helped the Edmonton economy, and the 1891 building of the Calgary and Edmonton (C&E) Railway resulted in the emergence of a railway townsite (South Edmonton/Strathcona) on the river’s south side, across from Edmonton. The arrival of the CPR and the C&E Railway helped bring settlers and entrepreneurs from eastern Canada, Europe, U.S. and other parts of the world. The Edmonton area’s fertile soil and cheap land attracted settlers, further establishing Edmonton as a major regional commercial and agricultural centre. Some people participating in the Klondike Gold Rush passed through South Edmonton/Strathcona in 1897. Strathcona was North America’s northernmost railway point, but travel to the Klondike was still very difficult for the “Klondikers”, and a majority of them took a steamship north to the Yukon from Vancouver, British Columbia.
Jasper Avenue, ca. 1907
Incorporated as a town in 1892 with a population of 700 and then as a city in 1904 with a population of 8,350, Edmonton became the capital of Alberta when the province was formed a year later, on September 1, 1905. In November 1905, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) arrived in Edmonton, accelerating growth.
During the early 1900s, Edmonton’s rapid growth led to speculation in real estate. In 1912, Edmonton amalgamated with the City of Strathcona, south of the North Saskatchewan River; as a result, the city extended south of the North Saskatchewan River for the first time.
Just prior to World War I, the boom ended, and the city’s population declined from more than 72,000 in 1914 to less than 54,000 only two years later. Many impoverished families moved to subsistence farms outside the city, while others fled to greener pastures in other provinces. Recruitment to the Canadian army during the war also contributed to the drop in population. Afterwards, the city slowly recovered in population and economy during the 1920s and 1930s and took off again during and after World War II.
The Edmonton City Centre Airport opened in 1929, becoming Canada’s first licensed airfield.Originally named Blatchford Field in honour of former mayor Kenny Blatchford, pioneering aviators such as Wilfrid R. “Wop” May and Max Ward used Blatchford Field as a major base for distributing mail, food, and medicine to Northern Canada; hence Edmonton’s emergence as the “Gateway to the North”. World War II saw Edmonton become a major base for the construction of the Alaska Highway and the Northwest Staging Route.
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