The Tampa Bay Tribune has a fascinating article about the sales-centric culture at Verizon’s customer service call centers. The CSRs are given large bonuses (sometimes thousands of dollars) for selling services to people who call in looking to correct their bills.
CSRs who work for Verizon say that they are pressured by managers to make calls as short as possible and to spend most of the time trying to sell Verizon products. CSRs who refuse to pressure customers into purchasing more services are disciplined. Even people who work at Verizon have to spend their free time calling the company to complain about their own inaccurate bills.
Dawn Livingston, a shop steward with the IBEW local union at Verizon, said she has won trips, including one to the Mall of America near Minneapolis. “It was very cool,” she said. “Verizon got us a hotel room right there so we could drop off our shopping bags and rest.”
“But that stuff is only for people who get great sales,” not for fixing customer problems, she said. “I could have 15 customers in a row say ‘She’s doing a great job,’ and not get a trip anywhere.”
The company is also clear about disciplining workers who don’t sell enough.
For example, employees said customer calls are timed and count toward an employee’s average call handling time, regardless of the customer’s issues. Employees said they need to average no more than 11 minutes with a customer. Managers dispatch “coaches” to stand behind poor-selling workers and issue disciplinary “Work Sheets.”
Girit said managers disciplined him 13 times in 7 months for not trying to sell a long list of Verizon products.
“I once got written up for not trying to sell TV to an 80-something-year-old woman who called to change her phone number,” Girit said. “And she was in a nursing home, moving from one room to another, and couldn’t even get our TV. I’m not going to offer something like that.”
Even more frustrating, he said, is that he can’t get his own Verizon bill fixed. “I’m a FiOS customer myself, and I have to call every month because the bill is wrong. I’m on the phone with these people for an hour every time I call – and I am ‘these people.'”
Frank Leonetti, an 8-month employee at Verizon, said that “even if people are calling, trying to lower their bills, I get in trouble for not trying to sell them more things and make their bill higher. People call me crying with problems they couldn’t get fixed in six, seven months. … Then managers will sit down next to you, plug into your line to listen, and say, ‘Why aren’t you offering them this, that?'”
Kevin Bailey, a two-year call center employee, said, “Even if people call with a $1,500 messed-up bill trying to cancel, I have to try selling them more things. If I don’t, I can get fired.”
We can’t help but notice how much this sounds like what was going on at Sprint. Do you think Verizon is heading down the same path as the big yellow mess?