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More Rogers Employees Speak Out: “A Calculated Game of Misery” for Customers

Phillip Dampier January 18, 2018 Canada, Consumer News, Rogers No Comments

Rogers Communications’ call center workers treated customers as adversaries and allegedly placed unauthorized charges on customer bills, didn’t disclose service fees, and avoided downgrading or disconnecting service while managers encouraged these practices and lectured workers it was not their job to worry about what customers thought.

Days after CBC News’ Go Public unit revealed stories of customer abuse shared by Rogers’ call center workers, more than two dozen additional current and former workers have now come forward confirming the first report and declaring the company’s call center work environment was uniformly “toxic,” “intense,” “high pressure,” and abusive to employees and customers alike.

“It was a calculated game of misery.” 

Rogers management cares about only one thing, employees claim — making money any way a representative can, even if it means pushing products and services on unsuspecting customers.

A four-year employee at Rogers call center in Brampton, Ont., who left in 2015, still vividly remembers he was trained to trick customers at every turn.

  • He and his colleagues were trained not mention cancellation fees charged by other providers when a customer switched to Rogers.

“Because these fees were not charged by Rogers itself, we were told to gloss over them as quickly, vaguely and incoherently as possible,” he writes. “Often while the customer was speaking at the same time.”

  • Agents were shown how to quietly remove some services from a customer’s account while adding others that counted towards a monthly sales goal, hoping the customer wouldn’t notice.

This trick, he told CBC News, involved secretly reducing certain services — such as the number of television channels a customer received — so an agent could add new services, such as a home phone line they didn’t necessarily need, but that earned points towards monthly sales target.

“It was a calculated game of misery,” he says. “How much could you lower their existing services so they wouldn’t immediately notice, while at the same time adding as much in new services as you could?”

“It’s not your job to care.”

In its original report, CBC News quoted a Rogers spokesperson who denied knowledge of these practices and declared there was no tolerance for employees who mistreated customers. But the latest group of employees to come forward consider the abuses systematic and occurred with the full knowledge of company managers and supervisors.

The former worker in Brampton noted that when he brought concerns to his manager questioning the ethics of some of the business practices he was reminded he worked in sales and was told, “It’s not your job to care.”

Intentionally Frustrating Customers Until They Give Up and Hang Up

If a customer called in to complain about something on their bill, downgrade, or cancel service — all things that could affect sales targets, it was ‘all hands on deck’ among call center workers and their colleagues. In addition to hanging up on customers trying to cancel service, Rogers customer service representatives tricked customers trying to escalate a problem to a manager. Instead of transferring calls to an actual manager, employees were taught to transfer the call to a fellow agent who was prepared to repeat claims there was nothing Rogers could do to resolve the issue.

“The goal,” he says, “was for the customer to be so frustrated, speaking to someone who couldn’t do anything more than you, that they ended the call.”

“The things that go on behind closed doors would leave you speechless.”

Debbie Sears (Image courtesy of: Debbie Sears/CBC)

Making a call to Rogers’ customer service can be risky business for customers, because it gives call center workers access to your account, where they can add services without your knowledge to help make their monthly sales targets.

Nicole McDonnell worked at a third-party call center in London, Ont., contracted with Rogers to provide customer service. She quit three months ago disturbed about what she saw. She told CBC News she witnessed agents making unauthorized changes to customer accounts, such as adding lucrative cellphone activation charges without the knowledge of the customer.

“The things that go on behind closed doors would leave you speechless,” she writes.

Debbie Sears echoed McDonnell. Taking calls from her home office in Kingston, N.S. through a subcontractor, Sears was trained to do one thing above all else: sell.

“We were constantly being threatened that we would be fired if we did not upsell — add a home line or a cellphone to the account,” she says. “It was a pressure cooker. They expected you to sell on every call. And you were told time and again, ‘Never take no for an answer. Push, push, push!'”

Sears said she was trained to push phone protection plans for cellphones for $12 a month, but was told not to mention a replacement fee of up to $200 applied if a customer ever made a claim. Other times, she claims, managers would approve cellphone sales even when a credit check suggested a customer was opening a fraudulent account or had very poor credit.

“I have a hard time selling something that’s useless to them [customers],” says Sears. “I told them right from the start, and they said, ‘Oh well, you’ll get used to it.'”

Apparently not. Sears said she began having panic attacks before her shift would begin and her blood pressure “went through the roof.”

Like other Rogers employees that don’t make their sales targets, she was eventually terminated.

“My doctor was very worried I’d have a stroke,” she says. “When I got laid off [for not selling], they did me a favor.”

Former Rogers Manager: ‘My job was to manage out the low performers — witch-hunt those people. Grown men would be crying.’

One former Rogers manager reached out to Go Public to share how he was trained to put pressure on workers in the Ottawa call center.

The pressure for sales reached a new level of intensity in 2015 when Rogers issued a memo directing senior leadership to light a fire under call center workers to get them to sell more services. At least two-thirds of all call center workers were placed on a “performance improvement plan” that most employees understood was the kiss of death to their employment in the near future. The message was perfectly clear – sell more or risk being terminated.

CBC:

“Every day we’d have a meeting about sales targets,” he says. “A big part of my job was to manage out the low performers. Witch-hunting those people.”

On the other hand, he says, top sellers were protected — even if they behaved unethically.

“Senior leadership would often issue directives to the team managers to protect their top-level performers by turning a blind eye,” he says. “Protect the tops.”

Once an employee found themselves assigned to the “performance improvement plan,” managers knew most would have to go, and they had no patience for anything except a radical turnaround. If the employee still struggled making sales, their future was bleak. The ex-manager told CBC News he would squeeze every minute out of their last day at the company, tapping them on the shoulder five minutes before the end of their shift to put them in a private room, and then fire them.

“Grown men would be crying, desperate because they couldn’t sell enough,” he says. “But sales was everything.”

When it got too much for even him and he began questioning Rogers’ way of doing business, he was fired too.

‘Shocking and appalling’

Vancouver labor lawyer Lia Moody says she’s been following the Rogers employees’ allegations, and finds them “shocking and appalling.”

Moody told the CBC Rogers’ apparent business practices ‘contravenes what Canadians consider their ethics and values.”

“I think it’s important that people are speaking out. Public shaming,” she says, “is the only way a company will make changes.”

Rogers Ripoffs: Company Sells Internet Service to Customers Without Computers

Phillip Dampier January 15, 2018 Canada, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Rogers, Video 1 Comment

A special investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation found Rogers’ call center employees engaging in high pressure sales tactics, pushing customers to buy products and services they do not need.

In emails and interviews with Go Public, a CBC consumer investigations unit that seeks to hold corporate and government powers accountable, more than a dozen Rogers workers report they’re under “extreme pressure” 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,” says an employee who currently works at a large Rogers’ call center in Ottawa and has asked CBC to conceal his identity to avoid retribution in his workplace.

Employees report they are constantly under stress to meet sales quotas, which are not eased even an employee is out sick. Employees know Rogers will terminate call center workers that do not sell enough products to customers, which has created an atmosphere where some desperate workers sign up customers for services they do not understand or cannot use to keep their jobs.

One employee told the CBC he will sign up seniors for internet service, and inform them a technician will come to their home  “to install a modem for their TV,” despite the fact modems are used with internet service, not cable television.

“We’re giving internet service to customers who actually do not have a computer,” he says.

The alleged corrupt business practices begin with the first job interview, where ex-employee Jessica Robinson was asked just how strongly committed she was to sell Rogers’ services.

CBC relied on several whistleblowers that are or were employees at Rogers Communications call centers. (Image courtesy of: Christian Patry/CBC)

“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 echoed many other employees who told CBC they were expected to sell on every call, no matter the reason. If a customer calls to cancel service or report a service problem, before they get help, they will get a sales pitch.

To keep customers buying, representatives sometimes wrongly claim buying more products will result in a lower bill because of bundling discounts.

“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,” a representative said.

What the call center workers often don’t tell customers is they are also sneaking other items on to customer bills. The biggest are installation and activation fees for the services being pitched, which often run $25-50.

Customers are sure to call back 1-2 months later when a much higher-than-expected bill arrives, and those call center workers are trained to handle that as well.

That is what happened with Sheldon Nider in 2017 when the 72-year old resident of Richmond, B.C., called to upgrade his phone and inquire about adding a 25% corporate discount he was entitled to receive. After 90 minutes on the phone, a Rogers representative told him he did qualify and also sold him a phone for his granddaughter. The following month, a 17-page bill arrived in the mail. Nider’s bill unexpectedly jumped $135 a month and, just as bad, he did not get the corporate discount he originally called about.

“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 as simple as that,” Nider told CBC.

Rogers later admitted in an email message to Nider the sales agent “misinformed” him, but that was all they were willing to do. When Go Public later contacted Rogers, the company grudgingly offered a $360 credit to address other issues, but still refuses to provide the corporate discount or end the expensive term contract he is now stuck with for the next few years. When Nider now calls for an explanation about other mysterious charges on his bill, the representatives seem empathetic, but don’t deliver customer satisfaction.

“They teach us how to be empathetic. To say things like ‘I understand how frustrating that must be,'” Robinson says about customers calling in to complain. “I’m like, why? We’re the ones screwing them over.”

Customers and workers are both left stressed about the insistent sales tactics. Customers don’t appreciate having to fight their way through a sales pitch to get their concerns addressed and employees are constantly worried they will be terminated because many customers either don’t want or cannot afford to add anything else to their bill.

Rogers employees claim their managers are well aware of these tactics and are also the source of much of the pressure. Despite a responsibility to monitor and manage ethical business practices on behalf of Rogers, managers are also rewarded for achieving sales quotas and bend over backwards to protect the most aggressive and unethical employees by avoiding monitoring their calls or questioning their sales.

Rogers sells cable TV, home phone, internet, cell phones, home security and other services. Its banking subsidiary even offers its own credit card.

“Managers know these reps are unethical,” says James Woodward, who worked in a Rogers call center two years ago. “So they try not to listen to those calls.”

Woodward told CBC managers don’t care what you sell as much as what you didn’t.

“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.”

When a customer calls to drop services or cancel altogether, there is a good chance that call will be dropped, because reducing your bill or closing your account will count against the employee’s sales targets.

“That’s why most customers have to call in three, four, five times to get a problem resolved,” says the employee working at Rogers’ Ottawa call center. “This is normal.”

At the end of each month, employees who fail to meet their targets can be forced to take “performance improvement” courses. If sales numbers still do not improve, they are likely to be terminated.

A Rogers spokesperson told the CBC the company’s sales targets are “achievable” and employees can be terminated for a number of reasons other than missing sales expectations. But Rogers’ Paula Lash added, “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.”

An Ottawa-based public advocacy group, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) now wants the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to open a public inquiry on the matter. PIAC’s executive director John Lawford says the CBC report exposes a loophole in Canadian regulations, which do not currently cover industry sales practices.

Lawford says these sales tactics, and other similar incidents involving other large Canadian phone and cable companies, appear to directly target seniors, grieving spouses, and the visually impaired community.

“It’s completely appropriate for the CRTC to say, ‘We’re going to set out rules,'” adds 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.”

The former and current employees at Rogers who communicated with the CBC about the sales practices offered their own suggestion: “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.”

CBC-TV’s “The National” reports on Rogers Communications’ pushy sales tactics that sell customers services they don’t want or need. (4:09)

Bell Surprises Potential Fiber to the Home Customers With Fiber-Free Candy

Phillip Dampier October 2, 2017 Bell (Canada), Canada, Competition, Consumer News No Comments

Bell’s “candy bribe” (Image: VHS)

Bell is dispatching boxes of fiber-free candy to potential customers of its fiber-to-the-home Fibe service.

A member of DSL Reports noted Bell’s fiber was installed in his condo building in Toronto for a year, but only now has Bell gotten around to activate it.

“Bell sent me this package of candy to let me know I can sign up for Fibe,” the user ‘VHS’ noted. “Kind of funny they offered me candy.”

More amusing is the fact the candy is entirely free of any dietary fiber.

Bell’s marketing and sales teams are notorious for getting ahead of themselves, often selling service by mail and door to door that isn’t actually yet available in the area. Some customers complain they finally relent to an intense marketing campaign and wait around for an installer that never arrives, only learning later their installation order was canceled without explanation.

Great North American Broadband Ripoff: Canada, U.S. Pay Double What Europe, Asia Pays

Phillip Dampier September 26, 2017 Broadband Speed, Canada, Competition, Public Policy & Gov't 4 Comments

Prices in €. (Source: European Commission)

The European Commission’s latest study on broadband pricing shows while Europe and Asia offer consumers affordable broadband, North American providers are forcing Americans and Canadians to essentially pay twice as much for equivalent levels of service.

Just as was the case in 2015, the report found some of the most costly broadband packages in the world are sold to customers in Canada and the United States. This year, the study found the average Canadian paid more than $52 a month for standalone broadband, in the U.S. an average of $42 a month. In contrast, Europeans paid an average of $30 and Asians paid $22 a month for comparable service. Customers in the U.S. and Canada with a triple play bundle package of broadband, TV, and phone service paid more than double what their counterparts in Asia and Europe did last year.

As U.S. and Canadian providers raise broadband speeds and constrict the number of service tiers they offer, customers are forced into more expensive tiers, whether they need or want them. That further exacerbates the digital divide based on broadband affordability.

In Europe, competition in many EU member states has caused prices to drop for some types of service. Double and triple play packages offering 100Mbps or less declined in price by as much as 10.6% in 2016.

The study found:

Broadband prices for budget tiers actually dropped in Europe last year.

For the download speed basket 12-30Mbps, the EU vies with Japan and in some cases Korea showing the least expensive prices in one or more of the four service bundles. The lowest price for Double Play with fixed telephony in the €28 is also the lowest compared to all the countries analysed. The EU, Japan and South Korea have relatively similar prices when compared with Canada and, in particular, the USA.

Comparing the €28 with other countries in the world, the pattern in the 30-100Mbps speed basket is similar to the 12-30 Mbps basket. Japan is the least expensive country for three of four bundles; only Single Play is slightly less expensive in South Korea. Here, the EU28 just fail to present the lowest price for Double Play with fixed telephony. Again, the EU, Japan, and South Korea stay at more or less close compared to Canada and the USA. Alternatively, Canada is the most expensive country in three of four bundles. However, USA shows the most expensive Double Play with fixed telephony – despite considering the lowest price offers in three States there.

With regard to the 100+ Mbps basket of advertised download speeds, Japan and South Korea are decisively the least expensive markets, across all service bundles. South Korea has the least expensive offer for Single Play, Japan for Double Play including TV services. For the top download speed basket, the EU lies in mid-field between the low-cost Asian and the high-priced North American countries.

Other conclusions:

• Ultra-fast broadband offers (100+ Mbps) were still most expensive in the USA and Canada
• The least expensive offer for South Korea across all bundles was faster than 100Mbps
• Compared to Japan and South Korea, European citizens have to pay similar prices for offers of up to 100Mbps, but significantly more for ultra-fast connections.

CBS Invades Canada: Launching Its All-Access Pass Service North of the Border in 2018

Phillip Dampier August 8, 2017 Canada, Competition, Consumer News, Online Video No Comments

CBS All Access is coming to Canada, bringing nearly the entire lineup of CBS shows and features north of the border.

The service will launch in Canada in the first half of 2018, followed shortly thereafter in other countries in “multiple continents” according to CBS. CBS has not yet set prices for the Canadian market, but the price is expected to be comparable to the $5.99 and $9.99 (ad-free) options sold in the United States.

It isn’t known if CBS will also attempt to offer Showtime as an add-on abroad, but the network promises to include most of the 9,000 episodes of CBS and original programming available to Americans without annoying geographic restrictions for those abroad. Canadian viewers will also be able to watch CBSN, the 24/7 streaming news service developed by CBS News specifically for online audiences, as well as on-demand access to certain shows licensed by CBS but not seen on the network.

CBS All Access is available on smartphones, tablets, Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Android TV, Fire TV, and most major game consoles.

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