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'They tell me they're blind, and I still have to sell them internet': Bell insider on high-pressure sales

Bell insider reveals high-pressure sales tactics required on every single call
Bell says allegations are 'completely unfounded and untrue'
By Erica Johnson, CBC News Posted: Nov 19, 2017 9:00 PM ET Last Updated: Nov 20, 2017 8:28 AM ET


Bell call centre employee Andrea Rizzo says she had to take a stress leave because of the constant pressure to meet sales targets or face possible termination. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)

A longtime Bell Canada employee describes working in the company's Scarborough, Ont., call centre as "a non-stop nightmare," where she says she is forced to sell customers products they don't need, don't want, and may not understand, to hit sales targets and keep her job.



Andrea Rizzo, 50, has worked for Bell — Canada's largest telecom service provider — for 20 years, and says the pressure to upsell customers who call in has become relentless.



She says employees are expected to make a sale on every call.





Rizzo is currently on stress leave, and worries about the repercussions of making her concerns public, but says the status quo has to change.



"I feel bad," says Rizzo. "I'm not really listening to what the customer called about. All I'm thinking in my head is, 'Oh wow, this customer just said they didn't want the service, it's too expensive. And I've sold a service to them that they will not know how to use, or really need.'"


Andrea Rizzo, seen here in a photo taken in 2001, around the time she was switched from Bell's billing department to sales. (Andrea Rizzo)



Every customer a target


Rizzo says many of the customers who call in are on a limited income, and clearly can't use the products she is pressured to sell.



"We have a lot of seniors who call," says Rizzo. "They tell me they're blind, and I still have to sell them internet."

"I've sold a service to them that they will not know how to use, or really need."- Andrea Rizzo, Bell client representative


She says she talked a 90-year-old into signing up for internet service knowing the woman was blind and couldn't use it.







When she first started with Bell in 1997, Rizzo handled calls from customers with billing issues.

She now works as a client representative in what Bell calls the "Serve to Sell" department — helping customers with billing and technical problems, while expected to sell products and services.



"They're very distraught," says Rizzo. "Their phone lines have been disconnected and I'm expected to turn around and ask this customer, 'Are you interested in internet, TV, or home phone service?'"



Bell disputes allegations


No one from Bell Canada would give Go Public an interview, but in an email, spokesperson Nathan Gibson writes that agents talk about products and services to ensure that customers have what is "right for them" and are "aware of new services or performance upgrades."



He did not address whether or not there is pressure for customer service agents to make a sale on every call.

Coaches listen in


Rizzo describes how coaches randomly listen in on customer calls without her knowledge, and rush to her desk if she's not sealing a deal.



"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. "Some of them will take over the call and actually talk for us."

'There has to be a sale on every single call.'- Andrea Rizzo, Bell client representative


She says she's also coached to talk quickly, not to let the customer speak, and to bury the price of products and services.





"We're supposed to mention the price really quickly and then jump to, 'We can get a technician out for this day and this time.'"





As for the basic so-called 'skinny package' — a starter cable package that new CRTC rules require all TV service providers to offer for no more than $25 — Rizzo says she and her colleagues are coached not to talk about it.



That allegation is a violation of CRTC broadcasting rules, which say "TV service providers should not downplay the small basic service," and "should clearly communicate all relevant information."



Top sellers are 'unethical'


Rizzo has struggled to meet her sales targets. In August, Bell told her she was "unable to meet performance expectations," and put her on a plan Rizzo believes is designed to eventually enable the company to terminate her employment.


Andrea Rizzo says when frustrated customers call Bell's Scarborough call centre, agents have to try to make a sale every time. (CBC)



Meantime, she says, many of the top performers on her team are hitting goals by being unethical — not telling customers about a two-year contract, or that a promotional price is going to go up after a few months.



Those allegations, too, would be a violation of CRTC rules, known as The Wireless Code, which say telecoms have to clearly provide contract and price information, including when a promotional offer is going to expire.



"But nobody listens to their calls," says Rizzo. "Managers don't want to know what their star performers are saying to customers."


Other bell employees speak out


Rizzo's concerns are echoed by other Bell customer service agents with whom Go Public has spoken.

Michael Lacaprara quit Bell's Scarborough call centre in 2015, after a dozen years on the job, due to the pressure to hit sales targets by upselling customers, who were often angry.


"They would say, 'I hate Bell,'" says Lacaprara. "And I would have to try to sell them more things on top of what they had."

He says he was prompted to quit after he was suspended for three days without pay for not selling on a call.


In the most recent annual report produced by the CCTS, the number 1 complaint consumers filed last year — and the year before that — was that telecom providers gave misleading information or didn't disclose all the facts about products or services.

The report says of more than 8,000 customer complaints the CCTS investigated overall, Bell was the subject of almost 3,000.







"I would like to see them change their employee practices effective immediately," Wanda Morris says.



"And to never upsell seniors for products or services that they don't need, don't want, and won't be able to use."



Andrea Rizzo would like that to happen, too.


Rizzo gets emotional when she describes the stress of having to continually hit sales targets at a Bell call centre. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)



"I was having panic attacks," she says. "I was stressed out and crying, thinking 'I don't have enough time to get my numbers up.'

"I'm not only speaking on behalf of myself, but everyone else," says Rizzo. "It's not just me."
 
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Thank you to Steadly and the CBC for bringing old news to light on a guitar forum.

This also just in,.. "Kittens are still cute" and our fact checkers are working on a story about the sky being white but we still don't have confirmation so we are hesitant to publish anything just yet.

 

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Jeez, what a surprise. A company that sells products and services is trying really hard to sell you products and services. Like always, the consumer needs to be informed. This is a slow news day or something?
 

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It's interesting that you've boiled it down to simply selling products and services. As far as I see it there are several issues with what's going on at Bell according to this story. It's not only about the shady business practice of pressuring customers to buy services that they won't use or don't need but there are serious issues regarding the treatment of employees in a manner that is causing them stress to the point that it's becoming a mental health issue.
 

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Do you remember the telecom company that didn't push it's products or market aggressively? Ya, me neither. Because they didn't last a week.

Personally, I don't know why this is a problem because about 85% of the people here believe marketing doesn't work on them. My, that's a beautiful baby! LOL
 

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The problem is deeper than the article suggests. Bell is lobbying to get NAFTA changes that will give them control of what you can and can't watch. Bell is also a large content provider. Under their proposed changes they could shut down VPNs and other methods to access foreign broadcasts that compete with their content. Bell wants total control of the Internet in Canada.

Bell Calls for CRTC-Backed Website Blocking System and Complete Criminalization of Copyright in NAFTA - Michael Geist
Wouldn't bother me Kerry, I hardly watch anything anymore except for NetFlix and I doubt Bell is going to have much influence over that. Even if they did, I'd just stop watching TV completely. Not a big loss for me anyway.
 

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Sales is a tough gig and not for everyone. These companies do often go beyond whats ethical or professional...but is she suggestiung they have a formal policy to treat old people for example differently? eg in the sales playbook "...don't try selling internet to old people....theyre like, old....and kind of dumb..."...why stop there? immigrants, those with disabilities etc.
I have a bigger problem with how they handle cancellations and the various hoops you have to jump through, as well as the rigmarole and call-center theater you can go through and get a rate re-negotiated. everyone should pay the same rate for phone internet etc. from the same company, esp one that's practically a public utility like Bell. What if your gas, hydro etc was handled the same way?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I think the employee who is publicly speaking out has a lot of courage. She thinks they may push her into an area where she can be dismissed. I would be dropping the word sue like a large hunk of lead. The last thing Bell wants is more bad publicity.

They have a large chunk of the TV/Internet sown up here on the east coast with few options.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Eastlink of out of NS, I believe.
I've been with them for over ten years now and just recieved yet another letter from Bell, ffs.
What a waste of paper, they should be fined for that too.
Yes, I wish I could use them where I am but we only have Bell, Rogers and Xplornet. I would use Xplornet but their tower is too far away from me.

Regarding fining Bell, I threatened to call CRTC on them if I received one more call from them. They had just been fined a few months earlier for $700,000.00+. I never received another call. Imagine that.
 

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Yes, I wish I could use them where I am but we only have Bell, Rogers and Xplornet. I would use Xplornet but their tower is too far away from me.

Regarding fining Bell, I threatened to call CRTC on them if I received one more call from them. They had just been fined a few months earlier for $700,000.00+. I never received another call. Imagine that.
They were fined over a million I beleive, for calling people on the Do Not Call list.
Get on that list, it's easy to do and will at least stop shysters within Canada, like Bell.
 
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