Monday, September 22, 2014

Thanks, But No Thanks…
by Brian Steinmetz

The upsell: when a customer is persuaded to purchase a more expensive item than the one they originally indicated, or more than they want or need. It’s likely that we’ve all encountered it, and probably with a bit of frustration. Why can’t I just buy the parts I want? Obviously, salespeople will try to sell us things we didn’t ask for, but that’s their job. The problems arise when sales pitches get in the way of normal negotiations.

I am about to move half-way across the country; I have had enough on my mind before being subjected to some aggressive upselling. I called the local cable provider, where I’ll be moving, to set up my account. I told the sales associate that I simply wanted a basic internet modem and a DVR-ready cable box. Simple enough, right? After a brief hold, I was offered a $219/month package that included advanced high-speed internet with a combined modem/router, a soon-to-be installed land-line (for free!) that included nationwide long-distance calling, a home security system complete with two motion detectors, a window monitor, a camera whose feed I could watch from my phone or laptop, and a siren to thwart would be intruders, all alongside a 350+ channel TV package with HBO, Starz, Epix, Showtime, and the option to tack on an NFL package for an additional monthly subscription to make sure I can still watch my New York Jets every week. “And all of this at nearly 55% savings compared to what most other customers were paying, based on my credit score!”

I politely laughed at the associate’s small talk, jokes, and attempts to convince me to agree to purchase each of these services. Then I reassured the sales associate that I didn’t want the upgraded router, security system, land-line, and a good portion of the described cable package. “OK, now that we are past that, I can hear about the actual service package I want,” I thought, only to have my frustration really begin to build.

What followed was 45 minutes of me continuing to ask for what I wanted to purchase followed by the sales associate’s incremental concessions before the bloated service package approached what I wanted. “You can always just cancel after a 30-day trial, so I’ll just leave that in there for you.” Yeah, right.

When the conversation finally ended I had a service agreement for the exact package I originally asked for, plus, due to a bit of successful upselling, HBO for a small monthly fee. But where did the last hour of my life go? If getting me to purchase a premium movie channel was the sales associate’s end goal the whole time, why did we need to go through the song and dance?

The cable company I spoke with has a monopoly on service in my new neighborhood; otherwise, I wouldn’t have stayed on the phone past the associate’s first or second upsell attempt, and I would have instead taken my TV and internet needs elsewhere. While I did not have the option of taking my business elsewhere, drivers certainly do. When frustrated drivers encounter repeated and aggressive upselling of parts or service, the cheaper aftermarket options down the road start to become more appealing. As part of Carlisle’s 2013 Service Advisor survey, we learned that service advisors from all participating OEMs reported more than half of their compensation is directly tied to commission. As a result, it is obvious that many of these service advisors will try to upsell drivers as they come through dealerships for service. While that is itself not a bad thing, there is considerable incentive for them to do as much upselling as they can, and occasionally this upselling may get excessive and could push drivers, or less assertive consumers, away.

Bottom Line: Drivers are generally expecting some upselling when they bring their vehicles in for service, but we need to be careful not to push it too far. While drivers might be convinced to splurge on the genuine part over the aftermarket version, you and I both know that spark plugs don’t need to be replaced during every oil change any more than I need a siren above the door to my apartment.

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