One of my banks has decided to make this a relationship building moment and to pick up sales of credit card balance insurance in the process. It could have been any industry call centre, though.
It started simply enough, a friendly young man confirming this and that, asking me to wait while he did things.
Since this has to be a pretty simple transaction (confirm identity, tick a box), having to go on hold a couple of times made me speculate as to what was going on in the background. I’m guessing it was some kind of “sell this product next” algorithm. Who knows ... it seemed to take a lot more talk than necessary.
Why am I not interested, he wants to know?
When I thought the call was just about over, he asked me about balance insurance. Here’s where it gets weird.
“No thanks,” I said.
He proceeded to tell me a bit about the product.
“I’m familiar with the product,” I said, “and I’m not interested in it.”
Why am I not interested in it, he wants to know?
Silence on my side.
Then he says, “For customer feedback purposes, I have to have a reason you are not interested in the product.”
OK, this is starting to tick me off. Have to have??? Seriously?? I was tempted to hang up, but not sure my card had been activated. I was a hostage to the call.
Finally, “I don’t need it, I don’t carry a balance.”
Now he starts to explain about how the premiums work and it will only cost me blah, blah, blah.
“I’m not interested,” I indicate more firmly.
Now we’re into the “is there anything else I can help you with” spiel. Finally, confirmation that my card is activated. It has to be at least five minutes on this call, but it felt like 20.
Here’s the problem. If you engage in a sales discussion without getting permission to engage, you are being pushy.
Although this was a bank, the insurance industry was known for this for many years. It is commonly believed, and perhaps true, that insurance is sold, not bought. So a little pushiness is deemed OK.
Pushiness in some categories is so common, in fact, that there are consumer protection laws offering a cool-off period in many jurisdictions.
Pushiness is never OK.
Pushiness is never OK. It always causes some erosion of the relationship. No one wants to engage in being pushed. Our collective inclination is to avoid any encounter that MIGHT be pushy.
So now you, my banker, who wants my loyalty and trust, who puts tremendous investment into building brand equity, are acting like door-to-door soliciters for coupon books and eco-charities.
It’s a good idea to take the time to expand relationships with customers when there is an opportunity. But actual pitching should be preceded by permission. If you don’t, the person on the other end is now just trying to terminate the interaction as fast as possible.
You have all the tools to be better than this. So just do it -- be better.