Five Things to Despise About Upsales

It is often repeated that almost any customer interaction represents an opportunity for upsales. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I’m willing to bet that pretty much everyone hates upsales. When folks who offer upsales capabilities try to convince us that they, in fact, like upsales, they lose credibility pretty fast. So, here are five things – I’m limiting myself in the interest of brevity – that I believe everyone loathes, despises, hates, resents, or finds irritating about upsales.

1) Changing the Subject. When I’m in the process of purchasing a product or service, I want my questions answered and my transaction completed efficiently and accurately. When you change the subject and try to sell me something else you’ve decided I might want or need, I’m only going to become frustrated and it’s going to undermine my trust in you as a provider. I had this issue recently with an insurance agent. I was purchasing a life insurance policy and she began trying to sell me life insurance for my children. I stopped her in midstream and told her flat out, “when you do that, I consider it upselling. And I hate upselling. So, why don’t you just sell me what I’m asking you for today, gain my trust, and then maybe we can have a conversation about other items I might need.” We’ve had a lovely rapport since – entirely free of tangential upsales.

2) Making Me Scroll. You know this scenario; you get to your online shopping cart and have to scroll through a dozen items before making a payment, making sure your cart isn’t being crammed along the way. In what lifetime would I EVER purchase something someone else stuffed into my cart? Imagine this happening in a grocery store. You walk up to the register and the conveyor belt has a dozen items you have to remove before scanning your groceries. It never happens. I realize online stores want to capture the effect of having candy and tabloids hanging around by the checkout line, but there are ways to do that without disrupting my purchase and undermining my trust. Relatedly, offers that dangle “free” shipping in exchange for paid subscriptions to arbitrary services are horrendous. Your baited trap isn’t all that clever; deal with me straight up and stop insulting my intelligence.

3) Getting my order wrong. I recently moved and therefore had to go through the unpleasant process of re-ordering my home phone, Internet, and Pay TV services. The agent was so busy working her scripts that she completely whiffed on my order. I realized this when my installation date arrived and no one showed up. Why? Because the tech went to my old address. I don’t lay all of the blame for this with the care rep. It was clear that the process was focused on selling me things I didn’t want while utterly  failing to confirm the new installation address. What’s worse – I had to go through the ordering process again, because some of the services I ordered were available only at my old address and not at my new home. The flawed process didn’t just irritate me, the customers, it cost the provider extra because of the do-over and about five fewer days of billing.

4) Feigning personalization. Netflix provides a good example of this problem. Netflix isn’t trying to sell me anything, because I already subscribe. But it has no way to differentiate between the things I enjoy and the shows my 4 year old watches. It also doesn’t give me the ability to filter out specific things that I don’t want to see and don’t ever want my four year old to access. This speaks to feigned personalization, which in other venues leads to suggestive upsales of products I’ll never want. This doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies because I somehow believe the seller cares about me. It makes me realize, plainly, that they see me as nothing more than a wallet they might squeeze a few extra bucks out of with a shotgun-approach come-on. No thanks.

5) Mucking up the once-good process. I’ve been purchasing computers and electronics through a particular online seller for many years; since before it was a well known brand. I take up all of its emails and scan its sale items several times per week. Around the holidays, I went to purchase myself a new PC monitor and encountered a completely unfamiliar process. All of a sudden, the payment process I used to enjoy was cluttered with suggested items, protection plans, third party offers, and extended warranties. Further, the buttons all moved around, so I wasn’t even sure I was in the seller’s environment, which I’ve come to trust over time. And you know what? I didn’t buy the monitor and I don’t want to purchase anything from the seller again because I don’t want to encounter that horrendous new process.

There are plenty of other reasons to dislike upsales. And while I agree that it benefits sellers to educate customers about the products they offer, it has to be done in a way that preserves and builds trust. Inelegant come-ons, underhanded tricks, distracting sideshows, and poor execution are no way to build customer loyalty and drive sales. So, I’d like to suggest that rather than messaging around how BSS products create upsales opportunities, let’s talk about ways we can build trust and loyalty in each customer interaction. Then follow-on sales – i.e. fulfilling a customer’s actual needs – become useful, value-adds rather than a uncouth violation of personal time and space.

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About Edward Finegold 122 Articles
Ed is now Director, Strategy for NetCracker. Previously, for 15 years he was a reporter, analyst and consultant focused on the OSS/BSS industry and a regular contributor to BillingViews.

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