Joanne is a former bank teller from Vancouver, who recently left the banking industry after a 20-year career. She left as a result of the high pressure she felt from her employer to sell various banking products to customers, whether or not they were needed. Joanne discussed her experience in the industry with Checkup guest host Susan McReynolds.
Susan McReynolds: Tell me about your experience with the banking system.
Joanne: Up until recently I was a bank teller, so I have about 20 years experience.
SM: Do you recognize what Erica Johnson and her team have been reporting about high-pressure sales in the banking industry?
J: Absolutely. It's the reason that I quit in January. It's nothing but sales, sales, sales. They email out what your targets are daily and how you match up against other employees. Up until six months ago our targets were three a week, but now they're three a day.
They're hard, hard, hard selling right now. They sent out something recently that said Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are not considered to be financial advisors. However, we were advised to do credit checks and capable of increasing credit cards. Of course you're supposed to get the client's signature on that, but that's not a question.
The problem occurs when you see people, like seniors, getting an internal notification that says we should be asking them for a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). And that's ridiculous. Why would a senior need an RESP? But we're told not to question the system. The system knows what it's doing; something has triggered the notification, so we're supposed to mention it to the client either way. And if you don't hit those sales targets the pressure is on you to sell, sell, sell. You get spoken to if you don't.
SM: How often would people be spoken to about this? Were you spoken to?
J: We'd get spoken to. We'd have to sit down and have a monthly chat with our managers every month, whether it was good or bad.
SM: Presumably if it was a bad month you would have to defend yourself and say why you didn't meet the targets. How would that conversation have gone?
J: If you didn't meet the target then they would suggest that they could stand behind you and give you prompts, or that you could message them if you had a sale and they would run over and try to do the sale for you so that you can get your numbers up.
SM: What was the most difficult part for you, Joanne?
J: Most difficult for me was giving stuff to people that I knew they either don't need or that they shouldn't have.
I'm a service-oriented person myself; I like to help people, but that's why I got out of banking. I've gone into something that's more service oriented. Now banking is a hard sell and I'm not a selling person. Before I could do it because I'd have a conversation with you, and you tell me that you have kids. That's a conversation to get to know someone. Then I could see what the banking opportunities would be. But not just because I need to sell five credit cards are you going to get a credit card. You see? There's a difference.
I previously worked for a different bank and they were fantastic about not upselling for the sake of upselling. They were really good at finding out exactly what was good for the client and what wasn't good for the client, rather than the hard sell. Their motto was, if you have a happy client they're going to come back happy. If you hard sell a client and they leave unhappy, then they'll come back unhappy or not at all.
Joanne's comments have been edited and condensed. This online segment was prepared by Champagne Choquer.