I remember getting my job over two and half years ago with Cingular. I knew it was a long shot because I had never been in sales before, but for the sake of my sanity and school life I had to try because the schedule was just too appealing. It meant that I would get home by 7:30 every night, and that was perfect for this student.
I have to say that the first month was super difficult. I was the only female on the team for three different stores in the area and they gave me a tough time-but I was up for the challenge. I had been hired by a Dealer for Cingular and so my first day of work, my boss looked at me and said,”Well Ahna, what would you like to learn?”
I was aghast! I knew absolutely nothing about cell phones, the industry and certainly nothing about sales. I grew up in restaurants and I could talk anyone into my favorite dish-but in my mind that was food! But I got thrown right in-the good old fashioned way.
It was an issue for me to get past the morality of sales. My store was on the poorer side of town and I was always worried for the people buying the expensive phones who didn’t look like they could afford it-but I learned my lesson quick and shut my mouth. It hard not to spend people’s money for them…but I realized they would buy what they wanted one way or another.
I did however, learn to guide people in their best interest and I learned to fulfill needs and fix problems. I used to walk along the wall of phones and take my time learning each one. I spent hours playing with them, learning their very insides so that I almost always had the answer to the question. I started carrying a Blackberry. I began completely absorbing myself in my job and I loved it.
I loved getting dressed up for work (we don’t wear uniforms in dealer stores), I loved having the answers, and more than anything, I loved my company-Cingular.
I always thought that as long as I had pride in my job-there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish. I couldn’t work in restaurants where I wouldn’t eat the food and I sure as hell wasn’t going to sell cell phones unless I truly felt I was working for the best company. I am a bad liar-my face turns red!
I believed in Cingular because I had had my own personal service for several years already when I had lived out West and because I lived all over the West coast-I knew the power of the company and had enjoyed them since moving back to NC.
I was living in the mountains and although we didn’t get the best coverage I believed in the company. I had previously had a work cell with Verizon when I was a property manager and I knew the games they played. I much preferred Cingular’s straight forward approach to the customer, I knew there were no hidden fees on bills, and I knew that Cingular wouldn’t penalize their customers for changing their minds about features or changes to their account.
In short, I was very proud of my job.
Fast forward a year or so and here I am, now working for AT&T. I now not only sell cell phones, but also DSL, home telephone service, Direct TV, the Microcell and U-Verse. There is no more mythic “unboxing” of a new phone, no more playing with them and trying them out-in fact they are all so similar now that I can pretty much guess what is on them. But because I don’t know them-I don’t excited about them. They are all the same in my mind and the customer loses out on possible getting a better device, better fitted to their style.
I have to ask why AT&T has left what began? Just because we have the I-phone doesn’t mean much right now because our name is getting pulled through the street. Time magazine just named Verizon’s Droid the “Gadget of the Year” and they mentioned that a huge factor in that was the better service through Verizon. My manager says we are still grabbing customers away from other companies but it is only because of the I-phone and eventually, they will also sign with someone else-Apple will expand that empire to its fullest.
The push at my job now is Wireline services-everything besides cell phones. To be honest I don’t think we have our wireless network solid enough to start evolutionizing (my word) the way we have into “owning the home.” My personal I-phone won’t get online half the time when I have full bars and 3G service, I drop calls like it’s in-style and in reality I hate talking on that phone because my warm face always hangs up on the person and I can’t hear well.
And to top that off…as a sales rep we can sell everything I mentioned but as far as actually helping our customers when they have an issue or a billing error we have to direct them to those dedicated customer service numbers or call ourselves which takes us away from making money and can take forever to actually get a resolution. Why is it that we can sell it but we can’t fix it?? It is a question I get asked a lot and I have no answer-it is ridiculous and if I was a customer I wouldn’t be happy.
I know the world seems to want to talk to one another less and less and therefore we have customer service numbers for every single thing in life-hot lines, answer lines…oh, and my least favorite–the computer who thinks it can solve my issues but can’t seem to understand what I say. When I want something I want to deal with a person-why can’t we give that to our customers? We should have customers service reps AND sales reps in a store if we are actually concerned about giving good customer service. And as a staff member we should be educated on how to care for these customers who need our help instead of having to look like fools.
In my opinion it is the perfect example of a company jumping in too deep before it has a firm grasp on swimming. When I am being barraged with headlines talking about Verizon’s superior network, AT&T ranking LAST in customer service and now our CEO talking about actually trying to limit people’s usage on the I-phone…I just want to scream!
But the company has thrown so much money into the wireline side of the business that it won’t slow down, but what will happen to its reputation? I know that as a sales rep I used to have the comeback for anything anyone could say against Cingular/AT&T but now I am at a loss too…
And what’s worse are the issues at my level. The worst part is that it is not consistent. What happened to things being consistent in a company? I recently transferred to attend a different college and my new store is COMPLETELY different. Of course my last store was run by a woman so it was very organized and put together well and now I work for a manager who doesn’t even realize that the trash was taken out but no one put liners back in…but that’s inside stuff.
I am talking about regulations and rules…the “how” of the business being ran. As I mentioned I grew up in a restaurant and my parents have always had their own businesses so I understand a little about the background. My step-father has created a very successful restaurant built upon that one concept–consistency…his motto is “it’s all about the food” and it is so successful because it is consistently good.
AT&T needs to make sure that their reps are getting the same consistent support and education behind doors. We are regulated to take classes and pass tests but that is about all that is uniform. One day we are told one thing and the next day it changes. The manager will tell you one day that we don’t price match and the next he is yelling at you for letting a customer leave because we “we now price match.”
Where are good old business practices? Consistency, customer service, kindness, knowledge, etc…..
It used to be a fun place to work-very serious because we were there to make money, but we enjoyed it and that rubbed off on the customers. When I worked for Cingular I was a top salesperson in my state (I was selling as much as 8 full-timers as a part-time rep) and I feel like such a huge portion of that was the pride I had in my job, the faith in the company and the interest in its product-I loved it and everyone who came in contact with me knew that.
I read several “nerdy Techny” websites everyday and Mashable sends me their daily headlines every morning. Just this morning there are a total of at least two different mentions to AT&T’s failing service, how our competition is growing with their fabulous new device, and how I-phone users are apparently the ones to blame for the slow network…COME ON! It’s not the customer’s fault that AT&T didn’t have the foresight to know that unleashes unlimited internet on a phone might be an issue…
WAKE UP AT&T and become the company that you could be, NOT the company that won’t be. The I-phone won’t hold us afloat forever and without it-we would have nothing!
Who wants to place an entire companies future on the balance of ONE phone?
Especially when it isn’t really ours….