Sky has shut down its door-to-door sales operations with immediate effect following claims that it agents lied about broadband speeds and download limits to sign up customers. Its team of 550 “Sky Walkers” now faces redundancy.
Investigations in May revealed many claims of misleading claims, with some agents themselves blowing the whistle. But a Sky spokeswoman claims the proposal to stop the door-to-door sales operations has nothing to do with customer complaints about its sales team.
She claimed this decision was informed by the way customer choices are changing. “As customers choose other ways to buy our products, door-to-door sales are becoming less viable and we’re proposing to withdraw from this activity. We’ll consult with employees before taking a final decision and will work to find alternative roles for those affected should the proposal go ahead” she said.
The spokeswoman added that they have been reviewing the way they sell their products to better suit customer demands. She said that the way customers like to shop is changing, with the internet becoming more important. “In addition, as well as new customers joining Sky, a significant part of our growth now comes from selling additional products to existing customers with whom we already have a relationship’ she said.
The agents were called to a series of meetings around the country on Tuesday to begin official consultations on how to terminate their jobs. They were required to appoint regional representatives for these meetings, and they have been suspended until his process comes to a conclusion.
Sky hired the sales team three year ago following customer complaints about doorstep sales by its contractors. The Sky Walker as they were called, were meant to help sky reach its target of 10 million customers by 2010.
The satellite broadcaster says its decision to stop the door-to-door sales came before the complaints and that it will now rely solely on telesales and web marketing to attract new customers.
The Sky Walkers were paid high commissions on top of their salary so as to help persuade customers to switch broadband and TV providers or to persuade the existing customers to extend their contracts and buy more products. But there are claims that they resorted to lying about download limits, download speeds and other services that were not part of their packages.
A group of Sky Walkers confirmed these claims, but Sky disputed them, arguing it had effective management systems in place coupled with rigorous training of its agents.
The Sky Walkers said pressure to sell had greatly increased in recent months. One of them said he had been in sales for 20 years and he had never been under such a pressure before. He said they get constant text messages and calls. And three times a day, they have to tell managers the number of households they have visited, the number of people they have spoken to and the number of sales made.
He added that he is looking for another job even with low pay provided it has less pressure.
Since the managers bonuses relied on their teams reaching the sales targets, the agents who did not meet the target of seven sales in a week were told to work on Saturdays even though the official target was six new sales a week.
They were also encouraged to target the young unemployed parents and the elderly because they were considered as “easy sell”.
Sky will now rely on other forms of selling like online marketing and telesales to sign up new customers.