Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Unethical credit card sales agents

As I was about to enter a hypermarket with Caitlin this morning, I was approached by a credit card direct sales agent. I've been approached by many such people before and I ALWAYS decline their invitation and temptation with all sorts of benefits (free for life, 3 years annual fee waiver, free supplementary card, etc etc).

Firstly, I don't need another credit card. Secondly, even if I entertain their pleas to help them achieve their sales target and get a free gift, I know my application will not be approved simply because I am a homemaker with no fixed income. Therefore, a waste of everyone's time.

Most of these people back down after I tell them I'm not interested or I don't qualify. But this morning, a young persuasive gentleman from ABC* Bank (*the initials are fictitious although it is a local bank with three alphabets for its name) approached me AND Caitlin with a nice remote control toy car asking me to help him meet his target and spend five minutes filling in an application form. At first, I declined but he was persuasive enough with his free gift toy car and his plea for help that I agreed. "Approved or not, it's ok, I just need the application form filled," he said. He was very friendly and even let Caitlin choose which car she wanted (they came in different colours and models).

He helped me fill in the necessary personal particulars and told me to sign on the dotted line. After that, he went back to a section which required my employer's details to which I told him I'm a housewife. He then proceeded to ask me if he could list me as 'self-employed' to which I said 'no'. Not giving up (I guess they are paid for every approved application), he suggested that I could still be 'self-employed' and assume I'm working part time!

Realising what he was up to, I took the pen from his hand (I felt some resistance initially) and wrote on the form myself 'housewife'. Immediately, his shoulders drooped and he said it couldn't work that way. So I told him that he was misleading me into lying/cheating and it was unethical for him to lure prospects the way he did. I had put my signature on a declaration that "I hereby confirm and declare that all information provided by me is complete, true and correct..." Imagine the consequences.

And in the event the bank had been duped so to speak to approve such an application, they would have acquired a customer that could probably be defaulting payments in time to come.

While the credit card industry is very competitive, banks or card companies should ensure that their sales agents are properly trained to handle prospects and be brainwashed with proper ethics and the do's and don'ts of their job scope. It is sales agents like these and people who are easily persuaded, not aware of what they are subjecting themselves to, that are contributing to problems in the financial services industry and the economy as a whole.

Training is a very important aspect that many organisations overlook. It is not merely equipping staff with the necessary product knowledge or technical procedures but encompasses other 'soft skills' such as ethics, proper customer service management, image, etc etc.

Oh, and he returned the application form to me and I took the car from Caitlin to give it back to him. As we walked into the hypermarket, I explained to Caitlin why we had to return the toy car. She already knows the no-telling-lies rule so she understood, and in a very serious and earnest tone, asked me to teach it to that guy.

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