Dissconnected: Samsung Sales Reps says the system makes them work for free

When Samsung announced its new Galaxy S22, the biggest Android smartphone launch of the year. Jennifer Larson was ready to finally make some money. On February 9th, she logged into the Ibbu app, where. She sells phones to waiting customers at Samsung.com via online chats. Typically, the yearly Galaxy Unpacked showcase is a huge sales event for Samsung and a potentially big payday for her. “They built it up like it was Christmas, I got all pumped up,” Larson says.

But on this product release day, Samsung’s website was experiencing widespread glitches; customers couldn’t complete orders, and some were getting blank screens. If they could connect to the chats at all, customers were frustrated. Larson gave up after about two hours and called it a day.

And really, why would she stay? She thought Unpacked would be a break from the increasingly grim reality of her job. Which has been to field a growing number of completely unpaid customer service calls. Instead, it was more of the same — hours of customer complaints she wasn’t going to get paid for handling.

Samsung’s Experts

Samsung’s experts are commission-only, with no hourly rate. So if they don’t sell anything, they don’t get paid. Originally, the money was good, but a once-promising work-from-home job has deteriorated into a confusing. Mess of misdirected customers and inconsistent directions from superiors, Larson and her co-workers say.

Meanwhile, Samsung customers looking for support may not be aware that they’ve been routed. To someone whose only financial incentive is to sell them a new product. Larson and her colleagues are portrayed as subject matter experts there to help customers. Think Apple’s Genius Bar but the expert’s goal is really to close sales. Even if they want to help, they aren’t trained in customer support.

But a dozen Samsung.com chat agents tell The Verge that they’re expected to do it anyhow. They claim the company’s trying to have it both ways: Samsung gets. Free customer service and an increasingly desperate sales team.

Working For Staffing Agency Ibbu

Larson began working for staffing agency Ibbu in December 2019. At first, she says she was making between $800 and $1,200 a week doing sales chats for products from companies. Like Otterbox and Life Group. She was able to provide more financial support for her daughter at college and pay for her other kids’. Sports and extracurricular activities. The money was consistently good enough that when the pandemic. Shut everything down, Larson quit her teaching assistant job to work for Ibbu full time. “It really helped support me through COVID,” she says.

But the steady pay evaporated as she began to encounter more and more service requests, dealing with customers who need help but aren’t looking to buy anything. The automated chat system now regularly sends the experts customer service chats mixed in with the expected sales chats. While Ibbu tells The Verge that its staff are explicitly not supposed to take customer service chats, both Ibbu and Samsung allegedly encourage workers to convert customer service chats into sales. And, if experts don’t keep up their customer satisfaction score by handling those customers, they can be fired.

Experts are expected to have an average customer satisfaction rating (CSAT) of at least 4.3 out of 5. They receive one point for every chat, three points anytime a customer gives them a rating over 4, and six points for every “achievement” a customer rewards them. But if they try to help a customer seeking support and the customer leaves unhappy, they can give the expert a bad rating — so experts can end up with low ratings for doing work they’re not officially supposed to be doing and aren’t being paid for, either.

If an expert’s rating drops below 4.3, they receive a warning. Larson says they used to get a 100-chat grace period to turn things around and get their rating back up, but that Ibbu has since cut it down to just 20 chats. If their CSAT doesn’t improve after three warnings, they can be terminated.

Larson’s colleagues

Even when Larson’s colleagues want to help customers, they often can’t.

Otterbox never told Larson how to sell phone cases, with most communication coming from Ibbu representatives. It was different when she started working with Samsung products. Executives from Samsung would join them on training calls, and Larson felt like she was part of the company. “It was like ‘Oh, they want us to succeed, they’re training us,’” she said.

Over the past few months, though, that began to change. One example: a bug that caused an item’s price to change when a customer put it into their shopping cart.

“We’re supposed to deal with those problems, but we don’t have access to anything,” Larson says. “We’re like the first line of defense for customers, but they don’t train us how to deal with them or how to answer their questions. Why should I waste the customer’s time?”

Official Training

In the official training documents that experts receive — with both Samsung and Ibbu logos emblazoned at the top of each page — a section header specifically reads “do not answer customer service questions” and provides directions for how to handle such situations. If someone chats with you about anything else, such as product support, order support, warranty, etc., you should NOT try to respond.”

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