Outside reps warn:
New ad rules hurting sales
Not satisfied with the havoc its take-it-or-leave-it strategy has wrought on worker morale, Providence Journal management apparently has decided to try it on another crucial company relationship -- the one with its advertisers.
The outside advertising sales representatives have been subjected to a new set of rules that they warn will make it impossible to maintain their past level of service to their clients. The company has ordered the sales reps to electronically file written logs that account for calls made outside the building, with the threat that anyone the reps say they have visited could be called so the company can verify the log.
Under this new system, some outside sales people have been banned from the Fountain Street building until after 4 p.m. Since the reps are now out of the office for virtually the whole day, each has been told to file a daily log of where he or she went, the name of the person they spoke to, how long they stayed and the results of the visit.
Besides making it harder for the workers, the new system does not meet the needs of the advertisers, the reps say. It leaves the reps only an hour to work inside with the ad make-up, research and billing staffs to work up sold ads, develop presentations, check account status, follow up on faxed insertion orders and changes, and electronically file their daily call reports.
This becomes an even bigger problem for new accounts, since a first-time customer has no past ads that makeup people can go by. In those cases, the sales reps say it was particularly helpful for them to be able to confer with the ad makeup people.
The reps have been told that if there are mistakes, they will be held responsible, but they're not being allowed time to make sure mistakes don't happen. That lack of time in the main office also makes it harder for reps to research a client's account history to make sure any back bills have been paid. If a rep has a payment check for a previous billing, there is not enough time to get it processed and still do the ad. This forces conscientious reps to work extra hours to follow through in a professional manner with their accounts. However, the reps are reminded that they are wage-hour exempt, but can take their laptops home to finish the work.
The reps say that successful advertising sales are all about establishing relationships with clients, showing them that the rep understands their needs and cares enough to come up with a successful strategy. The new system doesn't give the reps the chance to establish those relationships, they say.
"They're setting us up to fail," one rep said.
The company has also ended its old policy of letting ad reps make discount deals with larger clients. Last year the policy was changed to require management approval of any discounts, but managers either rejected most deals or wouldn't make up their minds. One rep lost an account worth more than $40,000 because the rep's managers took several weeks and still couldn't decide whether to okay a volume discount. Another long-time client, who put more than $100,000 a year into Journal ads, dropped the paper after being told his rate would be going up about 20 percent.
"We are seen as a liability, not an asset," said one of the sales people, "and they are treating the customers the same."
Also, as of April 8th the annual commission plan has not been presented.
TNG/CWA Local 31041
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