Upselling concerns: The danger of appearing like a bait-and-switch

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While upselling is a common approach to increase customer sales, there is a danger that the practices can start to look a bait-and-switch – getting customers interested in one thing, only to then try and get them to buy something else for more money. There is a fine line between offering additional premium features and services, and the customer feeling that the product that they intended to buy has suddenly become a lot more expensive without them fully realizing it.

The appearance of a bait and switch can cause negative reactions from customers – losing a sense of trust – as though they have been tricked into something that they didn’t intend to buy – with certain practices also potentially illegal, breaking customers’ sales rights. This article explores key things to be aware of in upselling. 

What is upselling

Upselling is a common approach to try and encourage customers to buy additional products or features in addition to their purchase. It is relatively common in the hotel and travel industry, offering upgrades to rooms, seat selection, or travel insurance. 

What is a 'bait and switch'

Bait and switch is when a customer expects one thing, but this is quietly switched for another. It often is associated with customers expecting one price, but getting charged another (potentially with additional features that they didn’t realize would be added).

Beyond risking damaging goodwill and breaking trust with your customer, bait and switch tactics may break customer rights and are potentially illegal. 

Avoiding upselling appearing like (or becoming) a bait and switch

While offering additional features as part of upselling is common, the practice can start of verge on ‘bait and switch’ and other unethical or illegal sales practices Some important things to avoid in upselling:

  • Don’t offer products that are not available: Don’t offer non-existing products, designed to entice customers, only to then switch them onto more expensive options.
  • Don’t require ‘mandatory’ upgrades: Don’t require ‘mandatory’ upgrades – increasing the cost beyond the advertised price with options that must also be purchased. 
  • Don’t add on upgrades without the customer agreeing: Don’t add additional features without the customer’s permission, or them realizing that there would be additional costs associated with the upgrades.

Ensure that your sales team is not using shady sales tactics

There is a danger that your sales staff may pursue shady (or illegal) sales practices, particularly when they are strongly incentivized to upsell. If there are strong financial incentives placed on upselling, or huge pressures to increase sales (such as the threat of losing their job), employees may be more inclined to deviate from your intended sales approach.

To avoid engaging in shady or illegal sales practices, it is important to monitor the behaviors of your employees – taking actions to ensure that sales policies are followed. 

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