Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sometimes It Pays to Bitch: My Customer Service Adventures with Verizon


I've worked in customer service for longer than is probably healthy - going on 13 years now.  In my many years, I've learned that one of the most important things for a customer service rep to do is to make sure the customer feels like they've been heard - that even if you can't help them, you're doing your best to make sure their problem is being addressed. 

Acknowledging the complaint goes a long was towards customer retention and loyalty.  This is a story about how Verizon managed to screw up our internet account - all on their own - and how their lack of basic customer service almost lost them two very loyal customers.

It all started on a normal Friday evening.  We came home from work to discover that our internet service was down.  We thought it might have been the weather affecting the line, or perhaps Verizon was having another outage.  So we decided to wait it out through the weekend.  Saturday and Sunday came and went and still no internet.  Finally, my husband called on Monday to ask for a tech to come out and check the line.  He got the standard "Is your modem plugged into your computer? Is your computer turned on?" spiel that reps have to ask to make sure they're not dealing with idiot customers.  We're not idiots, so we had of course checked everything that we could on our end.  Instead of promising to send a tech out, which would cost them time and money, we were told that they would check everything on their end and get back to us in 24 to 48 hours.

Verizon support - "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

72 hours went by and still no word from Verizon.  Dear husband called back, slightly pissed that no one had responded when promised.  He spent 4 hours on the phone.  He was passed from tech support to account services to financial services and then back to tech support in a horrible game of customer hot potato.  No department would take credit for the problem - each one simply told him it was another department's problem and would transfer him without hesitation.  He didn't get any, "Oh, I'm sorry, let me see what I can do," or "Here's so-and-so, he'll be able to help you with this."  Finally, someone in tech support told him the trouble must be on the line and he would have to have another tech look at it, but he swore he would do his best to make sure this tech got back to us within 24 hours.

And to our surprise, he did.  With bad news.  Our account had been shut off, despite the fact that we were actively using AND paying for it!  We were advised that the easiest thing to do would be to start an entirely new internet service account, and it would take a day or two for it to be turned on once all the account stuff was settled.  So we said fine, whatever, just take care of it!

It had been a week with no internet at this point.  I was pissed because I have a part-time job that I do from home and I hadn't been able to get my hours in for the week.  I couldn't write any articles for Hot Ink.  We couldn't log in to our financial websites and check our balances from home, which led to an embarrassing situation at the grocery store one night when we discovered we didn't have enough in one account to pay for our groceries.  Even though we just had to transfer some money, that was rather humiliating - the people in line behind us probably thought we were deadbeats.

So another two days passed and the connection still wasn't on.  My husband, who could quote Verizon's phone number from memory at this point, called again to find out what was the holdup.  He was told a tech would come out the following Monday to help.  The tech never showed, so he called again.  And here's where we finally figured out the problem.  We'd had a land line that we had shut off the previous year that apparently was never fully disconnected from our account.  And we had new neighbors who moved into the building into the suite number that used to be ours until our landlord changed us to an apartment number.  So... when the new neighbors called to set up their service, Verizon saw an internet service tied to a defunct land line, assumed we'd moved and never called to shut off our service (that we were PAYING FOR, duh, Verizon, it was being used!!!), and boom, disconnected our internet service.

The entire situation - from the land line never being detached to our address change never reaching the support department (although billing knew - of course they did, they wanted our money) to the line being shut off - was Verizon's fault.  And we were LIVID.  Because we didn't get any apologies from the service reps.  No one admitted to any mistakes.  We knew it was a big clusterf*ck of mistakes that no one individual was really to blame for - but we wanted to hear someone say "I'm sorry, I know this has been a problem for you, and we're doing everything we can to help."  Because sometimes that is all the customer needs to hear to feel like their patronage is valued.  We were loyal customers of Verizon for five years. And, damn it, we wanted them to know how we felt.

So I found a list of email addresses for the corporate officers of the company and I vented.  I told them exactly what had happened.  I made sure to include how my husband had to sacrifice a day of work and miss some of his classes to wait for a tech to come out who never showed as well as how the situation had impacted us financially (me missing my part-time job).  I didn't expect to hear a response - I figured the emails would be deleted by administrative assistants.  So imagine my surprise when I got a reply promising that an exec would look into the situation.  Not only did he look into it, he actually called my husband to apologize and then promised us to credit our account for the time we'd lost as well as an additional month of credit for our troubles.  AND he emailed me again to remind me to keep in touch once our bills come in so he can give us the promised credit.

We finally got our apology.  It just took some (constructive) bitching on my part to get it.  It never should have reached that point.  Yes, we're getting credit, thanks to an exec who took up our complaint and promised to resolve it personally, but that was after 2 weeks of dealing with this mess.  The impetus should be on the company to try to retain its customers.  If a rep is unable to help, they should let us know they're going to contact someone to help us, not just shove us off on someone else and forget about us.  At least, that's how a well-trained customer service rep would do it. 

But perhaps Verizon sees customer retention as a waste of time and effort.  Maybe they'd rather focus on getting new customers instead of rewarding the loyal ones.   And if so, they're quite welcome to find two new customers, because after our credit is up, we have no qualms about looking for a new service provider if we can find one that values our loyalty (instead of just our money).


  1. Mel, I'm sorry you and your husband had to go through that! Shitty customer service makes baby Jesus cry.

  2. Good for you for being unrelenting and also constructive. I would have pulled a baby Jesus and actually wept on the phone.