Customer Service Breakdown

Thomas Freidman of the New York Times is constantly writing about the need for America to become more competitive, to return to its entrepreneurial roots, to become more technologically smart. Yes, of course, he is correct, but he overlooks the simple fact of life–America’s customer service system is in shambles. We all know about calling somebody in New Delhi about lost Ginza knives, or trying to explain to a telephone lady in North Carolina that Hamilton is not Trenton. But these are minor annoyances compared to the total breakdown of Verizon—one of the spin offs of the once revered Bell Telephone.

Recently, a national television show profiled a taped phone call of a poor customer who wanted just to terminate his Verizon phone services. The custom service agent involved would not allow him to achieve his desire—as he was berated, cajoled, and manipulated to keep Verizon. Finally he taped the sessions and turned it over to the media. Verizon was shocked, shocked that was going on. What they did not say was that the agent was trained to respond that way.

When I moved from Washington DC., where we had very good Verizon service, to New Jersey, we were treated to the Verizon-Jersey beat up. Verizon was to come the very day we moved in to put in a computer hook up. They never came after they confirmed they would, or the next day. When contacted, they asserted that no one called them. A connector arrived in the mail. Finally the installer came, but he wanted to rip up the whole ceiling in order make it easier for him to connect the computer. Even then he could not put in a cordless connection that worked, he said. Finally we hired Opline that did the work with no problems, and the installer even helped to connect the television and stereo. When I cancelled the Verizon visit, the customer service woman told me if I did not like the service record, I could call the Public Utilities Commission to complain. She wasn’t interested. By the way, if I didn’t turn in the piece of equipment originally mailed, I world be turned over to a collection agency! Have a good day from Verizon.

I avoided the Verizon happy family in New Jersey for years after. However I still had from Washington DC a cell phone—from Verizon. Finally I decided to terminate it in New Jersey, but the customer service representative made a case that I should use Verizon for the laptop I had just purchased. The same number could be easily transferred, and the rate would be pretty much the same. I did, and after a month I got a bill saying I had gone way over the allocated minutes which the representative had assured me I never could hit.

I then called up Verizon four times, and they grudgingly said they would make a one time adjustment. I really needed to jump those minutes up—at a marked increase in the monthly rate of course. Finally I did, but the laptop experienced more problems in sporadic coverage from my house. The service people could not figure out why, so I went to the tech center in Hamilton which could not understand how a laptop computer worked. I thought they did this for a living? Besides, I was passed the one month from the “worry free period.” But it had not worked during that period, and I called and mentioned that they had a record of that. We are sorry, they said.

You now want to divorce yourself from Verizon—fine, it will cost you $150 for that step. We can’t help; here call another tech supervisor group. I called them three times and they still refused to waive the fee. You want a new connector. No, I just want out. Too bad, you must pay the $150 fee.

My wife and I left Hamilton Verizon and went around the corner to T-Mobile to get a new blackberry. Bad service cost Verizon immediately two customers. I decided to call Verizon Corporate in New York City; but no one answers and one number is out of service. Probably tech problems…

So this is one person’s odyssey with Verizon—NJ. It sure doesn’t position us for the 21st century technology. I recalled living near the old Bell Labs in Murray Hill, once the proud center of communications technology and compared it to its current successors. Tom Freidman has to come and live with real people across the river.

Oh, by the way the day after I finished this piece, I got in the mail a postcard asking me to rejoin the Verizon family.

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