My Worst Customer Service Experience Ever – Verizon

August 8, 2010

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Every time I have a bad customer service experience (which seems to be increasingly frequently these days), I am reminded of my worst customer service experience ever. We turn back the clock to the year 2000(ish), when I was set to ditch my 56K modem for DSL.  I contacted my local phone carrier, Verizon, to get the ball rolling.

Several days later, I had everything in place.  I fired up the DSL modem and … nothing.

I gave a call to tech support.  They couldn’t figure out the problem, so they gave me the number of someone else to call.  This cycle repeated itself for an entire weekend, at the end of which I had twenty different numbers for Verizon scribbled on a sheet of paper (I’m not exaggerating).  Once, someone referred me back to the same area that referred me to them – but used the acronym for that area instead of the full name and gave me a different number than the one I had.  I’m not sure if this was out of spite or incompetence.

This entire experience was frustrating for many reasons.  Some of the troubleshooters were apparently hired off the street five minutes before the shift began.  Yes, the DSL modem is plugged into the power outlet, just as it was when the last person asked me. I work in IT, so I wanted to bang my head against the wall in response to some of the possible root causes they suggested.

The most frustrating aspect was the obvious fact that they had no way to track problems.  Every time I called, I had to repeat every single detail of my experience to the new “customer service” rep – by the end of the weekend, this took a lot of time.  I work for a company that utilizes a tracking system for problems.  If I route your call to another area, the new person immediately has the entire history of the problem.  This is a very, very good thing.

At the end of a very long weekend, I told them to just forget it and cancel my account.  I was just going to stick with 56K.  I couldn’t even justify getting cable internet.  At that time, I received free cable in my apartment, and getting cable internet would have meant switching to a different provider – meaning that I’d be paying for cable TV in addition to cable internet.  Regardless, the joy of high speed internet was not worth the hassle of fighting with Verizon.

While I was on the phone, the customer service rep gave me two options to return the modem.  I could have them send me a postage paid box, or I could simply drop it off at my local Verizon Phone Mart.  In an attempt to make things easier for them, I said I’d drop it off at the Verizon Phone Mart.  Hey, why incur shipping fees when I could easily hand it back to a member of their organization?

Well, apparently the folks at the Verizon Phone Mart didn’t realize that they were being used as an outlet to return DSL modems.  They had no idea what to do with the modem.  I told them I’d call Verizon back when I got home and have those folks touch base with the brick and mortar store.  The Phone Mart people agreed to give this a shot.

When I called Verizon back, they assured me that they would touch base with the Verizon Phone Mart and process the return.  Wonderful – problem solved.

About ten days later, I got a call from the Verizon Phone Mart, wanting to know what to do with the modem.  I told them that a Verizon representative should have contacted them about the details of the return.  Unfortunately, the customer service rep hadn’t actually followed through and contacted them.  Again, this wasn’t a case of me randomly showing up at the Verizon Phone Mart with the modem – I had been given this option by a customer service rep.

I drove to the store and picked up the modem.  The people at the Verizon Phone Mart seemed to be as much of a pawn in this as me, so there was no point getting upset at them.  I called Verizon again and had them send me the postage paid box and finally sent the modem back.  Wonderful – problem solved.

Well, not exactly.  For about six months afterward, I kept getting charged for DSL service.  It took a lengthy phone call each month to finally get charge taken off the bill.  Each time, I was assure that the system showed that I did not have DSL service and would not be charged in the future.  Each month, the charge reappeared.

The story does have a happy ending, though.  One customer service rep managed to actually stop the charges from appearing.  However, even this was not mistake free.  When the representative applied the credits, she credited something twice.

At this point, I had an ethical dilemma.  I had money that rightfully belong to Verizon – around $20, I believe.  Should I call to inform them of their mistake, or just keep my mouth shut?

After six months of battling with them on billing issues, I decided to just keep my mouth shut.  I didn’t really want to waste more of my time arguing with them in an attempt to return their money.  Even worse, I feared that the process of reversing this credit would cause the whole mess to start up again.

To this day, I refuse to consider Verizon when I make purchasing decisions.  Over the past decade, I’ve also told this story to a great many people in order to explain my hatred for Verizon.

Is Verizon Trying to Kill 4Info?

December 5, 2009

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4Info is a wonderful, and largely free, service that allows people to get all kinds of updates on their cell phones via text messages (note: they do charge for some of their content). I reviewed them on The Soap Boxers a while ago, and I am a big fan. I get lots of sports scores via 4info, and also get the result of every Troy Tulowitzki at bat.

Verizon Wireless, the nation’s largest wireless carrier, has launched a frontal attack against 4Info. As of Friday night, it began blocking calls sent via 4Info’s 44636 short code. This apparently is related to a Verizon policy about ads in text messages, although it appears that 4Info is being singled out, while other providers are not. 4Info’s CEO indicates that a new short code will be available perhaps as early as Monday, but I am concerned that Verizon will simply block the new short code as well.

It is important to note that the users of this service are fully aware of the fact that they will be receiving ads in the text messages. This is the reason why many of 4Info’s service are free – because the advertisers are footing the bill. The ads themselves are rather unobtrusive. At the bottom of a recent sports score is the ad “Gift ideas from Best Buy”, followed by a URL that will take you to that ad. Another message has an ad from Robitussin. I personally have never followed the link to any of the sites, but I have absolutely no problem with the ads. Knowing that Troy Tulowitzki hit a home run a minute ago is well worth the cost of seeing an ad on the bottom of my cell phone.

If you’re a Verizon customer, call and complain. If your neighbor’s teenager can send a thousand text messages a month to their friends, there is no valid reason to deprive you of your messages from 4Info. I suspect that this is an attempt at a money grab on the part of Verizon – in spite of the fact that people are already paying for text messaging (either a la carte, or baked into the cost of their packages). If you are thinking about switching to Verizon, take a moment to re-think your decision. Even if the 4Info issue doesn’t personally affect you, do you want to do business with a company that pulls these sorts of shenanigans? I certainly wouldn’t.

(at this point, we shift gears and become an anti-Verizon rant)

It really doesn’t surprise me that Verizon is the company in the middle of this. Honestly, I’m not impressed with the company. About a decade ago, I tried (and failed) to get DSL through Verizon. I work in IT, and have a very good working knowledge of networking. It was quite obvious that the problem was on their end. I spent hours on the phone with them one weekend trying to get the problem resolved. I was given the complete runaround, bounced from one area to another (and other times having me perform actions that obviously would not fix the problem). Of course, I had to repeat the information every time – this COMMUNICATION company apparently had no way to COMMUNICATE this information via some sort of problem tracking system. Finally, I gave up and canceled the order. I went back to dial-up.

I was given two options for returning the DSL modem. They could send me a box through the mail, or I could drop it off at the local Verizon Phone Mart. I decided to make it easy for them (big mistake) and save them the shipping by dropping it off at the store. The people at the Verizon Phone Mart seemed a bit perplexed at what to do, but took the modem.

A week later, I got a call from Verizon Phone Mart. They still had no idea what to do with the modem, and wanted me to pick it up. I told them that I’d contact the Verizon DSL people and ask them to contact the store. When I contacted the Verizon DSL people, they agreed to contact the store and assured me that this would be no problem. Awesome. Problem solved, right?

A week later, I get another call. The Verizon Phone Mart never got a call. Yeah, the DSL people essentially blew off someone in their own company. So I picked up a modem and arranged for Verizon to send me a box (at their expense).

And then there was the billing. For months afterwards, I was billed for service I had canceled. Every month I’d call, and the charge would be removed – only to appear the next month. Finally, one month, in an avalanche of strange credits on my bill, the charge went away and never returned. Of course, they even made a mistake on this bill. They actually credited me slightly too much. I’m normally a pretty honest guy – if a cashier doesn’t scan an item, I’ll point it out. This time, however, I kept my mouth shut. I was afraid that if anyone tried to fix this, they’d make a massive mistake and my bill would be messed up for the next year. I might be willing to spend hours on the phone convincing them that they owed me money, but I certainly wasn’t willing to spend hours on the phone convincing them that they owed ME money.

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