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Sunday
Sep252011

An Open Letter to Verizon Wireless

If you are the regional sales director for Verizon Wireless in central Texas, this letter is intended for you.

Today my wife and I purchased new phones. We have been shopping for weeks in anticipation of our upgrade eligibility last Friday. We finally decided to buy two Samsung Charges from Costco. The Costco price on the phone new was $70 cheaper than the price of a certified pre-owned phone from Verizon. When I mentioned this to a Verizon customer service agent on the phone yesterday, she was amazed and agreed that it was a great deal.

My wife upgraded to the Charge from a “dumb” phone. Her dumb phone never could successfully connect to Backup Assistant. As a result, we wanted to have the numbers transferred from her old phone to the new smart phone. Figuring the easiest way to do this was with the help of technology available at the Verizon Store, we left Costco and visited the Verizon Store on De Zavala and I-10 in San Antonio. When we arrived and told the employees that greeted us what we wanted to do, they made it very clear that because we bought the phones at Costco there would be a charge for the service of transferring the contacts. When my wife explained that we had just upgraded and the Costco representative suggested the service should still be free, the two Verizon employees made it abundantly clear that reps at Costco do not work for Verizon and should not have told us that information. They went on to say that it’s not fair to them to have to deal with customers coming from Costco as it makes them look bad. I assure you, these people needed no help making themselves look bad. Not only does their argument make no sense, but it has no place being presented to a customer. One of the employees even went so far as to tell the other to make sure to get the Costco rep's name so they could have him reprimanded. The entire exchange made us feel like we had done something wrong by purchasing devices from somewhere else at half the price—devices for use on the Verizon network, for the next two years, on which we will pay hefty data surcharges. How dare us.

I can only guess the real motivation for the behavior is that Verizon Store reps work on commission and they were bitter about losing a sale. That is not my fault, and I do not appreciate the attitude of the employees that it somehow is. To suggest I should spend twice the money on a device in order to save $25 on a data transfer fee tells me they think I am stupid. To be clear, I happen to think it’s a silly policy to authorize a reseller to sell Verizon phones and then punish customers that choose to do so by charging fees for extra services that only Verizon provides. Such a business model seems counterproductive to me. But my real beef about what happened today is not the $25 extortion, but the unprofessional attitude and derogatory tone of the Verizon employees. That is unacceptable.

Eight years ago I transferred my cellular phone business to Verizon. I left my previous provider due to issues related primarily to poor customer service. During the last eight years I have been very pleased with my relationship with Verizon, beginning that first week I made the switch when a customer service agent in Dallas called me simply to say "welcome." That simple attention to detail impressed me—so much that I still remember it eight years later, even after being treated poorly in the store today. Thinking back, I have never had a negative interaction with a Verizon customer service agent over the phone. Time and again, they are cordial, helpful, and they go out of their way to help me get the most out of our relationship, often suggesting things I am not aware of that end up helping me get more value out of Verizon services and that ultimately save me money. For that reason, I have brought with me nearly a dozen new subscribers to Verizon over the years.

Verizon Stores, on the other hand, are a different case. Recently I published a post to my blog in which I was critical of the fact that Verizon Wireless operates brick and mortar stores yet fails to stock those shelves with “live demos” that customers can interact with before spending hundreds of dollars on a phone they will be stuck with for the next 24 months. I wrote:

“Why on earth would a company invest in a brick and mortar storefront—paying rent, utilities, and employees to demo current technology—but stop short of an extra $500 to put a live demo of that technology in the store?”

I privately surmised that the real goal of physical Verizon stores must be to provide “added value” services in the form of selling accessories, providing tech support, etc. My experience today causes me to question that assumption and the purpose of having stores at all. This is not the first negative experience I have had or heard about at a Verizon Store, but it most certainly was my last. I have no reason to visit a Verizon Wireless store ever again, and that is a decision I intend to communicate when I share this story with people. However, because of our eight year history, I wanted to give you an opportunity to shape how this story will be told. In today’s fast-paced world of retail technology, eight years is a long time. Prior to today, I would have said with confidence that Verizon Wireless and I have at least eight more. Today’s experience gives me cause to question which direction Verizon Wireless is headed. I have reevaluated my choice in cellular provider before. What I would like to know from you now is, has that time come again?

Sincerely,

Sean Genovese

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