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Influency and Customer Service; Fraud at Verizon Wireless

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verizon wireless customer service at store 344203, 1187 third avenue 10021, phone 212 606 4700

Infleuncy is a tricky subject. Unless it isn’t. Be everywhere, all the time, be ready to handle your customers’ needs, and unless you’re after negative influency, never accuse your customers of committing fraud.

I’m a long-time Verizon Wireless customer. Long as in “almost twenty years of uninterrupted service”. I control more than a few Verizon Wireless phone lines for myself, PC-VIP Inc. and Answer Guy Central, and our customers. As you know, though, Verizon Wireless has elevated bad customer service to an art form; so much so that about a year ago we rechristened The Answer Guy’s Customer Service Wall of Shame as The Answer Guy’s Verizon Wireless Customer Service Wall of Shame.

Customer service is a big deal in these parts, and while we haven’t made it a cornerstone of Influency, that’s by design; it’s simply a given that no matter how good you are at attracting attention you need to do things the right way once you get people to see you as worth spending their time, effort, and money on.

So while there are some amazing examples of poor customer service on The Verizon Wireless Customer Service Wall of Shame, like Nissan of Manhattan stealing and Virgin America customer service as an oxymoron, Verizon Wireless has earned its position as the namesake of The Customer Service Wall of Shame.

And just when I thought I’d seen it all, this:

Yesterday, I found myself needing to procure a new cell phone for my fiancée’s mother. Mom is 85 years old, and recently handling a lot of her “stuff” has fallen on Cathy and me. I called Verizon Wireless Customer Service while sitting with my future mother-in-law and they ascertained my authority to speak and place orders on her behalf. But I couldn’t wait for the phone to be shipped, and I asked the telephone customer service agent to notate the account so I could go pick up a phone at a Verizon Wireless Store. She did so.

At Verizon Wireless Store #344203, located 1187 3rd Avenue in New York City, I was told that in a store, Verizon Wireless wouldn’t help me out because I wasn’t the account owner. It didn’t matter that they could see that I was noted on the account as authorized to speak on behalf of the person who owns the account; while Verizon Wireless would do anything I asked over the phone after figuring out that I was authorized to act on another party’s behalf, in person the fact that I wasn’t the account owner ended the conversation, period. This isn’t even news; I told you a similar story about how Verizon Wireless Customer Service agents act differently over the telephone than in person, last year. I consult on the need for business process at big companies; I understand business process. This one, though, just doesn’t make sense—and I haven’t even mentioned the wastefulness it creates.

Let me be clear: this appears not to be unique to Verizon Wireless store 344203; it seems that Verizon Wireless will do anything you ask if you call them, but won’t help you out in person.

I called Verizon Wireless customer service again, and the representative there pointed out that if I had access to the account via verizonwireless.com I could add myself as an authorized party in another area of the user profile, and then the store would do business with me. I then asked the store 344203 salesperson if that was correct, was directed to a kiosk where I could log into the account to make the change, and after doing so went back to the salesperson, to buy the new phone.

And then the manager at Verizon Wireless store 344203 came up to us and told me that “she knew what I had done and I was lucky she wasn’t calling the police to have me arrested for committing fraud. And I’ve notated your account that you just did that”.

Aside from the legal inaccuracy relative to the definition of fraud (disclosure: I am not an attorney), I think you understand the point of the story. Influency, while powerful, is not the be-all-and-end-all to anything, and when a customer walks through all the steps you provide only to be told “GOTCHA!” at the end of the business process you lay out for him, you’ve made a big mistake.

Oh, and by the way: I walked to a nearby Verizon Wireless store immediately after this horrifying customer disservice experience, and bought and activated that phone, no questions asked. So much for that lie about notating my account, huh?

Customer Service and Influency are tied together by ideas that are often beyond the scope of understanding at large companies. Long Tail Marketing? What’s That?

Verizon Wireless Customer Service, I have two words for you: Metro PCS.

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