Verizon "Customer Service": the bad, the ugly, and the frustrating

OK, after all those years, I decided I should do something about my frustration with customer service (or the lack thereof) utility companies (and others) "provide".

For years, I felt truly helpless. I felt they can do ANYTHING and you can do NOTHING. Of course you can always scream or yell. Or break the telephone. Or something like that. But that does not address the sad reality: you are absolutely screwed.

Yes, there is Better Business Bureau, etc. You can even call local politicians or newspapers, I guess the most egregious instances (assuming you have a lot of time at hand and are EXTREMELY determined) warrant/justify such action. It still won't guarantee your problem is going to get solved or that you won't have similar problems again. And if you look at the invested time+energy/results ratio, even if your issue does get fixed with fanfare and you emerge as tough customer-fighter, in the end, you are still a loser, actually.

But what are you going to do with plain BAD customer service? Something not necessarily newsworthily egregious or fraudulent per se, but bad enough to turn any levelheaded analytic head into an overheated lilac pressure chamber or boiling pot. Also, what if you just are not able to spend a month full time pursuing BBB and similar avenues?

Of course, you can just ignore bad customer service and quit at the point of service (i.e. lack of it). Well, this likely won't work either. First, it is time-consuming (and mishap-prone) to discontinue one service and start another. Second (even more importantly), the sad thing is that from the "competitor" you will be getting almost exactly the same service (lack of it) and frustration as before, so this option is generally not recommended.

I started Verizon service in January 2009 (of course, I had had them MANY times before, in one way or another). I was switching from Comcast (one day I will summarize my experiences with them, too; well that won't be a blog, but a book, to give you some hint why I wanted out, in a totally delusional false hope Verizon would offer something better). In any case, I wished to register online w/ My.Verizon (or something called like that) to be able to view/manage my account on-line and I have been trying to achieve that since January. Without success, obviously.

At first, I was told I needed a PIN. However, they could not just give it to me over the phone (no matter what level of personal secure information I could provide to verify it was really me; BTW banks, where I have accounts and where security to access accounts obviously needs to be tighter, don't have this cumbersome customer-defeating system).

Verizon insisted the PIN be mailed to me. All right, I said. Then nothing came. After I while (weeks later) I revisited the issue and called them again. I don't have to mention that every time I call I am on hold and/or repeatedly transferred to the wrong area, dead-ends/no-human automated menus, etc. Eventually I had the fortune to speak to a live representative, who promised to have the PIN mailed again. This happened a few times, but then, miracle, the mail actually DOES show up with the PIN! I had a few tears running down my face with warmth spreading throughout my body. My legs trembled. Yes, my persistence paid off! Actually, no. All the uplifting emotions turned into something else when the PIN just DID NOT WORK!

But even then, I made myself believe there was hope! Because on the website, www.verizon.com/registertoday/ I actually found a link (which I did not see before) that promised generation and delivery of a new PIN! This was exciting! I got started on it immediately, but the process was stalled as it wanted my last bill's amount or the date when I paid it (when my very reason to want to do these things on-line was because I am not too good keeping snailmail).

OK, then I went back on the phone, calling "customer care". I called the 866-326-7937 number. I only had to wait 28 minutes, before I had a human with whom I shared my experience. She was very pleasant and it was just a little bit more than minimally distracting that in the background the loud and boisterous bursts of laughter only ceased briefly, intermittently allowing the obviously happy crowd to relax for a second or two, also to listen to the next joke.

She agreed there was a problem and repeatedly apologized. It probably might have also been useful if she actually understood what my problem was. I am still unsure if she is aware what the words "internet" or "online" encode and clearly, the challenge of getting that I am having trouble setting up my online account and needed a PIN was way above and beyond what anyone could expect her to grasp.

For the lack of a better idea, she decided to solve the issue and told me she was going to transfer me to the "Rewards" department. I did not know Verizon had rewards or that they had such department. As it did not seem to connect with my problem after I was told I was being transferred "Rewards" I just asked "why", as it obviously had absolutely nothing to do, not even possibly or remotely, with anything I said.

This "intrusion" was obviously not expected and her jovial and sweet attitude seemed to be challenged for a second at which time she decided to punish me for being such a difficult customer. She turned tough on me by announcing that OK then if I don't want to go along with the nice and friendly plan of being transferred to the "Rewards" dept (who were still open), my problem all of a sudden now belongs to the "Billing" department (which is closed). Although I guess the word "online" might have still been circulating in her challenged mind without a hope to connect somewhere firm, and "Billing" probably came as close as it was possible, I guess.

I was told at this point they (billing) were only open from 8 AM to 5 PM. The sentence was delivered: you CAN'T get this fixed. Not with me, not tonight. I sadly remarked during those hours I see patients and cannot spend hours on the phone requesting a PIN and asked her for any alternative. She announced no alternatives existed (i.e., appeal NOT granted).

In other words, she pretty much declared that if I was unwilling to abide by their rules, I can just go and screw myself. We politely thanked each other, she asked if I was interested in getting help with "anything else", which sounded like a joke as I obviously did not get help with ANYTHING let alone "anything ELSE", and I was let on my way.

I know nothing about the internal dynamics and science that drives the customer care policy decisions of these companies. Clearly, the only thing they care is to improve profits and thus these experiences must be somehow connected to that main drive. And somehow it must have been confirmed by data that shitty customer service (where customers are left on hold for prolonged periods and transferred to the wrong departments and/or receiving inadequate/incompetent service), which likely negatively correlates with how much funding is allotted to this area, saves money/improves profit.

What is it that one as a hapless customer looks for when faced with these frustrating situations. Clearly, preserving piece of mind, avoidance of frustration and wasting time. Given there is a conspiracy as these companies are not truly competing with one another, at least not on the level of customer service, we are all left boiling in our own frustration. I think this is a national crisis and we, as society, waste so many hours on stupid things like this that makes it a very relevant matter at the national level.

I am not sure what the solution is. I do not have the internal information or the business training to allow me understand the situation. Can it be that these companies are barely profitable and can function with taxpayer help, but they are so essential they have to be kept alive. Then they just have no choice but cut costs anywhere they see an opportunity and customer care is a low lying fruit. Or can it be that they simply make decisions to save money to be more profitable?

I am not sure. I guess it is also possible that my consistently outrageous experience with customer care is simply an aberrant rarity and if that is being the case I shall not waste any more characters on this topic. However, until I am convinced that the latter is the case, I will continue posting my experiences as it seems to at least let some steam off even if I fixed nothing else with doing so :)

Fly Swatting and PETA Bashing

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE55H4Z220090618

There was significant news coverage (see http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE55H4Z220090618) and YouTube sensation (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxcRQ72TM0I) over the bravado of Obama's ability to swat a pesky fly while on air for CNBC.

Shortly thereafter PETA seemed to have developed an urge to be part of the show, trying to claim some attention, riding the ticket of a fly being an animal (which they are out there to protect) that was mis-treated (by no less of a person than the President of the US himself).

Don't get me wrong. I love animals. Moreover, I do think animals deserve ethical treatment and this cause deserves our attention (with reason and moderation). But I also feel PETA deserves no kudos for their contribution to the fly-swatting brouhaha, especially for their sending a special fly-trapping device that allows handling flies in a humane and ethical manner.

Wow. This is truly great entertainment, for all. Attention to PETA (seeking of which was the purpose of this bizarre action) granted. But please! Swatting a fly unethical? Where do we stop then? Using poisons against cockroaches is about to come under scrutiny? Using antibiotics against bacteria is to be deemed unethical next? Give me a break, please.

Besides, we, inhabitants of Earth, do have a long history of killing one another. That's part of nature. Killing animals is not something we could ever function without on Earth. Of course, it is prudent to be considerate in how we use our tremendous advantage over the other species. Killing them unnecessarily and with cruelty should be avoided. We need attention and proper representation of this, which I consider a noble cause. But criticizing the US President for swatting a fly only ridicules PETA. Unfortunately, that runs the risk of hurting public support for PETA's very cause of protecting animals.

Thu, Mar 19, 2009 at 20:29

date Thu, Mar 19, 2009 at 20:29
subject Message about 2009 DC Hungarian Pig Feast

Message about 2009 DC Hungarian Pig Feast

Hi,

Okay, I promise this is the last email (unless something comes up).

1. I realize I am a bit late with this, but thanks to Monyka (who worked this out a long time ago, I just had no time to get to it sooner), who is the children team leader, and who worked out a way of organizing children's activities. Please review a note at this link:

http://zneuro.net/blog2.php/2009/03/19/children-activities-info

...and download the form at this link:

http://zneuro.net/Files/PigFest2009Children.doc

Of note, the pony horseback riding is all arranged with 2 paid guides between 10.30 AM and 11.30 AM. Please use the above referenced sheet to sign up.

2. As the plan is giving you each a "Komatal" in the end (i.e. a sampler of the food we make) and the weather is forecast warmer than is usual for this type of meat preparation, we recommend you bring a cooler. If you bring cooler packs/ice, even better.

3. Some of you are coming with a truck and if you have the means of easily bringing an extra grill, please let me know. We may need it.

4. Unfortunately, as much as I tried to personally help you with carpooling and/or finding accommodation, I realized it just does not work very well this way. We may be able to figure something out for next year.

5. As you know, other than the mulled wine, we are not serving alcohol officially. However, you are welcome to bring your own drinks. I will bring some palinka for sure.

See you Sunday at 8.30 AM.

Zoltan (on behalf of the organizers)

Children Activities Info

Dear Guest!

As you know - we have opened up the event to children*.
There will be children's activities between 9:30-11:30am & 2:00-4:00pm which will be coordinated by Monyka. In order for us to prepare adequately it would be great if we could have a headcount of how many children are definitively coming as well as their names & ages.

Some of the activities we are considering doing may include face painting, coloring, puzzles & if the weather permits - perhaps some horse back riding & organized games.

In order to accommodate the various ages of children as best as possible we ask that you take a moment to sign up your children for the activities using the short questionnaire below.

Also, it goes without saying any guests willing to volunteer to help with this area - especially parents bringing kids - are most welcome! Extra hands will go a long way in helping us to make sure the kiddies have as much fun as possible.

*Please note children 6 and younger will need to be accompanied by a parent in the activity area. We also recommend you dress the children in layered "play" appropriate clothing (some activities may be messy) & suggest running shoes as well. Also, if your child is a picky eater, or has allergies that may pose a problem for them to eat the regular menu that will be offered (including hot dogs, cheese, juice, fruit, cookies, water) we suggest you plan accordingly.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns please direct them to Monyka via email at: m.berrocosa@gmail.com or by phone at: 410-746-3469.

Thu, Mar 19, 2009 at 14:44

date Thu, Mar 19, 2009 at 14:44
subject Message about 2009 DC Hungarian Pig Feast

Message about 2009 DC Hungarian Pig Feast

Dear All,

We have extended our deadline for cancellations with full refund to tonight. Please change your response on eVite accordingly and/or send me a personal email so that I can manually remove you. We need to free up those spots for new guests. I am sending back your payments as you read this.

We received several new payments. All those who sent payment need to send me the names of each guest they sent payments for. Also, we need the kids' names and ages as well.

We are likely not going to have any leftover funds, so answering that question is no longer important. However, those who have not indicated their preferred team assignment yet, please do so. Those agreeing to be on the cleaning team will get a special bonus. We will have an additional team for kids' programs.

There may be one more email later today or tomorrow (I am sure I forgot something). Sorry. Those who are not coming and have not replied yet can RSVP "no" and that way they won't receive any emails.

Previous emails may be found at:
http://zneuro.net/blog2.php/announcements/2009HungarianPigFeast/

I see you soon.

Zoltan (on behalf of the organizers