Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Verizon Wireless Customer Service Nightmare

Someone got paid a lot of money to design the customer experience nightmare that is the Verizon Wireless store near the Eastview Mall in Victor, NY. Holy COW! I dont know if I can fully capture the exercise in inefficiency and ineffectiveness, not to mention almost sales prevention that we experienced last night.

For pure economics, we need to go down to one phone. Right now we have two physical phones with two separate phone numbers. The plan: Get rid of my phone number and give Karen my phone which is the newer phone. (Or replace it since it wasnt holding a charge). Change the plan into Karen's name only because she gets a corporate discount.

You walk in the door and are immediately STOPPED by a little podium asking you to please sign in! Skippy the Wonder Chimp is there to greet us. He is, in fact, a GREETER, as his name tag states. It really should have said INCOHERENT MUMBLER but I realize I am getting older and maybe my ears dont work as well anymore. It takes 3 or 4 tries but we finally get him to grasp the CONCEPT of what we want to do. He WRITES OUR NAME DOWN ON A PIECE OF PAPER and then tells us we need to see customer service and its a ten minute wait. A quick glance reveals approximate 7-8 Verizon people seemingly milling about. There are several "stations" now. What used to be the main desk where you simply queued up to get service, is now divided into 2 techincal support stations and 3 customer service stations. There is another desk for "sales" and then there is an electronic bill pay station.

Thankfully, it wasnt a ten minute wait. Evan calls us over pretty promptly. I think they even sent Skippy to escort us implying a huddle conversation between whether or not they actually wanted to help us. But I didnt SEE this with my own eyes, so I cant say it happened. Im comfortable that it did though. Evan, looks like a fatter version of Beaker from the Muppet Show. Maybe not, but he did look like a human version of a muppet. I still dont understand why everyone had their coats on in this place, it was hot as only a retail store can be (that's a rant for another day) but they all seemed to be freezing. We lay our needs out to Evan. From the jump his brow is furrowed and he cannot seem to separate the tasks out in order to complete all of our requests. We start by looking at the account. A good plan. Evan either cant read or cant do the math that says our two year contract expired two months ago and ergo, we would not be charged any cancellation fees. I undertand him starting there. I am sure this guy gets ripped all day long by people trying to cancel before learning it will cost them $500. He calls over the manager. (And, yes, I am using that term very loosely). Manager-boy tells him the dope. Evan asks, "But how would I know that from looking at this screen?" And I give Beaker his props because he is right. The manager needs to teach here. Take the 10 seconds to explain it and then you wont have to explain many more times.

More brow furrowing. Finally, in exasperation, Beaker decides this would be a SALES function because we would really be changing our calling plan. Meanwhile, he tells me that I should talk to technical support about my battery not keeping a charge. I ask this because as I mentioned, Karen wants my "newer" phone. But, if a new battery is going to cost more than a new phone, we'd want the new phone. Techincal Support is literally 18" away but act like there is an impregnable invisible shield. She does not look up when we are talking about needing their help. She does not stop whatever it is she is doing (which I suspect was just typing random characters on a keyboard) when I take the side-step over to her, smiling my this-is-a-customer-service-goat-rope-smile to Karen. I stand there, in front of her, still talking to Beaker and Karen for a good five minutes before she acknowledges me. She confirms my thinking that a new phone would be in order and, hey!, we are eligible for $100 off a new phone since our plan expired. So Karen is stoked. But we still have to talk to SALES.

And there is a queue for them. Never mind that Sales is two people sitting at the Sales Desk staring off into space. Just put that out of your mind. We mill about for a good 20 minutes before it is our turn. Rather than hand us off "warmly" as we say in the biz, we are forced to do the equivalent of hang up and call back later. We look at phones.

Rosie Greer's twin brother finally thanks us for our patience. We're in the store for close to an HOUR at this point. What I didnt process until just now is that as soon as he started talking to us, he dialed a phone number on his speaker phone. This is where it gets hairy. We can take one of the phones off the plan but only the OLD phone number. Yes, the one we have had since cell techology was invented. Because....the newer phone number shows as the primary phone. Never mind that we bought that phone two years ago. No, there is no switching them and then cancelling. I asked.Well...we could but then we wouldnt be eligible for the $100 credit. No, there is no name change and then do everything else. We must do the plan change and THEN mail in a form to change the name which takes about two weeks. Meanwhile, Rosie is still on hold. So, we are going to lose our original phone number but get a new phone. Rosie had to fill out a form AND talk to the Verizon person at the other end of the phone who finally picked up to DO ALL OF THE TRANSACTIONS! Why we needed to actually BE IN THE STORE remains a mystery for the ages. And, of course!, I had to go through the same thing with the woman on the phone.

90 minutes. At the end...Rosie says that the old number will cycle through the system for 48 hours. On Friday, he will look for us to see if it shows up. He will then change the number for us! We thanked him. I was on the verge of weeping. I am leaving a lot out. There was second greeter. Heard him tell a customer that they should drop their phone in water to get a new one. Skippy gave us his thoughts on which phones were subjectively better than others. Rosie did the same thing and I pretty sure he told us the opposite of Skippy. Regardless, the one Skippy liked was sold out. Come saw that coming!

I just can't believe how totally BROKEN this whole experience was from start to finish. This should have taken us ten minutes. It took 90. We should have had one person help us, not the 6 that actually talked to us. The people in the store need to be tied into the same system that they have to call to get the changes/activations made! And that system needs to be flexible enough to do a simple name change. We weren't asking for anything crazy. Its a database. Change the data in the fields! Take down the check in desk. If it is easier to do it online...TELL ME! I will go home and do it and feel better about you. Dont let me jerk around in your store for 90 minutes while you dont make any money off of us! What is the point?!?

Anyway...because our night was ruined I decided to call the cable company and tell them I was switching to satellite. I can get a better deal (more channels and two TiVo's) for $35 LESS than what I am paying now. Uh....why wouldnt I do that? Anyway...cable wouldnt match. They gave me more channels but no extra TiVo for the same price I am paying now. I explained to the nice lady that I was LEAVING as a customer. Didn't phase her.

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