Friday, June 24, 2011

Press One if You Want to Speak With One of Our &*%#&$ Representatives- Why Poor Customer Service is a PR #Fail

     It isn’t very easy to blog when your internet service provider isn’t very reliable.  And that’s apparently the case here at the palatial corporate headquarters of SteveBauerMedia. For some reason, our Verizon DSL has been down more than it’s been up for the past few weeks. We’ve made lots of calls to customer service- always getting the same response- “We’re working on it.” I’m not talking about 20 minute outages here. Our internet connection (and our e-mail) has been broken for days at a time. As you might have guessed- it’s down again as I write this. Trina (Mrs. SteveBauerMedia) is not given to cussing but it sure sounds like she's been shopping at the four-letter-word store.

     That’s why I got on the phone.

11:01 EDT- I get past a series of automated phone prompts by jamming my index finger into my phone’s “Operator” button while shouting, “Person!”, “Representative!”, “HELP!  For the love of God, I just want to talk to a living human being”… The computer promptly places me on hold so I can listen to soothing Musak for 10 minutes. Then I speak with Leila who informs me there is an outage of some kind. She isn’t sure when it might be fixed so I ask to speak with a supervisor. More Musak.

11:16 EDT- Mayank is very kind and explains that engineers are working on the problem. He gives me a private phone number so I can call him for updates. I patiently explain that I need internet service that actually works. The past few weeks have been filled with a hair-pulling series of service interruptions, intermittent service, painfully slow service and the all-to-often dreaded NO service. Mayunk promises to get back to me within 24 hours. Twenty four hours? That’s when I ask to speak with his supervisor. More Musak.

11:19 EDT-I’m transferred to Manog. Manog explains, once again, that Verizon technicians are on the case. Manog promises to call me in a couple of hours with an update. I tell him I sure appreciate that. But what I really want is someone who can tell me why the system keeps breaking- what’s being done to fix it- and most importantly- I want somebody to tell me that the problem is solved permanently. The casual observer might think Verizon’s equipment must be falling apart- and the company doesn’t want to spend big bucks to fix whatever’s busted. Why else would the system fail every couple of days? I also ask Manog where his office is located. Turns out he’s someplace in India. “Manog, isn’t there somebody in Central Pennsylvania I can talk to?”

11:22 EDT- Back on hold. More Infernal Musak!

11:35 EDT- Zach picks up the phone. Just out of curiosity I ask Zach where he’s located- in the Detroit area.  He sounds very, very far away. “Zach”, I say, “I can barely hear you.” Zach responds, “That’s probably because your call from Pennsylvania to India has been bounced over to Michigan.” Zach repeats the Verizon mantra- “Our people are working on it… We don’t know how long it will take… It’s a chronic problem… No, we don’t know what’s causing it.”  Zach offers to leave an “open ticket” on my issue and will call me when he knows more. Zach refers me to my local business office so I can try to get action.

11:46 EDT- I call Verizon’s Business & Sales Office and get Ms. Peterson on the line. Have you noticed that Verizon doesn’t seem to be very big on full names? Turns out this office is not really local. It’s somewhere in Central New Jersey. Verizon also doesn’t seem to give out very specific locations. I think they’re worried us villagers will grab our pitchforks and launch an attack- if only we knew where they’re hiding! Ms. Peterson has apparently had enough of customer complaints. She asks, “Do you think we do this to you on purpose?” I reply, “Well, no, I’m sure you don’t. But poor service is a problem.” Ms. Peterson puts me on hold.

11:53 EDT- On hold

12:01 EDT- On hold. At least the Musak is different. Still terrible. But different.

12:07 EDT Still waiting.

12:12 EDT- “Okay, Quit your complaining!” That’s what Ms. Peterson yells into the phone as our conversation resumes. I’m pretty sure she’s kidding. At least I hope she is. Ms. Peterson says she’s filed a formal complaint for me. She apologizes for taking so long. She had trouble finding someone willing to take the complaint. I ask, “How long will it take to get a response?” Ms. Peterson says, “Two to three weeks.” “But my internet service is down right now!” Ms. Peterson says, “I’ll transfer you to repair.” Before I can say a word, Denise comes on the line. Denise is in Pittsburgh. She says, and I am not making this up:

“What’s wrong with your phone”
“Nothing. My internet is down.”
“This is telephone repair. I can’t help you.”

     I explain to Denise what’s happened. Denise is very nice and gives me a phone number that’s a direct line to Verizon DSL.

12:14 EDT- Bathroom break. Hey, I’ve been on the phone for over an hour.

12:17 EDT- Calling Verizon DSL. More automated phone prompts. Back on Hold. Please. No MORE Musak. I’ll talk. I’ll talk!!

12:19 EDT- Sharoili answers my call. Yup, I’m back in India. Sharoili is incredibly kind. She explains that my internet service is down and that Verizon engineers are working on it. She says it must be very frustrating for me. And Sharoili says she’ll put her supervisor on the line. I decline, say thank you and end the call. Verizon, you win.


     How many times has this happened to you? It’s not just Verizon. A lot of companies treat their customers like this. But these days, reports of bad customer service travels fast- thanks to social media. Speaking of social media- #VerizonFail

      I think Verizon (and any other company) would be better served by setting up a customer service hotline staffed by people who have the authority to take action. Somebody, somewhere along the line should have said to me: 1) Here’s what’s going on. 2) Here’s what we’re doing to fix it. 3) Here’s what we’re doing to make it right- because we value our customers. I’d suggest a partial refund as a starting point. How about a free month’s service or some kind of upgrade? I tell you, my patience is running thin.

Bottom Line: 

     Years ago I was a journalist in New York City. The NYPD has a special Public Information office known as DCPI to handle calls from reporters. If I called DCPI I spoke with an experienced officer who would give me straight answers. If that officer didn’t have the necessary information he or she was empowered to find out. They returned calls immediately, paid attention to deadlines and got facts ASAP. I had a great relationship with the NYPD. Years later, I worked in Philadelphia. In the City of Brotherly Love the police did not have a special office for Public Information. Typically, I’d have to call a precinct- only to be told the officer in charge of a particular investigation was out- and wouldn’t be back for several days. No one else could (or would) help me. The Philadelphia police often came to us- hoping we’d do stories on tough cases- asking for the public’s help. Which police department do you think I was more willing to assist? Enough on my soapbox. It’s now been 24 hours and none of those Verizon supervisors have called as promised. Anyway, the phone’s ringing. It might be the guys from Comcast returning my call…

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