Verizon Support & Sales – A Mixed Bag

I don’t seem to have good luck with Verizon’s self-service.  Back in April this year, I started getting notified that my contract (for Fios) was expiring, inviting me to come online and look at options.  I followed this, and here’s what I saw.

First, I see this waiting message:

Verizon Loading Message

And after a second or two, I get redirected to this:

Verizon Error Message

The URL in the browser is https://www22.verizon.com/FORYOURHOME/GOFLOW/Common/LocalBusinessOfficeSR.aspx?Message=BTNNQ-CSR.

Now, having been a Web developer for some years, I tried all the normal stuff that I could do on the client–different browsers, clearing cookies, restarting–all to no avail. It is pretty clearly a server-side error.

So I finally caved and reached out to Verizon support (email). Their initial response was basically “why don’t you call in?”  Well, because I like to see the options in black and white in front of me.  And ironically, when I later was talking to a rep, she suggested that I don’t have to make up my mind now–I could go online and see the same options. 🙂

After this, I reached out to the (apparently) only capable folks on frontline Verizon Support, @VerizonSupport. They’ve gotten me out of jams a couple times, when dealing with the regular support folks doesn’t help. And they effectively did help, even if it took a few days.  They got the case to the dev team quickly, and it was resolved in a reasonable amount of time. Great!

Problem solved!?  Well, temporarily, it seems. The other day I saw the ad for “Quantum,” which is the new insanely speedtacular options for Fios.  So I thought I’ll go check those out, and I had deja vu–the same process, same error above.

I reached out to @VerizonSupport (via DM–we’re old pals now), and they’re looking into it.  Will update this post with the result of that (actually I’m posting in part to help them–so they can see the error exactly and pass it on)..

Resolved! 14 Aug 2012: Yesterday I could successfully log in and look at my options.  That did not, in my case, solve it for me, as the online tool wouldn’t let me switch to a no-TV option, but hey, the bug was fixed in short order!

Diversion – Interesting Sales Antics Vol. 1

So I was a little impatient to learn about my high speed options. I’ve also more or less decided (with wifey’s support) to ditch “cable” TV and just go straight internets. This happily coincided with the new speed offerings, so I called into 1-800-VERIZON to ask what my options are. The helpful rep gave me some prices and bundling options–of course, it seems like a better deal to keep Fios TV.  For just $N more, you get a BAGILLION HD channels.  Yeah, well, the thing is, I just don’t use all those BAGILLION channels, and I won’t.  And it’s just more stuff…

Anyhow, I said thanks and that I’d think about the options.  I called back later (this was Saturday), and I talked to a nice fella who was eager to help me change from a TV+Internet bundle to a, get this, more expensive internet only bundle. Can you guess what he said to me?

“I see that you signed up not long ago for a 2-year contract for the TV+Internet bundle. Unfortunately, when I try to remove the TV, it tells me an early termination fee will be incurred ($200+). I can’t seem to get an override…”

What? You mean to tell me that I’m offering to extend my 2-year contract to a more expensive internet only option, and you want to charge me an “early termination” fee?

I don’t blame the rep; it is, of course, “the system’s” fault. But how bass ackwards is that?  I’m currently awaiting his supervisor to get back to me as to whether or not they can override the fee.  Of course, I can keep my TV and upgrade the internet part (which is half the speed and $10 more) no problem.  *sigh*

Resolved! 14 Aug 2012: The supervisor who supposedly was going to call me back didn’t, so I called in again yesterday. The rep I spoke to there had me straightened out in less than 10 minutes. No early termination fee; the plan I asked for. Easy as pie.

The Moral

This isn’t a complete rant. I’ve been a customer on and off with Verizon for at least nine years. In fact, I worked as a consultant for them in Tampa back in 2003 (about the same time I first signed up with them 😉 ). It’s a huge company, with millions of customers, tons of legacy technology. I worked on middle tier services to get the front to talk to the back in a more friendly way.  I’m not going to pretend getting a pondering beast like that to get all the bits and pieces working together in lock step is easy.  So I am somewhat sympathetic.  That said…

I will say that as a software UX and dev professional, this experience leaves a lot wanting. I understand getting unexpected errors, but they really should have a big “get help with this” button on the page, that will start an online support case for me, sending them all the contextual error info they need to resolve it. I mean, I’m online. You have online support. Ne’er the twain shall meet?  You tell me to call?  Really?!?  (What is the “Local Business Office” anyways? You gave me a generic 800 number to call, not the local office.)  And the fact that it was supposedly fixed and showed up again with the same subpar experience…

When people get errors is the time when they’re most frustrated, and so you want to handle that very carefully and smoothly–make getting a resolution as fluid and easy as possible.  Don’t just punt and say “call us!”  Especially for folks who are already online–the context is there, just connect the dots for them.  This could have been an opportunity for Verizon to wow me (and others who are undoubtedly running into it) with how smoothly they deal with failure.  Instead, I get passed around, asking me to do extra work and effort to resolve it. Not good.

And the fact that I get significantly different levels of quality of service from their email support to their Twitter support can’t be good. Twitter is not great for resolving issues–limiting to 140 chars is just not ideal. I can only imagine it’s not ideal for their CS systems to track, either. But if we customers are taught we get better service that way, well, guess who we’ll go to when I need help?

As for the sales thing, I expect them to skip the fee; it’s just a tad wonky that it came up in the first place. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good “reason” why “the system” is acting the way it is. But the bottom line is that it’s broken. It’s not as if I’m asking to leave Verizon for another dealer. I just want to change the shape of the bits that are flowing in and out of my house.

Overall, I’d have to give a C in my quality of experience. The Twitter support is a redeeming factor–that team gets an A, especially given how they work around Twitter’s inherent limitations.

Keep working on it, Verizon.

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