$100 Fine for Bad Customer Service

PublicidadI’ve written about good customer service in the past, highlighting my excellent experience with L.L. Bean. I’ve postulated that quality customer service is actually free, because the incremental sales more than make up for “excessive” talk time and refunds/credits granted by your customer service representatives.

Here’s a trivially-observed example of what lousy customer service will cost you.  In this example, from Verizon, it’s a minimum of $100.

The saga unfolds after the break.

We made the switch to Verizon FiOS in December, after waiting for years.  It’s a terrific product, with great HD picture quality, and speedy and stable high-speed Internet access.  The installer was excellent and courteous and made sure everything was working perfectly before he left.

The ability of Verizon to handle an easy premium offer (the infamous HD Free TV offer)?  Not so much.

I’ve been working email and phone conversations with Verizon since January trying to get my $200 Best Buy gift card, which I selected in lieu of the 19″ HDTV.  Since then, I’ve amassed a string of emails with the Verizon executive escalation team which have gone unanswered since January.

Finally, in frustration, I resorted to The Consumerist‘s list of Verizon executive contacts and sent an email to Ivan Seidenberg on Friday at 5:30.

Talk about quick reaction!

At Monday at 9:30, I received a call from a very nice young man who was very apologetic and who was clearly empowered to do whatever it took to make me happy.  He indicated that the $100 gift card I received in January was the first part of a win-back offer and that I’d get the other $100 in month 13.

The problem was that I never responded to a win-back offer.  I went for the FiOS triple play/free TV offer.  However, I didn’t want to get something I didn’t deserve, so I let the young man know that if they just sent me a $100 gift card, I’d consider us even and not to worry about anything else.

Of course, he had no way to give me just what was owed to me ($100 of gift cards) and had to resort to shipping out a $200 card.  I practically had to beg him not to FedEx it to me.

So Verizon will get stuck paying a $100 penalty for bad customer service, and that’s not counting the time and effort expended via the forwarding of the complaint email from Mr. Seidenberg down the food chain and the inevitable executive escalation report that will be fed back up the chain at some point.

Now, want to take a guess what I expect in January or February of 2009?  Yep, I suspect the CRM systems of Verizon have been so fouled up by the free TV offer debacle that they’ll spit out another $100 card for me.

The worst part of the whole experience actually took place yesterday afternoon.

I received a very uncomfortable call from one of my prior executive escalation contact’s supervisor.  The supervisor apologized to me for her employee’s lack of follow-up to me, and let me know it would be “handled appropriately” and that the person would be “reprimanded.”  Yecch.  It felt like one of those unconfortable visits when your neighbor’s kid hits a ball through your window and they come over with the kid’s ear in a vise grip and make them apologize.  I couldn’t get off the phone quickly enough and couldn’t believe that Verizon was treating its employees like this–both the supervisor, who clearly wasn’t comfortable making the call, and the employee.

Can you imagine how this employee–who’s a grown adult, with a mortgage, family, etc.–must feel? I wonder how far he/she will deviate from the Verizon manual going forward and actually even try to use their brain?

I also wonder what brand of bureaucratic punishment will be exacted.  Banishment from the department bowling team?  Six months of replenishing the floor candy bowl?

All it would have taken was for Verizon to have a system in place that let their employees solve customer problems the first time, even to the extent of spending a little bit of money to address the root cause.  This one resolution must have cost them in total the price of 2 or 3 TVs; multiplied by thousands, it’s got to be one of the all-time promotional disasters.

What are you doing that’s L.L. Bean-like?  What are you doing that’s Verizon-like?  More importantly, what are you doing that’s more of the former and less of the latter?

Creative Commons License photo credit: Daquella manera

2 thoughts on “$100 Fine for Bad Customer Service

  1. Mark

    The good news is that Verizon’s executive escalation team was able to get me my gift card, so good job on their end.

    Now I’ve got a Best Buy gift card burning a hole in my pocket and no idea what to do with it.

    Maybe use it toward a new wide-screen LCD monitor for my desktop? Hmmm…

    1. Jeff Lopata

      Great article Mark. I enjoyed reading it. I have had dozens of situations that mirror your experience and few that have had the experience a consumer would expect. Today is a great day in that I just sent an e-mail to the higher-ups at First Niagara Bank who is handling my new mortgage. The branch loan officer was not the best and offered little to distinguish First Niagara from any other bank despite her office loaded with “Loan Officer of the Year” for what seemed to be every year since 1977. I stuck with them due to time constraints. Once it reached their processing center and underwriting, what a difference. I got a processing associate that was the center of everything from that point on. Her name is Nancy Zatko out of Rochester, NY. Nancy handled all communications between underwriting, loan officer, lawyers, …. she was prompt and truly seemed excited to be helping customers making a big decision in their life. I can’t begin to tell you what a relief it was to have someone who not only is empowered to create a great customer experience, but someone who is not afraid to exercise it. I don’t write very many positive letters to any company about amazing experiences (I’ve only written one other in my life). To your point of cost for customer experience, Nancy may have invested a little more in providing good customer service but I have already informed 3 people (today alone) about my experience with First Niagara and plan to continue my advocacy. This small investment will return many dividends to that company. As you probably know, ROI on service not something that is easily measured but make no mistake about it, proof is in the experience.


Leave a Reply