No Telecom Service in a Service Based Economy – Misery and Myth

Preface: I amdelighted to Have Andrea Gabor back to complete the story of the unrelentingmisery of dealing with telecom providers on the Isle of Manhattan. In thisblog, Andrea takes a look at reinstating service with Verizon after a dalliancewith Time Warner. Andrea is a terrific author, with a focus on quality startingwith her book, The Man Who DiscoveredQuality: How W. Edwards DemingBrought the Quality Revolution to America – The Stories of Ford, Xerox, and GM.I invite all readers to check out her blog at follow aagabor@twitter .Thanks again Andrea,

Trauma in Telecom Land, Part 2

Andrea Gabor
How Verizon Treats its Customers: 1 Month, a Dozen Calls and $310 to Get Service RestoredIn a recent blog post, “Why I Tried…and Failed…to Fire Verizon”, I described the systemic screw-ups and service break-downs that led me to try to switch my phone and internet service from Verizon to Time Warner, and the systemic screw-ups and misleading sales tactics (thanks to boneheaded pay incentives) that convinced me to stick with Verizon, on the the-devil-you-know-is-better-than-the-one-you-don’t theory.

Having abandoned my efforts to fire Verizon and switch to Time Warner, I encountered yet another breathtaking breakdown in quality and service as I tried to reactivate my Verizon account. My fling with Time Warner lasted only three hours, in which an able and courteous Time-Warner technician tried, unsuccessfully, to switch my service to the competition. But that brief flirtation cost me phone and internet service for almost a month. Moreover reactivating the internet service proved so complicated that I couldn’t get it to work without hiring an independent computer consultant!

The hiatus in which I had to rely on my cell phone and broadband wireless device were marked by over a dozen calls to Verizon over a one-week period and a mind-boggling number of systemic snafus on the company’s part. It turned out that the earliest date Verizon could give me for reactivation was three weeks from the day I said my tearful goodbyes to Time Warner. I was, understandably, anxious to avoid any mishaps. So I phoned the company three days before the scheduled appointment, only to be told that it was a good thing I had called because my service order had “not been completed” and, had I not called, no one would have showed up.

Peter W. Thonis, Verizon’s communicator-in-chief, received a communicator-of-the-year award in 2010, but wouldn’t communicate with me

On January 23, the day of my appointment, a Verizon technician arrived at my home. After less than 10 minutes, in which he placed a few calls to Verizon’s central office, but seemed to perform no work inside my home, he explained that the service really needed to be switched on from Verizon’s central office. That might take as much as 24 hours.

Was there really nothing more for him to do, I asked, baffled as to why I had to wait for three weeks and stay home to await the technician if, in fact, all the work was done from a remote office.

No, he reassured me, there was nothing more to do but wait.

Sure enough, about 24 hours later, the phones were working again. Although, my answering service, which I had, in the past contracted from Verizon, had disappeared. Clearly this would involve more phone calls and more bureaucracy. Sigh.

A bigger problem was that my internet service wasn’t working either. When I checked back with the company, I was told that a mistake had been made (how many was this now?) and Verizon had not initiated the transfer process. After four phone calls (I was disconnected twice) and 1.5 hours on the phone with a technician, I still didn’t have internet service, but was told that someone else would phone me the following morning to resolve the problem. Instead, that same night, I received an email from Verizon, notifying me that they had received my CANCELLATION order, effective Jan. 30. CANCELLATION—I had just spent one month trying to RESTORE my service!!

The cruelest joke of all was that the cancellation notice came with the following reassurance: “We will hold your current email address and your User ID for you for 30 days from the date of this message. That way, coming back is easy!”

It turned out that returning to Verizon’s fickle embrace would be anything but easy. The following morning, I called Verizon again and was told that I would have to wait several more days as this “new order” was processed.

Since I had already been without internet for a month, and since the error was clearly Verizon’s, could they not expedite my service, I asked the friendly service rep on the phone.

“Certainly, madam, I will make every effort to have your service expedited,” said the impeccably polite technician who I ascertained was located in Verizon’s Philippine service center. In the ensuing days, I made a grand tour of Verizon service centers—in the Philippines, in India, in Ireland, and eventually New York– speaking to easily a dozen technicians, all of them unfailingly polite and helpful. But, as the week wore on, no one seemed able to reactivate my internet service. Nor could any of them explain why; most seemed as baffled by the problem as I was. At around Day Four, I started tweeting about the problems again; when Verizon’s social media folks got involved, they enlisted the company’s New York-based service center. Now, perhaps, the company would take this issue seriously, I thought, mistakenly assuming that Verizon’s New York crew would succeed where their far-flung global colleagues had failed.

Technicians at Verizon’s far-flung service centers were unfailingly polite… but were baffled by the company’s faulty systems

But after a full week of fruitless efforts to get my internet service turned on, I completely lost whatever shred of faith I had left in the company. So, on Jan. 30, I recruited Vladimir Sokolov (aka Vlad), the trusted computer consultant who helps me with my most vexing tech issues. Vlad spent 3.5 hours on the phone with Verizon technicians. He finally got the system working, despite Verizon’s best efforts, it seemed…and without ever getting an explanation from Verizon as to why they had so much trouble “reactivating me.”

“Verizon is a big and disjointed company,” explained Vlad who has done work for me on-and-off over the course of several years. “It seems that the sales department doesn’t know what customer service department is doing, and both are clueless about what the technical department is doing.”
For example, Vlad figured out that Verizon doesn’t have a procedure for reinstating old customers. They treat every returning customer as a new customer. The fact that I already had a Verizon footprint—see aforementioned User ID and email address in the cancellation notice–seems to have made it harder, not easier, for me to get reinstated.

To make matters worse, Verizon seems to have a policy of not telling customers what’s going on. “For some puzzling reason Verizon feels that it should not tell the customer exactly what happened,” concluded Vlad. “It is frustrating that Verizon doesn’t have a policy of open and honest communication with its customers. This misguided need for secrecy is very often a cause for confused customers and delays in fulfilling orders.”

Of course, Verizon isn’t the only company that obfuscates and misleads its customers; that is, after all, why I ended my brief flirtation with Time Warner.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I was not content to patiently troll Verizon service-centers around the world, charming as the technical-service people were. Even as I turned to Vlad for help, I decided to go straight to the top and sent an email to Peter W. Thonis, Verizon’s communicator-in-chief. His official title is Chief Communications Officer. However, Mr. Thonis chose not to communicate with me, and did not respond to several email messages pleading for help.

Thanks to Vlad, I am now reconnected to Verizon, at least until I can find an adequate alternative and recover from my latest telecom trauma. Vlad’s bill for reinstating my Verizon internet: $310. I guess the best you can say about Verizon technology and service is that it keeps competent guys like Vlad in business.

Next challenge: Get my voice mail back…

To read more by Andrea Gabor, please visit or follow aagabor@twitter for periodic musings on the state of American business, education reform, the consumer experience, women in the workplace and food—how it is grown, cooked and eaten. A systems thinker since I wrote my first book, The Man Who Discovered Quality by W. Edwards Deming, most of my ideas and writing are informed by a systems view of the world.

Wes Chapman
Written by Wes Chapman

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