Verizon, Verizon, Who Art Thou, Verizon?

Verizon Wireless has been my mobile carrier of choice for over a decade.  Yet, in recent years, I have experienced increasingly poor customer service, deteriorating communication, fractious education for customers, and draconian oversight of new smart phone technology which hinders client choice and product development.  In addition, in the stores, I have experienced repeated abuses which I can only describe as deceptive sales practices by its employees.  Its redeeming area of quality, customer service, has also had its star wane as it adopts strategies which protect and seem to add insult to the injury brought by the youthful sales teams within the stores likely competing for commissions.

To be honest, I have never had another mobile carrier. For years, well, I simply believed mobile devices were electronic leashes on people. I did not even own a cell phone until, gosh, 2002? One year before I moved to San Diego, I felt it was important that clients were able to reach me during “business hours” even when I was not at my desk.

I polled everyone I knew before I selected Verizon. I looked at the competition, read reviews, visited the store, and listened to the advice of the technologically advanced and those within the silicon forest, many who were clients of mine.

Verizon sales people, at that time, were able to help me select an appropriate phone, prepare me when I moved, and it was simple. But, that clearly was before “smart phones”.

Since that initial positive experience, I insisted on getting my mother a mobile phone as well as my dad since they were not always home. Then, there was the “special friend” or an employee, then mobile “devices” appeared and smart phones. I now, personally use three devices, and have several additional lines in my account. Some people would call these lines part of a family plan. I call it convenient, but rife with frustration.

In recent years, the professional experience with the sales force at local stores of Verizon have been deteriorating. The individuals look the part, but when I ask questions, they only provide the specific information to my question, without educating or providing additional guidance or information which could improve my selection or enhance my decision making process.

Through this lack of full disclosure, several years back I lost my unlimited data when someone in my “family plan” unknowingly upgraded his line. In the next few months, I received an e-mailed letter but those letters were never very clear about what was changing, only what was not being provided.

In recent years, I have been strongly urged by Verizon personnel to purchase a Jetpack (one more line) when I already had one or two devices which would provide the same service. I appreciate the importance of sales. Heck, I’m in sales. But, I only sell what a client wants or needs after I have determined what they already have, engaged and learned what they are hoping to create, and then I offer several solutions that might provide the client their best experience and most effective use of their hard earned and invested dollars.

Sadly, this is the not the kind of experience I receive or have received in recent years. And, sadly, it seems to have infected customer service in Verizon, which for years would fix the mistakes of overzealous sales people in the stores.

A few months ago, I upgraded my phone and the customer service person did an “up sell” on an additional product. That wasn’t the issue for me. The issue for me was that he also created an additional line when the “up sell” component simply upgraded another mobile device at the same time.

When I arrived home not 15 minutes later, I contacted customer service and addressed the issue. I complained about the deceptive sales practice which started a new line, and would even cost $150 more dollars to end it.

The customer service person acknowledged the error. And, for three months, I did not see the line. Now, today, upon reviewing my bill (and I know everyone reviews their monthly bill, right?) I notice the number is back and a billing for the number has begun.

I attempt to reach customer service online, they won’t respond because they simply are too busy. I called customer service and went through the prompts, and then transferred to a department where I was promptly disconnected.

I understand that Verizon is the gorilla of mobile networks and services. Clearly, they have an international reputation for aggressively growing their brand and market share. Yet, do they need to be the bully in the playground? They could be the most loved and most profitable mobile carrier in America.

Their lack of professional training of the younger under-trained sales force in stores, who much of the time simply see employment at Verizon as an alternative to working at H&M. The lack of flexibility of managers with contracts near their end. It is one thing to up sell and increase purchases. Quite another to get someone to purchase something they did not even know they were purchasing.

Mobile services have become an important utility of our every day life. There are fewer and fewer mobile options available for Americans, now that AT&T owns Cricket, and more consolidation in the industry is expected. Yet, internationally, there will continue to be competition.

Verizon Wireless would do well to reconsider their communication, their sales training and the experience of their customers, along with the process for identifying the level of understanding and education of its customers as part of its process for purchasing.

With history as the guide, I would think Verizon would worry about someone calling them the new “Ma Bell”. Cause with that kind of title, all sorts of legal entertainment occurs with our government. And, when you are seen as the bully on the playground, no one really feels bad when the government starts to evaluate (spelled “audit”) your performance.

To be fair, as I post this, it is likely that Verizon Wireless will reach out to me.  And, since I am a man who values fairness as one of my highest values, I will update you to how Verizon might respond to my complaints.

Verizon, you were my favorite company because you eagerly pursued me.  Now, that you have my commitment, it feels I am in an abusive relationship, with contractual changes that I have no way to counter or modify.  How can this be a successful partnership or one that can be long-lasting?  Are you able to change now that you are the biggest in the play ground?  Or will you choose to bask in your success, just like Ma Bell did for years, until the early 1980’s.

Can anyone direct me to the governmental agency where I can express my concerns about my wireless carrier?