Verizon Customer Service Failure

My mom has been a Verizon customer for several years. So have I. We may not be for much longer, though. My step-dad passed away last week. Part of the insane amount of paperwork that needed to be done to finalize his affairs was to turn off his mobile phone and put the account under mom’s name. She also wanted to add a line to her account and put my sister’s phone on her account. To get this all accomplished, they headed over to a local Verizon store. Here’s are two of the many things that went wrong trying to complete the goals …

My mom has been a Verizon customer for several years. So have I. We may not be for much longer, though.

My step-dad passed away last week. Part of the insane amount of paperwork that needed to be done to finalize his affairs was to turn off his mobile phone and put the account under mom’s name. She also wanted to add a line to her account and put my sister’s phone on it. To get this all accomplished, they headed over to a local Verizon store.

Here are two of the many things that went wrong trying to complete the goals:

  • There were several computer glitches during the process of turning off the one phone and transferring the accounts. At one point, the person helping mom was on the phone, presumably to Verizon’s tech support team. At one point, whoever he was talking to hung up. The guy looked at my mom and told her the person cussed at him and hung up before the problem was fixed.
  • While using my mom’s phone on speaker, the guy at the store was talking to another person from Verizon. The Verizon person said there was something outstanding on the account having something to do with an item that was sent in for warranty service and a replacement was sent back but there was no record of Verizon receiving the defective item. This was something that happened almost a year ago. The item in question was shipped to Verizon before the replacement was sent, so it was hard to understand what the problem was. The person from Verizon said (while on speaker, mind you), “Let’s assume for a minute the customer isn’t lying about this.”

At this point, my mom took the phone from the store person, hung up and walked out.

So, let’s review:

  • A member of the tech team charged with helping the stores function verbally abused one of the people who work hard to support the customers who, ultimately, pay their salaries.
  • A member of another team charged with helping those same store personnel accused a customer of lying about a transaction right in front of the customer.

Needless to say, my mom was pretty ticked off when she got home. She was in the store for 3 1/2 hours and accomplished nothing. As she relayed her story to me, I got pretty ticked off myself. I decided to sent out a tweet:

Screen shot of first tweet to Verizon.


I got a reply fairly quickly:

Screen shot of reply tweet.


To which I replied:

Screen shot of my reply to Verizon's tweet.


Which elicited this response:

Screen shot of other reply from Verizon.


At this point, I thought to myself that we might be able to get some issues settled. So, I followed and DMed. Here’s the conversation that ensued:

6 2015-03-19_22-19-51


I thought the link they DM’d to me would be some sort of easy way to communicate with the “Correspondence Team.” The link actually led to the regular “Contact Us” page on Verizon.com. I went over it several times and couldn’t find an email address or a form with which to submit my complaint – only phone numbers and live chat. I didn’t have time to deal with a phone tree or a live chat.

My last DM received no response.

What were the problems here? There were several:

  • The tech team member was verbally abusive to the store team member – What is up with that? Both of these people are really on the same team – the Verizon team. This is certainly a leadership issue. You cannot expect good team members to stay good or stay with you if you allow this type of behavior. The team members will either leave or become so disillusioned that they will be ineffective; neither of which is a good option. The fact that this was done in front of customers made this even worse.
  • Another support team member accused a customer of lying while the customer was standing there listening – Anyone who has worked with customers has been tempted to complain about them with their coworkers. It’s one thing to wait until the customer leaves and then go into the back room to blow off some steam. It’s quite another to do so right in front of the person. This is another leadership issue. This type of demonstrated bad attitude needs to be quickly dealt with before business is lost. All it takes is one incident to lose that customer and, potentially, anyone who that customer tells.
  • There was no follow through on the customer complaint – I’ve written in this space before that you cannot limit the ways you are willing to communicate to customers. I preferred to email my complaint to Verizon, but it appeared that I was not able to do so. That is a huge problem, especially for a media company that provides email service. The fact that no one responded to my last DM was also an issue.
  • The Social Media team was not empowered or equipped to handle the problem – This is related to the previous issue. When I read, “… so we can report their behavior” I rather expected some action. There was none.
    • I understand that there may be a third party vendor monitoring Verizon’s social media. That’s pretty standard and a good practice. If that’s the case, it’s understandable that the people responding on Twitter are not equipped to handle email from customers. If that is the case, though, there should be procedures in place to escalate complaints and allow for a smooth transition between the social media team and those who are able to deal with issues. That can be done in a way that’s nearly transparent to the customer.
    • On the other hand, if the social media team is part of Verizon, then this is completely inexcusable.
    • The people who have front-line contact with customers need to be empowered and equipped to handle issues or have a clear way to escalate customers’ problems to those who are.

So, maybe someone at Verizon will read this and do something about these issues. They may lose my and my mom’s business, but maybe they can make some changes and keep their other customers.

Update: Someone at AT&T is on the ball. Within minutes of me tweeting out a link to this story, I received this response:
Screen shot of tweeted response from AT&T


Too opportunistic? Perhaps. Maybe I’ll check them out a little closer as I look for another provider.

To Sell Is Human by Daniel H. Pink – Book Review

According to statistics Daniel Pink shares at the beginning of To Sell Is Human, 1 out of 9 workers in the United States are classified as being in “sales.” This is a large percentage of the workforce, especially compared to other job classifications. In reality, though, that number is much higher. The reason for that is everyone is involved in sales, whether you are formally employed as a salesperson or not. Think about it: If every person who works for an organization represents the brand, then they are all selling whether they realize it or not …

Cover Shot of "To Sell Is Human" by Daniel H. PinkAccording to statistics Daniel Pink shares at the beginning of To Sell Is Human, 1 out of 9 workers in the United States are classified as being in “sales.” This is a large percentage of the workforce, especially compared to other job classifications. In reality, though, that number is much higher. The reason for that is everyone is involved in sales, whether you are formally employed as a salesperson or not. Think about it: If every person who works for an organization represents the brand, then they are all selling whether they realize it or not.

It’s interesting how many different ways we are all selling at some point or another:

  • If you’re an entrepreneur, especially running a small startup, you’re constantly selling your business to investors, potential customers and potential partners or employees
  • If you’re working in a large business, you are selling an idea or a plan for a project
  • If you’re an employee, you’re selling your boss on the idea to give you a promotion or a raise
  • If you’re looking for a job, you’re selling your potential boss on why you are a good fit for the organization.

This list can go on forever, but you get the idea.

In To Sell Is Human, the author takes us from this premise, and then shows us the different ways we all can be better at selling. No matter what it is from actual products to ideas, if you have to sell it you can always do it better. Pink goes through many different specific ways to help us sell better, including getting some improv theater techniques.

It was all very interesting and I learned quite a bit. I never considered myself much of a salesperson, which is why I never tried to get a true sales job. But it’s really not all that hard either – especially when you realize you’ve been doing it all along.

The bottom line, though, is that the most successful sales technique is to be a “servant” seller. The idea behind this is to help the person to whom you are trying to sell something solve a problem. The best sellers take the time to understand what the customer needs, what their pain points are and then introduce them to the product or service that will help them best. Sometimes the customer doesn’t realize that several problems are related. When you help piece the puzzle together and help make their jobs or lives better, you have not only won the sale, but you’ve won the relationship. Each relationship you build can multiply into others as you get a reputation for being a problem solver rather than “just a salesperson.”

This was a very good book. It’s well-written, interesting and even humorous at times. The stories are very illustrative of what Mr. Pink is trying to get across. For example: Did you know there are still Fuller Brush people out there selling? I didn’t. I still have a lint brush that my mom acquired from the last Fuller Brush person I can remember from the early 80s. As of the writing of this book, one man was still active in San Francisco. Some of the things he’s learned over the years are invaluable.

I recommend this book to anyone involved in business – and this goes doubly for those who are like me and don’t think they are very good at sales.

To Sell Is Human – The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink (Amazon Affiliate link).

DISCLAIMER: I won this book from a drawing I entered when Mr. Pink was interviewed on the EntreLeadership Podcast. This is, however, my true opinion of the work.

Jay Baer – Keynote – Pubcon Vegas 2014

I’ve been listening and reading stuff by Jay Baer for quite a while. When he appeared on Warren Whitlock’s podcast a couple weeks ago talking about “Youtility,” it was quite intriguing. I’m glad I got to hear more about this concept during Jay’s keynote address on Thursday during Pubcon Vegas 2014. Here are the notes I took …

I’ve been listening and reading stuff by Jay Baer for quite a while. When he appeared on Warren Whitlock‘s podcast a couple weeks ago talking about “Youtility,” it was quite intriguing. I’m glad I got to hear more about this concept during Jay’s keynote address on Thursday during Pubcon Vegas 2014. Here are the notes I took:

Youtility – Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype

  • Being a great marketer is harder than ever
  • 3 enormous obstacles to great marketing
    • Reach is fragmented
      • TV shows went from over 30% of viewership in 1979 to less than 7% in 2014
      • People spend more time looking at “computer” screens than TV screens. This is both good and bad news.
      • People are doing their own things, so it’s harder than ever to get their attention
    • Marketing and customer service has collided
      • Customers are passive-aggressive with their complaints.
      • Reviews and complaints are now marketing – (think about the Zero Moment of Truth)
      • Customer service is now a spectator sport
    • Competition for attention is tougher
      • There’s no such thing as keeping “professional” and “personal” lives separate online any more
      • Your competition is everything.
      • It’s not about if you’re better at marketing than your competitor, your marketing competition is the rest of the world
      • Think about your Facebook feed – posts from friends and family intermixed with posts by companies.
    • What do marketers do?
      • Stop being amazing and start being useful
      • The difference between helping and selling is just 2 letters
        • You can sell something and make a customer for today
        • Or, you can help someone and make them a customer for life
        • Stop thinking “right now” and start thinking long term
      • A great example of this is @HiltonSuggests – people strategically eavesdrop and helping people randomly. They’re helping people even if they are not Hilton guests – using staff time and staff resources.
      • Think about helping without getting an immediate reward/return
    • Youtility is marketing so useful, people would pay for it.
      • Make marketing something people cherish instead of marketing something people tolerate
      • Example: TweetPee – an app in test marketing that will send a tweet when it’s time to change baby’s diaper.
      • People love “youtility” so search engines love “youtility”
      • “Youtility” requires great courage
        • Example of this is the Clorox myStainApp.
          • Tells you the answer to getting stains out of your clothes, and that answer isn’t always Clorox
          • The idea is to make this something people will keep on their phone – so it needed to be more than a complicated brochure or a coupon dispenser
        • Lowes has their “Fix in Six” content marketing series that helps people solve everyday problems quickly.
      • 3 Ways to Create Youtility
        • Self-service information
          • In 2010 the average consumer needed 5.3 sources of information before making a purchase. In 2011, it was up to 10.4.
          • As a consumer, if you make a bad decision today, you’re just lazy
          • There is just too much information available these days at your fingertips
          • “I don’t know” is no longer an acceptable answer – just google it.
          • Share your expertise online (Be That Expert)
          • Relationships are created with information first, people second
          • The better you teach, the more you’ll sell
        • Transparency and Humanity
        • Real time relevancy
          • You’re much better off being massively useful in limited situations rather than a little useful a lot
          • Example: Scrabble wifi hotspots
          • It doesn’t have to be high-budget. Use IFTTT to send out useful information on Twitter like the Corchoran Group in NYC
        • Great Youtility can transcend the transaction
        • How to Create Youtility
          • Focus on what people REALLY need
          • We are surrounded by data, but staved for insights
          • Content is fire, social media is gasoline – use social media to attract attention to your content, not your brand
        • Youtility is a process, not a project!
          • This is not magic – it takes hard work
          • Inspiration doesn’t respond to meeting requests
          • You can’t schedule greatness
          • Example: RunPee – tells you when it’s safe to run out to the restroom during lulls in movies

Check out Jay’s Book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype (Amazon Affiliate link). I’ve got it on my reading list.

When I got home from Pubcon, I listened to the EntreLeadership podcast that I downloaded over the week. Wouldn’t you know it, Jay Baer just happened to give a great summary of his book in an interview with host, Ken Coleman. Check it out.

How Not To Respond to Criticism – Online Reputation Management Lesson

Since starting with Rockfish over two years ago, much of my work effort has been devoted to online reputation management (ORM). It is a fascinating area of online marketing, to say the least. Because of my work in this field, I keep my eyes open for stories related to ORM and how brands handle managing their online reputation. Most of what I see, though, shows the negative side of how businesses, brands and people react when faced with negative reviews online. A recent “bad news” sighting involved a restaurant in France about which a blogger posted a negative report on her personal website …

Since starting with Rockfish over two years ago, much of my work effort has been devoted to online reputation management (ORM). It is a fascinating area of online marketing, to say the least.

Because of my work in this field, I keep my eyes open for stories related to ORM and how brands handle managing their online reputation. Most of what I see, though, shows the negative side of how businesses, brands and people react when faced with negative reviews online.

A recent “bad news” sighting involved a restaurant in France about which a blogger posted a negative report on her personal website. What was interesting about this incident wasn’t that the lady was sued. No, we see that all the time. What really caught my eye about this case was that the court ordered the blogger to change the title of her post because it showed up prominently in Google for branded searches on the name of the restaurant. Instead of holding the restaurant owner responsible for his own web marketing, the court blamed the blogger and left it to her to help clean up the restaurant’s online reputation.

I am not surprised the restaurant owner sued. This is often the knee-jerk reaction of many when faced with what they feel are unjustified negative attacks on their business. I’m also not too surprised at the judge’s ruling. Many in the legal profession are woefully ignorant of how the web works, especially in the area of search.

I believe what’s needed is for business owners, brand managers and others to understand that the person primarily responsible for their online reputation is the person they look at in the  mirror every morning. I’m reminded of a story Scott Stratten told (I think it may have been in an episode of the Unpodcast earlier this year). A friend asked Scott to help with what he called a “Yelp problem.” There were several bad reviews posted on Yelp that outlined the shortcomings of his restaurant. Scott visited the establishment one evening and found, from his own experience, that the reviews were pretty much on the mark. Scott told his friend that he didn’t have a “Yelp Problem,” he had a “service/food/pricing” problem.

That brings up one of the most important aspects of ORM: What you do offline affects what is said about you online.

According to the Techdirt article I linked to above, this particular restaurant had 190 Yelp reviews with a 1.2-star rating. Do you think that maybe the restaurant had more online reputation issues than just this one? That low a rating with that many reviews would cause me to think twice before visiting. Why didn’t the restaurant owner sue Yelp? I guess Yelp wasn’t showing in search results as much as you might see in search results in the U.S.

Instead of using bad reviews as the scapegoat for his issues, that restaurant owner could have tapped into the collective consciousness of his customers to see what they liked and didn’t like about his establishment. Armed with that information, he could have made changes that would have made him the envy of the restaurant world – well, at least his little slice of the world. If the owner had spent more of his time and effort on improving the food and service of his restaurant instead of putting that time and effort into a lawsuit he could have built his business the old-fashioned way: By providing his customers with what they want while providing a superior experience.

It’s not the bloggers fault that the restaurant has problems. The restaurant owner needs to look into the mirror and to see who’s really at fault … and who has the power the fix whatever is wrong.

QR Codes Kill Kittens by Scott Stratten – Book Review

Scott Stratten, the man behind the Unmarketing website and podcast and author of Unmarketing and The Book of Business Awesome/The Book of Business Unawesome, has done is again with his newest book, QR Codes Kill Kittens (Amazon Affiliate link). This is a funny, irreverent book full of truths about brands who misuse technology to their detriment.

Cover shot of "QR Codes Kill Kittens" by Scott StrattenScott Stratten, the man behind the Unmarketing website and podcast and author of Unmarketing and The Book of Business Awesome/The Book of Business Unawesome, has done is again with his newest book, QR Codes Kill Kittens (Amazon Affiliate link).  This is a funny, irreverent book full of truths about brands who misuse technology to their detriment.

Despite the title of the book, Scott does not believe the QR codes actually kill kittens. Cute animals are only killed when QR codes (and other technologies) are used without a plan and without thinking through how they should be used. I’ve written about the promise of QR codes in the past, and I still believe they can be used successully. Just like anything else, though, the user needs to have a plan and know the benefits and limitations of them.

Here it is in Scott’s own words:

http://youtu.be/qVhUqfd5SI0

That’s the video you see if you scan the QR code on the front of the book.

“Chuck Norris of QR Codes?” I think he can do it.

QR Codes Kill Kittens is not the normal business book. It’s more of a picture book showing examples of what Scott is trying to teach to do (or not to do). That makes the book not only very entertaining, but a quick read from which you can get a lot of great information very quickly.

The bottom line lesson of the book: Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Quit going after the latest shiny object and work your marketing using technology properly and with a goal in mind.

In the article I linked to above, I offered an example of how QR codes could be used effectively. Another example comes from my son’s high school. The school’s officials know that all the kids are carrying mobile devices capable of being on the internet. They have free WiFi for all the students and let them use their phones as they normally would. Almost every poster promoting an event, club or school information has a QR code on it. When I visited the school for the first time, I scanned a few. They all led to mobile-friendly pages allowing students to get more information or even sign up.

Lastly, I highly recommend Scott’s new “Unpodcast” weekly online show. In each podcast, he teams up with Alison Kramer to bring you the best and the worst of brands. I laugh out loud at least once during each episode – and I learn a bit, too. I download it and listen to it when I’m riding on the train – and it makes the trip go by very quickly.

QR Codes Kill Kittens (Amazon Affiliate link) – a funny book full of great lessons on how to use (or not use) technology. Anyone involved in marketing in any capacity should get this one.

Disclaimer: Even though I received a copy of this book at no cost to me, this is my honest opinion of the work.