Customer Service: Are We Having Fun Yet?


cell phone customer serviceIsn’t modern life fun? So many labor-saving devices and new ways to communicate. And it all goes so smoothly. If you 
do have a problem with one of your convenient electronic gadgets, there are always helpful, knowledgeable customer service people standing by to help.

I spent a delightful hour-and-a half on the phone (okay, on Skype) with Verizon Customer Service. Everyone was very helpful. Sort of. Or at least I’m sure they were trying to be.

The backstory: for several years, I’ve had a family plan for cell phones for me and my two adult children. I figured paying for communication is a worthwhile expenditure. A few months ago, my son needed a new phone and decided to get a pay-as-you-go plan for himself. My daughter and I decided that she also should move to the pay-as-you-go option since it would save me about $100 per month. We didn’t want to change companies; she didn’t need a new phone; she wanted to keep her phone number; we’d been with Verizon for years and were not under contract anymore. Simple, right?

During my visit to the States last August, my daughter and I made time to go to the local Verizon store. Unfortunately, the guy at the local Verizon store didn’t have the power to set up a pay-as-you-go phone. He could cancel our existing plan, but that would mean my daughter would lose her phone number. Not a pleasant prospect. The local guy gave us a phone number to call about pay-as-you-go. I was leaving for Canada that day, so I left the resolution to my daughter.

Between August and January, my daughter tried three different times to resolve the problem. (All the while, of course, I was paying for a $120 family plan.)

  • First, her existing phone had “web-enabled” features (really just the ability to download ringtones), so it couldn’t be used for pay-as-you-go. I gave her my old phone.
  • Then, she wasn’t authorized on my account. So, on my Christmas visit, I went into a store and authorized her.
  • On her next Verizon visit, when I had gone back to Canada, they told her the last four digits of my Social Security card, which she needed to prove she was authorized, were wrong.  They weren’t. Aarghh.

During the same time period, I tried to make the changes on the Verizon website. No luck.

I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. Her phone, but my money, you know. So I Skyped Verizon Customer Service. And that’s when I began my journey through what I like to call…

The Five Stages of Customer Service Grief:
  1. Fake Outrage – You pretend to be a lot madder than you really are to get the support person’s attention. I know, it doesn’t seem fair to put some underpaid support tech through this, but it’s what we’ve been taught through painful experience: if you’re nice, you’re screwed. You need to soften them up a little to begin with. I ranted convincingly about how we’d been trying to resolve this for months and run into multiple roadblocks and how I’d been overpaying them all that time.
  2. Annoyance – That rat-in-a-maze feeling you get while getting shunted from one tech to another, and having to repeat the same story over and over because apparently they have no way of communicating with each other.
  3. Real Outrage – This comes all too predictably after the support tech you finally end up with tells you there’s nothing they can do about your past difficulties, including giving you any kind of refund. In my case, they offered me $25 for “the aggravation.” I finally convinced them my aggravation was more in the $150 range, so they agreed not to charge me for the current month’s service. Okay, my outrage began to dissipate. Moving on.
  4. Calm Acceptance – I’m ready to follow their protocols and get this done. What do I need to do to make this happen? My knowledgeable support tech told me that she couldn’t set up the pay-as-you-go plan (where have I heard that before?) She could cancel my service and then send me to TeleSales for pay-as-you-go. What about the phone number? I asked. No problem, she said. The TeleSales people could do that easy-peasy. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Go ahead and cancel my service, I said.
  5. Hilarity – I am transferred to Andrea in TeleSales, who informs me that since the account has been cancelled, she can’t sell me a phone with my daughter’s original number. WHAT? That was the whole point of this ridiculous exercise. But I’ve already done Outrage (both kinds) so all I’m left with is laughter at the cosmic jokiness of it all.

I must say, dear old Andrea came through for me. She ended up almost yelling at one of her co-workers in Billing, but she got the job done. I paid my bill; they sent my daughter a new phone (I wasn’t going to make her go to a Verizon store yet again).

And both Andrea and I had a good laugh when I asked “Are we having fun yet?”

I know this has happened to you. Sometimes our best stories come from unpleasant experiences. Care to share?

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