Customer experience in the age of social media

Customer Experience bullhorn

Photo by miuenski

My Verizon experience last week reminded me how early some companies are in their quest for a coherent and consistent customer experience.  After having been an AT&T Wireless customer for many years, I decided to explore switching to Verizon.  I already knew Verizon’s coverage was not that strong at my home, so I decided to first get a prepaid phone to really put their coverage to the test.  And this is where my customer experience adventure begins….

Channel conflict

Are we really in the 21st century?  Do companies still offer different prices across their own channels?  Yes, apparently they do.

After doing my research on their website, I found the cheapest phone and plan I could get in order to conduct my ‘scientific’ test.  Since I did not want to wait for 2 days for the device to arrive, I decided to go to a local store and pick it up.  20 minutes later and after multiple attempts from the sales person to up-sell me to a more expensive phone, I discover that the $18 phone would cost me $45 + a $35 activation fee (no activation fee or shipping charges for buying on Verizon’s website).  I finally walk out and decide to complete this online – yes, I am this cheap…

 

Technology, technology, technology

Don’t forget the basics….Can you really afford to have a non-functioning website?

That same evening, I open up Google Chrome to place my order only to realize the Verizon website does not like Chrome, so I fire up Internet Explorer.  The moment I start the process, I keep getting pop-up windows asking me to ‘chat with an agent’.  As I am about to place my order, the website crashes, so I start over.  Guess what? I now have 2 identical orders in my inbox. So I finally decide to take them up on their offer, thinking I can resolve this with the chat agent…

 

One face to the customer….

Do I really care which department you work for?  Aren’t you representing the same company?

customer experience chatWishful thinking…As soon as I start my chat with the agent, he promptly notifies me that he is in ‘presales’, not ‘customer support’ and gives me an 800 number to call.  While the agent is still on chat with me, I try calling and enter one of my two order numbers only to get kicked out.  I try again, this time not entering any order number, and promptly embark on the next step in my adventure….

 

 The customer is a human being…

Treat me as you would like to be treated

20 minutes later, an agent comes online and by this time I am done with Verizon.  When I explain the situation, the agent responds by asking “So, you would like to cancel one of the orders?” to which I respond by “No, I want to cancel both”.  Without me even being able to utter a single word, the agent then says “In this case, I will need to transfer you to our Internet department” and promptly hangs up (i.e., ‘transfers’ me).  Really??????

 

What about the back office?

Are your processes (e.g., logistics, billing) sufficiently integrated?

customer experience logistics25 minutes later, a different agent finally comes online, and after apologizing (by of course referring to the iPhone 5 launch), says that he “will take care of it”.  At the end he adds the proverbial CYA statement “Sir, I would like to inform you that our warehouse is closed now.  There is a chance they may not see the cancellation and your orders may be shipped.  If this happens, please refuse delivery”.  It’s been 5 days, their online order tracking shows items as shipped (I should have received them 3 days ago) but with no tracking number, while my credit card statement still shows 2 charges.

 

Oh yes, let’s not forget social media

Do you really care? Do you know what people’s expectations are in social media? Do you respond in your corporate or human language?

customer experience social mediaOf course while wasting precious time during my 45-minute hold, I went to Twitter to elicit some sort of response by Verizon.  The only response I got is that their network and customer service is ‘stellar’.  Well I guess this depends on your standards…..

 

 

Even if you argue that the iPhone 5 launch put an undue strain in Verizon’s processes (after all they didn’t really know this was coming!), most of the issues I experienced are unfortunately a lot more far-reaching.

I believe this experience is the norm and not the exception in business today.  What do you think?  As for me, I am sticking with AT&T for now, at least I know what to expect.  Verizon, can you hear me now?

 

PS. Apparently, I am not the only one enduring a ‘stellar’ customer experience, Verizon’s own community has many recent similar posts with Verizon noticeable absent from most threads.

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2 Responses to Customer experience in the age of social media

  1. gabriel October 1, 2012 at 19:08 #

    That is hilarious. I had an equally unpleasant, albeit different, experience with Sprint and switched to VZN. Suffice it say I Sprint has severely tested my resolve to be the better person. I am, however, very happy with the VZN service and my beloved Samsung S3.

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