Sunday, May 17, 2015

It's PN, Verizon. Your tech support needs a lesson in compassion. Can you hear me now?

I'd love to tell you everything is perfect.  It's good, for sure, but not perfect.  I do have good energy, and I fell back fairly easily into work once again. One concern: my incision is open again, all of a sudden, and all of a sudden I'm back to dressings and wound care.  I think I may need to get a second opinion for my surgery site. There are one or two other issues, like the peripheral neuropathy that I still enjoy.

Verizon logo
Ok, Verizon: Do you hear me now?
Last week, I was handling my cell phone -- a phone I was packing to return because it had issues -- and doing so when I should have been resting, instead. I admit that. I had exhausted myself that day, and my peripheral neuropathy gets a bit worse then.  My PN seems to be persistent. PN means that the nerves, usually at extremities like fingers and toes, feel a bit numb and tingly...or worse. It can it very difficult to manage fine tasks.

It's not terribly bothersome for me now, but it does make itself known periodically, especially when I'm tired. I pulled the phone out of the box I was packing to reposition it, and my fingers didn't grasp properly. Plop! There it was, face down on the garage floor.
The flimsy packaging to be used to return a broken phone. It is nothing but a bit of cardboard and a plastic film over it. You slip the phone between the two. Yeah, that's safe.
The flimsy packaging to be used to return a malfunctioning phone.
It is nothing but a bit of cardboard and a plastic film over it.
You slip the phone between the two. Yeah, that's safe.

This was only the beginning of my humiliating journey.

I was returning the phone, and a less honest person might have just packed it and claimed it broke in shipping -- especially with the flimsy packing material they gave us. I did not, of course, because my conscience speaks quite loudly to me. Nonetheless, I knew a negotiation was ahead. The phone was already defective; I should not have to put it through insurance.  I already have a working replacement phone. I just want to pack the broken one up and ship it back.

I knew I have to put myself through customer service hell in order to address my issue. I waited until the next day and I was rested. I called *611.  I worked my way through the annoyingly inadequate and repetitive "Interactive Voice Response" or IVR system, so that I could speak with a human being. I wait on hold, listening to HORRIBLE HOLD MUSIC. That took about 10 minutes.

I began with a pleasant enough chat with a woman, one of their support techs. I explained my problems and why. Her answer was to follow this procedure:

1. Put in a claim with Assurion, the insurance carrier.  There is a deductible with that, $149.
2. Ship the good phone I was using to speak to her with back in the shipping container they gave me.
3. Use the new phone they send me.

If I did not follow this procedure, they would charge me the full price of the phone: $300.

I did not wish to be out a phone, and I still wanted to pursue the issue of paying a deductible on an already broken phone. For those of you who've never worked a call center: each call is placed in a queue (a line of calls) and your call is routed based on your inputs into the IVR system.  The person you speak with is a first tier support tech. I know that I need either a second, third of even fourth tier person (we're at the product manager stage by now) before such a decision could be made.  I politely asked to escalate my call, if she can't go any further. She seemed to take it well, and complied right away.

I listened to the HORRIBLE HOLD MUSIC for another 10 minutes. Then I met Mark.

Mark sounded younger than my first tier support.  More importantly, he came in with an attitude.  He came in the call to win. How sad. (I should mention here that unscrupulous call centers frequently spoof their escalation. Instead of sending it up the chain, they just put you on hold until someone else is willing to take the call. I suspect that happened here. There is no way this young man was her supervisor. Emotionally, he lacked every aspect of leadership and maturity.)

Some poorly trained support technicians are taught that you have to "win" your conversation. When customers have unpleasant conversations with customer service, this is usually the root cause: The CSR believes this is a battle, that they champion the company against the abusive customer, and that they must win. The tactics used by such include:

  • Making demands instead of solving problems,
  • Talking without listening, 
  • Talking over the customer, 
  • Raising one's voice louder and yelling at the customer talking to you.

We began with his demands that I return the phone, and I began calmly, trying to explain what PN was; why I had it (chemo); what my position is with regard to this phone.  To each of these two, I told them I would not stay a Verizon customer if I had to pay the full price of the phone.  It didn't really matter what I said to him:  He talked over me and raised his voice louder and louder.

I suggested that he moderate his tone, that he was difficult to talk to, and that I was going to record this conversation. (I actually tried and failed to start a recording.) HE BEGAN TO YELL AT ME!

It seems that Verizon very foolishly has implemented a customer-cannot-record policy. The rep has to hang up, they told him. Mark told me that at the top of his voice three times. When I asked him if he was recording me, he hung up on me.  I didn't have a chance to comply. He never intended that I did. He "won."

I've now been on the phone over an hour, and I'm emotionally exhausted.  Nonetheless, I recenter from this stunningly rude experience.  I call back, and, rather than going through technical support, I go through customer support.HORRIBLE HOLD MUSIC again. In this queue, I begin immediately and somewhat tearfully to ask to put in a complaint.

That's when I speak to the wonderful Dawn. She resolves this in moments. Just wait for the new phone from Assurion, and return that to Verizon. Keep the phone you're on. It's fine to do that.

"Why wasn't this simple solution offered the first time?"

"I don't know, and I'm sorry you weren't offered that. I will track this personally."

So, Verizon, you need help in tech support.  You failed a cancer survivor who asked for something simple, and you failed in a rather horrible way.

I'd like you all to share this, please, everywhere. I plan to try to post it to their Facebook page.  I tried to tweet -- to this moment, I have not received a single response. It's a shame. I was a customer of this service before it was Verizon, since the days of bag phones, and I and my family may very well have or will provide them over 100k in revenue; I kid you not. But they don't apparently care.

On the other hand, both T-Mobile and Sprint tweeted right away that are happy to have me, if I choose to move.  Hmmmm....