Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Trapped in the 9th Circle of Verizon

For those who are not familiar with the reference to Dante's Inferno, let me summarize without being profane. The opposite of "Heaven" is the Verizon Customer Service infrastructure.

On Thursday, December 20, my FiOS internet/TV service was shut off by Verizon without any notice or warning. Verizon has the best wireless and wired technology in New England, but not the best customer service. Since I receive 4 separate paper bills every month (we've tried to get them electronic for a year, more on that later) for my home Verizon phone, internet, TV, and wireless services, I was fairly confident that Verizon could not figure out where to credit my payments, so my wife called their customer service number. What follows is a tale involving an army of customer service representatives, 4 hours on the phone, and 24 hours to restore my service.

December 20, 2007
3:00pm My wife turned on the television and it displayed "no channels available". Verizon did not call, send us a dunning letter or attempt to contact us in any way before terminating our service. My wife went to the Verizon website and found the customer service number 1-888-553-1555.

4:00pm After she held for some time, the friendly gentleman that finally came on the line said that because we lived in Massachusetts, he (inexplicably) could not actually help. He transferred her to another number 1-888-338-9333 .

4:30pm Another courteous gentleman came online, and because my wife did not have our FiOS account number available, he eventually indicated he could not locate our account number with only name, address and phone number, so he would have to transfer her to someone within the FiOS Repair Order area that had access to a different kind of customer relationship management system.

4:45pm Another kind gentleman came on line from the repair area and indicated that he could find our account, and that FiOS service had been switched off due to the mailed funds not being applied, but he could not help her with the problem since he was a repair area service facilitator. He gave my wife the number of Verizon Financial Services 1-888-250-4909.

5:30pm She waited on hold for a representative for 35 minutes. When Tiffany answered, she was clearly not pleased with my wife's lack of knowledge of our FiOS account number. She told her that the only way to pay the bill was to dial the automated payment system (no humans) at 1-800-345-6563 using the FiOS account number. She gave my wife a 9 digit alphanumeric account number but unfortunately the automated payment system needs an 18 digit account number. The automated payment system recommended another number 1-866-326-7937.

6:00pm A pleasant woman came on the phone and found our FiOS account number with no difficulty using our phone #, and reiterated that we must call the automatic payment number at 1-800-345-6563, be sure to get the receipt number, and then call 886-438-3467 to reinstate service, but they had of course already closed shortly before at 6pm Eastern Time.

6:30pm My wife called 1-800-345-6563 for automated payment and obtained a receipt number for the payment, but then had to wait until 8 am the following day to call for reinstating.

December 21, 2007
8:00amMy wife called 1-886-438-3467 and through good karma, the phone was answered by Renee, who trains others for Verizon and has a broader working knowledge of Verizon workflow. She found our account, noted that all past due balances were paid and that we did not need the receipt from the automated payment system. She also noted that our Verizon accounts have non-matching social security numbers in the phone number and the FiOS accounts. Somehow, Verizon does not believe that Dr. and Mrs. Halamka at the same address are related.

Renee initiated a three way conference call with me on my Verizon cell phone and my wife on our home phone to verify our identities and social security numbers. She then began the long and complex, multi-division process to create one bill. She also got the FiOS division on the phone and confirmed our service was reinstated.

Renee planned to call back after the holidays, and after all the various work orders went through their system, planned to create an integrated billing package for us. Unfortunately, she told us that she could not give out her full name, email address, or phone number to call her back.

January 2, 2008
5:00pm Renee deserves an immense amount of praise - she called me back today, the first Verizon employee to ever followup with us. She noted that she put in the order to consolidate all our accounts but noted that one of our cell phone accounts had the zip code 02482 instead of 02481. She agreed to place a conference call to Verizon Wireless because she is not empowered to change zip codes. She even tried to save us money by putting us into one of the national service rollup plans. All sounded perfect, until she checked her computer and noted that none of the consolidation orders she entered seemed to have processed. I have complete faith in Renee, and her tenacity may end up resolving these issues over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, today I received the following mysterious billing notice from Verizon:

"Regarding your Telephone, we recently received a request to change the billing address on your account".

Who knows what that means? Maybe they'll move my phone service next door?

There's another great Catch 22 with Verizon. We've tried for a year to enable electronic payments so that bills are automatically paid without having to worry about paper, the US Mail or figuring out what account to credit. Each month, we fill out the paperwork but still receive a paper bill the next month. According to the electronic billing policy, if you pay the paper bill, your election to pay electronically is instantly voided. If you don't pay, your service is shut off. Rock or Hard Place, Frying Pan or Fire? Your choice.

All I ask of Verizon is a single, obvious phone number to call, hiding the complexity of the company from the customer. Maybe, they could call this idea One-Bill (R). When I call that service number, a human should be empowered to take action. As CIO of Harvard Medical School and CareGroup, I spend millions every year with Verizon and I cannot navigate Verizon Customer Service. If anyone at Verizon reads this and cares about customer service, please feel free to make this blog entry a case study. I'm sure dozens of broken processes could be identified just by highlighting my experience.

I'm off to write 4 checks for my 4 paper Verizon bills now, but I feel better and at least the TV works.


Jason said...

I have to say that this "circle of verizon" also happens for less complicated problems. It is very frustrating. I thought that you might find this post from useful for communicating future frustrations and/or praises of Verizon's Customer Service Department.

John said...

In October of 2006 I put my house up for sale in Lynn.
We transferred the kids to Stoneham Schools and moved into my parents home.
Everywhere I turned, Verizon was advertising "FIOS", so I decided to have it installed at my familys home.

Installation was completed in November of 2006.
I had internet, phone and 6 cable boxes installed, 3 for us and 3 for my parents areas.
My parents kept their phone and internet from comcast.

July 2007 the house in Lynn finally sold and we were looking to stay in the Stoneham area.
We find a house in October that we are interested in. We pass papers on Dec 10th, 2007.

A few days before December 10th, I schedule Verizon to move my "FIOS" service, The date is set for December 17th.

At the same time my parents decided they like the "FIOS" options and want to have it installed as their primary services.
The represenative tells us no problem, My services will be moved and when that is completed, my parents services will be installed (There shouldn't be much of an issue because the FIOS box and cabling has already been up and working, right?).

On December 13th we realize we have too much work to do with painting, window replacement, etc., so I contact Verizon (Once ending up in New York thru the automated system) and am able to get the installation date moved to December 31st.
The represenative says, "Your mother needs to call and have her date pushed up also", which she did.

I don't have the exact amount of time spent, but just to get the install date changed took several phone calls and probably 3-4 hours of time.

Now the fun part.

On December 17th at approximately 10am I receive a phone call at work from my wife, "The cable, internet and phone don't work".
I ask her to call the 888-553-1555 number and find out whats going on. She calls me back at about 1:30 in the afternoon enraged. She cannot get a live person, keeps getting transferred or disconnected thru the automated system and when she did speak to somebody they had no record of our service.
At 4pm I call (and at this point I was not pleased with their support) and after about an hour of fumbling thru their automated system I reach my destination. The represenative looks thru my information and says "your services were disconnected but I see the date was changed in our system to the 31st, so I have no idea how this happened".
After approximately 30-45 minutes while on the phone with this gentleman the TV and internet are finally back in service.
He tells me the phone will take a bit longer and will call me back in about 15-20 minutes. After an hour I still havent heard back so I venture back into their user-unfriendly system only to be told "they are working on it" and it should be restored soon.
Not to bore you with details I will tell you the phone service DID NOT get restored until December 19th (2 days later) after SEVERAL phone calls and numerous hours on the phone with them.

Wednesday, December 26th at about 6pm my internet died.
After a couple of hours on the phone with their "Encore" team they determine my router is dead.
The represenative assures me they will send me a new one and I will receive it by Saturday before my scheduled move date which is to take place on Monday.
Saturday comes and goes, no router delivery.

Monday, December 31st the installation team shows up at my new address as planned. They bring the fiber into the house and hook everything up by about 1-2 pm. Everything seems to be workin as intended.
I was required to bring all my equiptment with me from the old address.
I give the tech back 3 of the cable boxes and the router which was dead (he replaced for me).
He then tells me to call the "Encore" team and have the 3 cable boxes I returned to him deactivated and taken off my bill.
This phone call lasted 4 hours, went thru 7-8 represenatives until they were finally able to remove the 3 cable boxes I returned off my account.

At about 1pm that same day my mother calls me and asks if I know when they are showing up to install her phone, cable and internet service, I do not know and tell her she needs to call the "help" line because hers is a different install order.
After several calls she gets a live person who is able to get her phone working and says to her the techs will be there soon to complete the install.
At 5pm she is told "The techs have gone home and the soonest they can complete is Saturday".

Yesterday afternoon my cable TV says "Not available" or something close to that.
Again after several phone calls it is restored and nobody from "Verizon FIOS" can understand how or why it got turned off.

Wednesday, January 2nd, A gentleman showed up at my parents house with MY router delivery. He was sent away.
My parents fios phone service was disconnected at about 7pm, it was working for only 2 days.
After speaking with a representative she was told her install is scheduled to be January 11th.
How does her install date change from December 31st, to January 5th to January 11th?
As of writing this, she is without her Phone, Internet and Cable TV services from Verizon.

No further information is available at this time.

I have only given you a condensed version and there is a lot of phone calls to and from reps, supervisors and anybody else I could find that worked in some of these departments that I have not mentioned.

e-Patient Dave said...

In case anyone from Verizon thinks this idiocy doesn't cost them business: I have relatives who were considering switching from Comcast to Verizon, but I'm forwarding this blog post to them.

Ironically, they were considering switching because of some analogous problems with Comcast. But I've never heard anything this bad.

Hard to believe that nobody has apparently put effort into aligning their data systems. Good thing for a regulatory agency to look at, when the question arises of serving the public!

Bernard said...

I've been through similar Verizon idiocy. Especially when trying to combine my landline and mobile phone accounts.

I believe the only way to get real customer service from them is to find your own 'Renee' and have a 3-way call with all the various parts of Verizon until everyone is 'seeing' the same facts.

Sometimes consolidation of carriers is just a huge loss for us consumers.

Thanks for the heads-up. This makes me even more convinced I'll stick with Comcast for now.

Haas said...

Verizon's Customer Service Department

anderson smith said...

I can not tell you how many times I have wanted to go over and strangle the customer who gets in the wrong line but insists getting the service the customer agent cannot possibly provide.

Anderson smith
Wide Circles

Anonymous said...

Verizon is the best service for wireless and wired technology.But it is not that much of good in Best customer service.It is very famous in new England.




Anonymous said...

Pretty amazing that my last 45 minutes were so frustrating I looked up other peoples issues and found we had the exact same 45 minutes. Why would they spend the first 25 minutes putting me on hold with a 1800 # for someone who cant help me since I live in Mass?? Just to have me hold w someone else, tell me I need to call the automated billing- when I asked if Id need my account number I was told I could get around not having it since I just had my tel. # and address. This of course was untrue, I learned this after one try yet the person who works there deals with hundreds of people and doesnt know this?! I asked if I could just cancel my account at the end of the call but no, I cant do that either, I have to wait to get on the phone with financial services between 9-5 even though they've already deactivated my account since I had identity theft and had to cancel the card. F this.