A mysterious letter was anonymously faxed to our headquarters by a self-described “disgusted” Verizon customer service rep angry at how he/she says Verizon is screwing over landline customers. Here’s the highlights of his gut-spilling:
- 30,000+ people nationwide have still not received the free HDTVs Verizon promised new FiOS triple-play subscribers
- Verizon totally screwed up the “blitz” promotion, leading some customers signing up and not getting their discounts, others getting too much discount, and others not getting their discount for months
- Employees issued over $1 million in credit in January ’08, double what was given out in Jan ’07
- $250 in discretionary credit has been reduced to $50
- Internally, Verizon refers to customer service reps who give out “too much” credit due are called “offenders.”
If his allegations are true, they could prove fodder for the NJ AG’s office.
Full letter scan, inside…
Confessions of a Verizon Consultant
I work for Verizon in customer service and I think it’s time your readers knew the truth about just how screwed up Verizon’s marketing and billing is. Your readers are probably familiar with the tv promotion, but that is only the latest failed marketing attempt. In fact it is one in a series of clusterfucks, caused either by our marketing department, our accounting department or both. I should first emphasize that I work in NJ, so what I’ve witnessed isn’t necessarily representative of what goes on in other states, but I suspect it probably is.
Our primary offer at Verizon is packages or bundles of services: phone, internet and cable. In areas where FIOS is available, we offer that; where it isn’t we offer Directv. The phone component is our freedom essentials which offers 3 services with unlimited long distance. Beginning in the fall of 2006 Verizon began aggressively promoting our packages with offer after offer in quick succession. Almost all of them have been disastrous. Among the mistakes made by our marketing department:
* advertising promotions before they were allowed to
* sending offers meant only for new customers to existing ones
* listing the end of promotion dates incorrectly
* failing to give the employees accurate information on the promotions
About 18 months ago we started offering what we call the blitz. It is a discount off of the freedom essentials price, and it was only meant to be offered to new customers. What’s important to know is that it is incompatible with any other bundle offer or any other promotion. Unfortunately inadequate training and lack of ethics by some employees led to it’s being offered to all customers, and being combined with other discounts. The amount of the discount was initially $15, then increased to $19 and then to $20. When we raised our rates on the plan by $it meant we had to increase the discount by $2 as well. With the change in the amount of the discount, and the change in the rate itself, it isn’t surprising that accounting started fouling up. Some of their failures include:
* Some customers never got their $2 increase in discount.
* Others got too much and received a $4 increase in the discount
* Some customers get a double discount even though were eligible for a triple discount.
* Some customers don’t see their blitz discount for 2, 3 even 4 months, despite multiple employees submitting a request.
* As a result of multiple requests by employees for the discount, some customers actually got the discount multiple times. In some cases customers got free service as a result.
* Some customers got the discount even if they canceled the plan, again resulting in some customers having zero bills. The same thing happened on accounts on winter suspension.
What happens if you are promised a price, and then your bill doesn’t reflect that price? Shouldn’t you get credit that month? Not according to Verizon. Employees were told to refuse to credit these charges because the discount, once applied, would last for 12 months. You would get your discount in months 2-13 rather then 1-12. Or 3-14 or 4-15, whenever we finally got it right. So your discount was deffered because of our inability to properly process the discount. Service reps who did credit customers in the 1st or 2nd month were called “offenders” in one email inadvertently sent to everyone.
Then there’s the tv debacle. In October 2007 we offered a free 19 inch HDTV to anyone who signed up for a triple bundle. Customers were told they would get their tv within 4 weeks. Then we found out they get a confirmation letter in 4 weeks, and once they responded to it, then they get the tv 4 weeks from then. Except not everyone got their letter. Some customers got letters for the double bundle (which gave them a camcorder) when they were actually eligible for the tv.
Weeks stretched into months and by February we had many irate customers. Some went to ABC news and in their February 1 news report, a Verizon PR person was quoted as saying that there were only a “handful of complaints.” A handful? 30,000 is not a handful. That’s right, as if this moment there are 30,000 tv’s nationwide that haven’t been delivered and that’s just the FIOS customers. Who knows how many non-FIOS customers are still waiting their tv’s. Let’s put that number in perspective. We added 250K FIOS video subscribers in the 4th quarter and an unknown amount in the the first 2 months of 2008, perhaps another 150K. If 30K still don’t have their tv that means that roughly 10% of those eligible don’t have their tv’s. And remember that’s just the FIOS customers.
Even those figures don’t tell the full picture because that doesn’t take into account the thousands of customers who think they’re eligible for the tv but aren’t. As I said at the start, the blitz offer and the triple bundles are incompatible. If you signed up for the triple bundle, you were eligible for the free tv. If you got the blitz or a combination of the triple bundle and the blitz, then you weren’t eligible for the tv. Who knows how many people were verbally told they were eligible, only to receive the blitz price, rendering them ineligible? The only way for that to be resolved is for them to know that there’s a price problem and to bring that to an employee’s attention. When someone says they didn’t get their tv, we just pass them to our fulfillment center, which will then tell them they’re not eligible and no amount of complaining to them will help them. In the past few weeks we were told to look carefully for eligibility before referring a customer to the fulfillment center, but that’s unlikely to happen. Management is all over our ass about sales, and opening that can of worms is not something many of us want to do.
At the same time that ABC news was being told it was a handful, customers who were waiting got letters saying if they wanted the original tv from the offer it may be another 8-12 weeks. Alternately they could take a Magnavox 19 inch HDTV and get it 4-8 weeks. Or they could take the $200 best buy gift card that was originally offered as an alternative to the tv.
Compounding the problem is that in FIOS there are no HD set top boxes available. Even if you got your HDTV, you won’t be getting a HD picture any time soon.
As bad as the tv debacle is, it gets worse. In February 2008 we sent thousands of mailers out to customers offering them the blitz price on freedom essentials. or on a bundle package. Three weeks later Verizon decided we weren’t going to honor the blitz price. So, you got ot a mailer that said you could have the blitz? Sorry, too bad. You were signed up 3 months ago and are still waiting for your blitz? Sorry, too bad. They’re removed all ability to issue blitz discounts from our computers. Management has told us to soothe the customer, but tell them they can not have the blitz. If I made up prices I’d get fired, but apparently Verizon can announce one price, then decide not to honor it and that’s perfectly fine.
Meanwhile, employees have issued twice as much credit as we did a year ago. According to Andrea Custis we gave out over 1M in credit in January 08, double the amount from January 07. Why might we have to give so much credit? Could it be that our billing systems are for shit? Or that our price quotes are completely off the mark because there’s so many promotions and they’re changing them every day that so we don’t know what we’re talking about? Or that people are out of service longer because we have so many techs dedicated to installing FIOS?
At a time when we are screwing up like never before, Verizon has decided: no more credit. That’s right: we screw up, but you still have to pay. Service reps used to have the discretion to issue up to $250 of credit without needing to ask permission. Then they started cracking down on the “offenders” and two weeks ago reduced our credit limit to $150 and last week to $50. Today we got an email from our director Erica Kelly saying that “our adjustments are tied to our revenue” so no more credit is to be issued by anyone (including management) for any reason till after March 30th. So, we could charge you incorrectly and we won’t adjust it and why? Cause finances are a bit tight this month. What a crock of shit! If a customer tried telling us that we’d shut their phone off!What unmitigated gaul they have, at a time when every thing we do is a disaster, every promotion is a failure, every promise is broken, to tell customers “tough shit if we made a mistake. Pay up anyway.” Who do these executives think they are? And the worst part is WE (the frontline employees) have the pleasure of sounding like Ebeneezer Scrooge when we tell customers that yes we made XYZ msitake but no, we’re not going to remove the incorrect charge from your bill.Send
Are these problems company wide? I can’t say with certainty but judging by the responses to the tv threads here on the Consumerist I’d say it probably is..It’s time Verizon stop treating customers like crap. It’s time Verizon stopped expecting it’s customer service agents to be the zookeeper who has to cleans up their steaming piles. It’s time Verizon stoped lying to everyone, and stopped pretending that problems don’t exists. It’s time for Verizon to fix their broken systems, fix their lousy billing, train us properly, and only offer promotions they can actually make good on. It’s time Verizon took action against the employees who purposely make up prices and say anything to get a sale.
We’ve told management about these issues and no one is listening. Maybe they will finally listen if you tell them you’re not going to take it . Here’s a few emails you may want to try. The penny pinching director for the state of NJ is Erica Kelly. Her email is email@example.com. The head of NJ’s Marketing department, the one that likes to offer you one price but and then tell you you can’t have it is Andreas Custis. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to go right to the top, contact Ivan Seidenberg, our CEO. His email is email@example.com.
If you would rather bypass the bureaucrats, then you can contact Anne Milgram the NJ Attorney General, or the BPU. Their numbers are in the blue government pages of your phone book. As for you Verizon sufferers outside NJ I would direct you to contact Ivan Seidenberg. He’s the CEO for the whole company, not just NJ. Or you can go over their heads and contact your state attorney general or your board of Public Utilities.
A Disgusted Verizon Consultant
In response to this post, John Bonomo, Verizon’s director of Media Relations, writes:
The employee who anonymously faxed the “mysterious” letter to your headquarters is doing his or her colleagues a disservice and dishonoring the work that they do on behalf of our customers. It’s more appropriate to cheer for thousands of our customer service representatives who are helping our customers every day.
Even worse, this self-described employee’s letter contains a number of inaccuracies, and readers here should be aware them. For example, we’ve stated publicly that customers who qualified for the free TV under our recent promotion will receive one. We also acknowledged that delivering the set would take some time, and we said that as a part of the promotion.
We’ve also said that we have begun taking new orders from new customers for HD set-top boxes, and we are fulfilling back orders that we placed for some customers who had service installed during our temporary shortage. We have a strong commitment to serving our customers and for making things right when an issue is called to our attention.
Of course, any customer who isn’t getting the service they deserve should contact us, and customer service representatives will work hard on their behalf.
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