Verizon CSR: My FiOS Bill Is Always Wrong, Too

The Tampa Bay Tribune has a fascinating article about the sales-centric culture at Verizon’s customer service call centers. The CSRs are given large bonuses (sometimes thousands of dollars) for selling services to people who call in looking to correct their bills.

CSRs who work for Verizon say that they are pressured by managers to make calls as short as possible and to spend most of the time trying to sell Verizon products. CSRs who refuse to pressure customers into purchasing more services are disciplined. Even people who work at Verizon have to spend their free time calling the company to complain about their own inaccurate bills.

Dawn Livingston, a shop steward with the IBEW local union at Verizon, said she has won trips, including one to the Mall of America near Minneapolis. “It was very cool,” she said. “Verizon got us a hotel room right there so we could drop off our shopping bags and rest.”

“But that stuff is only for people who get great sales,” not for fixing customer problems, she said. “I could have 15 customers in a row say ‘She’s doing a great job,’ and not get a trip anywhere.”

The company is also clear about disciplining workers who don’t sell enough.

For example, employees said customer calls are timed and count toward an employee’s average call handling time, regardless of the customer’s issues. Employees said they need to average no more than 11 minutes with a customer. Managers dispatch “coaches” to stand behind poor-selling workers and issue disciplinary “Work Sheets.”

Girit said managers disciplined him 13 times in 7 months for not trying to sell a long list of Verizon products.

“I once got written up for not trying to sell TV to an 80-something-year-old woman who called to change her phone number,” Girit said. “And she was in a nursing home, moving from one room to another, and couldn’t even get our TV. I’m not going to offer something like that.”

Even more frustrating, he said, is that he can’t get his own Verizon bill fixed. “I’m a FiOS customer myself, and I have to call every month because the bill is wrong. I’m on the phone with these people for an hour every time I call – and I am ‘these people.'”

Frank Leonetti, an 8-month employee at Verizon, said that “even if people are calling, trying to lower their bills, I get in trouble for not trying to sell them more things and make their bill higher. People call me crying with problems they couldn’t get fixed in six, seven months. … Then managers will sit down next to you, plug into your line to listen, and say, ‘Why aren’t you offering them this, that?'”

Kevin Bailey, a two-year call center employee, said, “Even if people call with a $1,500 messed-up bill trying to cancel, I have to try selling them more things. If I don’t, I can get fired.”

We can’t help but notice how much this sounds like what was going on at Sprint. Do you think Verizon is heading down the same path as the big yellow mess?

Verizon Workers Caught Between Sales, Service [Tampa Tribune](Thanks, David!)
(Photo:Ben Popken)

Comments

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  1. backbroken says:

    I won a vacation to the mall!!!

    Isn’t America great??

  2. crabbyman6 says:

    Interesting, but I imagine its just like this at every company’s call center. They don’t make money directly off of solving issues, they make it from selling things. Now whether solving issues makes more in the long run is another question altogether.

  3. Juggernaut says:

    waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!

  4. milk says:

    When we were in high school, one of my friends got fired from a movie theatre for not pushing that week’s item, those questionably giant pre-packaged pickles.

  5. Beerad says:

    Well, I guess it’s comforting to know that Verizon screws its own employees too on the billing end of thing. Oh, wait, that’s SAD — I meant sad.

  6. Beerad says:

    @no name: “those questionably giant pre-packaged pickles”

    Heh. I think you meant “questionable” — while the pickles may be of dubious quality, I don’t think anyone would dispute that they are, in fact, giant.

  7. starrion says:

    Interesting how the Verizon VP lies like a rug in the article. They have only 60 complaints. There are more than 60 complaints in the comments for the article. It’s real helpful to hide the complaint line where no one can find it.

    Complaints? What complaints?

  8. OminousG says:

    I’m from Tampa.
    This does not surprise me at all. Anyone remember how many holes, collapsed roads, collapsed buildings Verizon created while simply trying to lay the fiber cable?
    Was anyone expecting anything different for how they treat people?

  9. ThunderRoad says:

    Heading down the path? They are there, hand in hand, with the rest of the companies that thrive on craptacular service.

  10. Coder4Life says:

    Usually their customer service is really good.. but who knows..

  11. Landru says:

    @Beerad: But wouldn’t “questionably” be correct if it’s in regard to the manner in which the pickles became giant?

  12. satoru says:

    @starrion: My old company had a similar culture. They claimed that customer satisfaction was up at an all hands staff meeting, and there was an audible chuckle from the crowd. They had all these fancy metrics, but were oblivious somehow to the fact that everyone knew the outsourced help desk was a fiasco. I actually felt guilty sending people there, because I knew it would be a week of doom for them.

  13. BeastMD says:

    It took me 5 months to get my bills straightened out with hours upon hours of time. They would continually charge me for long distance calls. Finally I found a post over at DSL reports that had the email of some higher up there and I emailed her and lo and behold within a week I got a call and they fixed it.. One thing I should note, I don’t remember them trying to sell me anything on any of the calls I made for help.

  14. This has been going on with parts of Verizon at least since they were GTE. I used to be a business-billing CSR with GTE North/Midwest (e.g., Indiana west to Missouri), and we were constantly being harassed as people would call in, 99% of them were about TDOs (Temporary Disconnect Orders, when people didn’t pay their bills) and people who had gotten TDO warning letters, trying to set up payment arrangements, etc., and it was always “Why didn’t you try to sell that guy voicemail?”

    At the time, the CSRs at least had a bevy of cost-effective “local-long-distance” plans to offer, where you could look at their billing and say “this WILL save you money if subscribe to this plan”, but if it wasn’t going to save them money, the hell if I was going to put them further into the hole when they had problems paying what they had.

    I knew I wasn’t going to last long there, though, so I got the hell out.

  15. Scotus says:

    If a Verizon CSR tried to sell me a TV, I’d say I’d LOVE one, and in fact, would buy three. Then, just when her hopes were up and she was already planning her trip to the Mall of America, I’d add that I’d only take them when Verizon finally gets around to making FiOS available in my area. Because if I can’t get Michael Bay-approved HDTV, what’s the point of having the televisions?

    It probably wouldn’t make any difference if/when Verizon finally gets around to my neighborhood, but you never know. (And of course, it goes without saying that once I had it, I’d suddenly discover that I didn’t need three extra TVs after all.)

  16. Beerad says:

    @Landru: Good point. I guess they could be questionably giant if they were inflated with air or some other shady means, rather than by virtue of the normal, legitimate method: radioactive fertilizer.

  17. SuffolkHouse says:

    I get basic television from Verizon. Calling to ask a question recently, the agent told me that they don’t provide just basic service, that she wasn’t familiar with the package that I had. I know that is bullshit because they are required by law to offer basic television. I just ignored her. She brought it up three times, but I ran right over her insisting that MY issue get addressed. Now I know what she was up to.

  18. Trai_Dep says:

    No wonder they have to upsell little old ladies in nursing homes: they use a fleet of freaken Hummers to do service calls.

  19. yetiwisdom says:

    “I’m a FiOS customer myself, and I have to call every month because the bill is wrong. I’m on the phone with these people for an hour every time I call – and I am ‘these people.'”

    Same here – it’s my monthly ritual – call Verison to get my bill corrected. At least they’re pleasant.

  20. CyGuy says:

    Verizon cut off my phone last week for failing to pay my bill. As I suspected, the reason was that they were deducting my monthly payment through their easypay system that every bill said they had me signed up for, but which never showed them making actual payments.

    I had tried to inform this of the fact that they weren’t actually paying themselves and that because of this I was concerned about the total balance on my account, but that was the third of three issues I had to discuss with them the last time I called the CS Dept. and after dealing with the first two (long distance calls charged to the wrong carrier, and an increase in the DSL fee) I was put on hold while they transferred me and the hold lasted 45 minutes until there offices were closed for the day.

  21. WraithSama says:

    The call centers that get reported on here all sound like terrible places to work. I can’t feel sorry for them, though, because ultimately, they choose to work there. There’s lots of jobs out there, if you don’t like yours, get up and find another one.

  22. CyGuy says:

    @CyGuy: (Sorry, hit submit too soon)

    Anyway, they are currently “investigating” why the EasyPay wasn’t working and they restored my service within a few hours. So I have to give them credit for that.

    Also, they said that the suspension of service hadn’t, and wouldn’t be reported on my credit history. Regardless I asked for something in writing that explains that the non-payment was their error. We’ll see if that ever comes.

  23. Seacub says:

    This is exactly how USWest (now Qwest) was. I had to leave before I got fired. I couldn’t stomach trying to scam people into services they clearly couldn’t afford. It didn’t start out that way but over time we were pressured to stop offering service and only focus on sales. That meant accidentally-on-purpose hanging up on customers who were taking too much time and weren’t going to add any new services. No one was every written up for hanging up on a non-sale call.

  24. elf6c says:

    Show Us Your Verizon Face. Fun to see if the “cable is evil” repetitive commenters show up here- I am guessing no.

  25. axiomatic says:

    I’d rather pick up trash on the side of the road than have the job you speak of in this article at Verizon.

    Seriously guys, life is too short to have to deal with crap like that.

    Hell I’d clean toilets at a burger joint before something as high pressured as what is stated in the article.

  26. magus_melchior says:

    Big yellow mess? Is that akin to Dripping Yellow Madness?

  27. newspapersaredead says:

    “Some of the customer frustration, Surinder said, is a result of not using Verizon’s computer systems properly. About 50 percent now hit “0,” rather than enter a “phone tree” that routes calls to workers with the right skills, Surinder said. Hitting “0” puts the call into circulation for any worker.”

    Instead of interpreting the 50% of customers hitting “0” as a sign that the phone tree is officially over the top and a detriment to their customer service he decides to chide his customers like children for not using the “computer systems properly.” Anyone have the email and direct phone number to Mr. Surinder so we can tell him what we think of his “computer system?” Actually I’ll just let him know by never doing business with Verizon.

    These employees need to find a new job, for their own mental sanity. One of these folks will go postal at the jobsite someday. I called it first.

  28. topeka says:

    Yes, I agree with this article. You are heading down the same path as “the big, yellow mess: Sprint”. LOL

  29. puddleglum411 says:

    I thought we were all supposed to switch to FIOS because Comcast overcompressed thier HD channels?

  30. bben46 says:

    I lay a lot of this kind of crap on the MBA concept that every department MUST, with no exception, be a profit center. If they don’t make money, fire the manager and cut their budget.

  31. GrandizerGo says:

    I have had the same phone service for YEARS, (more than 20) and I have had 0 problems. I never have a problem with them about my phone service…
    Now my DSL… Thats another story. They killed my DSL line and it took them 6 WEEKS to repair / rehook me to the system.
    They would tell me that they will do a line test to my modem, and find no problems… WHILE I WAS HOLDING THE UNPLUGGED CABLE IN MY HAND!
    They finally found that after 8 visits to my home at MY EXPENSE for loss of work, AND charging me service that I did not have, that it was a problem in the CO. The women there who frightens the installers / repair people, had basically given my pair of wires to a neighbor around the block from me.

    They did end up giving me lots of money and free service for 3 months though.

  32. Anonymous says:

    That Hummer, a stupid and useless hunk of iron. Did the Partridge Family paint it for them?

  33. Sanveann says:

    @WraithSama: “There’s lots of jobs out there”? What economy are you living in?!

  34. lase170 says:

    all this is true. i thought when i applied to verizon i was going to be working as a customer consultant/service rept, however what i saw was not at all what i thought such a large company would be like.

    i got fired for being in the doctors, ER to be exact, all because i was in the “6 month” probation period. that of course is in greivance.

    we called this type of job, paid slavery. the AHT (average handle time) was a joke. how do they expect to truly help a customer and sell them on every product you carry. as for the rewards: it’s sad that almost all those people actually going on these trips and being rewarded for excellence are those slamming & cramming, customer hangupers and other very nasty and rude employees.

    I have too much integrity & respect for my customers (no matter which company i work for – i call them my customers). Im glad im no longer there.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I am one of those verizon techs that happen to give a s— about the costomer.I have , (and do not mind) listened to all of these things from customers I have encountered on the streets everyday.Hell, My own Mother said she had that problem with the billing issues,She said,” come get this out of my house”.
    The problem would lay with the fact , like very many corperations these days,That they have gone national with thier builling dept.
    They have taken local problems out of the hand of local people who actually like to help instead of selling you something thats going to get them a reward of somekind,and put you on hold until you either cancel or tell them what they want to hear.,in hopes of taking care of your problem.
    I could write a book to fix this! sorry so long winded.
    Signed ,
    I would like to fix this.

  36. Anonymous says:

    WE had fios instaled back in August o8. I had no Idea that I would have these huge boxes installed out side my house and inside. When I tried to use my computor I had problems connecting. I called verizon. They gave me to a TECH? he told me to do a bunch of stuff with my conputor and then I couldnt do anything. I was upset and asked him what now. He said well what do you run. I told him and he said oh well that is not compatable with fios.Now I have a computor that I can not use and he can not help me. I hang up and then call back. I get another TECH? and he looks and tells me that he can not undo what the other TECH? did. Now i had to take my computor to a shop and have it fixed and upgraded when I told the sales man what we were running when he came out to sell us FIOS.Then when I get my first bill is is outragious. I call and she say’s well you are paying a month in advance. OH OK. well the next bill comes it is high also. I am really pissed now and I tell them what I think of Verizon and of all the problems I have had and the money I have had to put out. I am still upset with them they keep bnilling me for things that dont make sence and is higher then what I was told my bill would be in the beginning. I hope someone does sue them and WIN.They are liers con artist’s that is what I told them. Not once did they offer to reduce my bill for having that TECH? mess up my computor.