VerizonMath’s Open Letter To Verizon

George Vaccaro posted an open letter to Verizon after winning a public battle over his wireless bill, a fight that hinged on Verizon Wireless employee’s inability to tell the difference between .002 cents and .002 dollars.

George thanks Verizon for solving his problem, but is disappointed at the great effort it took. He calls on Verizon to issue a public apology and points out three areas he sees Verizon needs improving:

Customer Service
Rather than solve George’s problem or acknowledge their error, Verizon’s reps ultimately directed him to an online complaint form – an industry no-no.
Accuracy in Advertising
Verizon needs to train its reps so they don’t see $.002 in the computers and say to the customer, “Point zero zero two cents.”
Resolution Of Customer’s Complaints With The Same Problem
George has heard from several other customers who Verizon gave wrong quotes and rebuffed when they complained. Their cases should be solved in the same way as George’s: a refund and an apology.


Open Letter to Verizon Wireless Management [VerizonMath]

George’s open letter to Verizon:

    “We seem to have gotten my particular problem solved – Thank you. I wish for all of us that process was easier. Hopefully there is no next time.

    Initially that was the only problem I was concerned with, but it appears you have current and potential customers who expect something more as evidenced by the interest in this blog, and the comments on hundreds of other blogs, YouTube etc.

    As this has played out I have unintentionally become the spokesman for these issues.

    My advice to you is to make a public statement about this incident, and assure your customers and potential customers that you are addressing the problems.

    Based on the feedback I have received on the many discussion boards on this topic all over the Internet, I think you need to address the following 3 issues:

    1. Customer Service

    Here is an excerpt from the Customer Satisfaction section of your website:

    “Verizon Wireless is committed to delivering outstanding customer satisfaction. We offer quality products and services on the nation’s most reliable network, and deliver the industry’s best customer service – online, over the phone and in-person.”

    In my calls to Verizon – prior to the explosion caused by all this, and in the sentiments of people who posted here about their own experiences, it appears that the CSR is not really tasked with “satisfying” the customer so much as they are tasked with dealing with them, or making them go away. In my call specifically, there were a number of problems, but I will focus on just one – the redirection to the web feedback form. Many CSRs have posted on this blog and have specifically commented that they would never do that. I have never had that happen to me before. This was a first, and it hardly demonstrates “the industry’s best customer service.” I think this was not specifically the fault of the floor manager, but more a fault of the framework in which she has to work.

    Perhaps the reps are not rewarded based on customer satisfaction, but on other metrics such as call times, or minimum charge reversals. If that is the case, I suggest that policy is short sighted, and you might want to research methods that would be more effective overall.

    This response was not created wholly by a funny recording of a call. I couldn’t get this many people to revisit this blog day after day if all they were interested in was a laugh. I suggest to you that this is the collective backlash to less than acceptable customer service.

    2. Accuracy in Advertising

    I understand there are competitive pressures and industry norms that steer marketing plans and policies. However, I contend that the best business requires ensuring customer expectations are met, and in order to achieve that, your customer must truly understand your pricing. In this case, and as I understand in other cases, possibly including text and picture messaging and rated data (vs. unlimited), you quote your prices using 2 obscure units – partial cents, and KB (kilobytes).

    As we now know, beyond a doubt, many people are not great with fractions, decimals and clearly not the third decimal digit with respect to currency. This makes partial cents themselves a difficult unit to “think” in.

    Along the same lines, KB is, in my opinion, the most obscure of the 3 most widely recognized units of measure for data. The others being MB (megabytes) and GB (gigabytes). People know MB as it relates to their digital pictures (~.5meg – 2meg) and music files (approx 1MB/minute). People know GB as it relates to their hard drive size. KB, for most people, is an abstract unit that doesn’t really relate effectively to anything they do. An email might be 2KB, or 200KB, or anywhere in between, or even more. A 3 minute song file is roughly 3000KB. Again its hard to “think” in KB.

    GB of course is much too large to be practical in this case. I think the logical choice is MB.

    If you were to quote your rates in $/MB, in this case, the rate would have been $2.05/MB. I think most people would agree, this is a much more clear and understandable rate than $.002/KB – not to mention its much easier to quote correctly.

    I know if I download a song, that’s roughly 3 minutes long, its roughly 3MB * roughly $2/MB = approximately $6.

    This is easy math. No surprises, no upset customers. Possibly no customers at all at that rate, but I contend its better to have fewer, happy customers, than a bunch of angry ones. And that IS in fact your rate – there’s no getting away from it unless you lower it.

    Using the current rate structure I would have to first multiply the song size by 1024. This is problematic because you have to know the number of KB in a MB – I contend 80 – 90% of your customers don’t know that – probably not even the approximate relationship (1000).

    Then you must multiply that result by .002 (essentially division) to arrive at the approximately $6.

    My method: most people can do in their heads. Your method: probably difficult for many people even with a calculator.

    Now if that’s what you’re looking for, uninformed customers, you have achieved it with those units. But arguably that is what has caused the outrage about this situation, and in my opinion, that is bad business.

    3. Attempting to resolve prior incidents where customers were given incorrect quotes

    For the short life of this blog there have been a few people who have mentioned that they have experienced this exact situation. I have the name and contact information of one (please contact me for it), and prior posts in this blog contain information about a few others.

    Perhaps you can search your customer service notes to locate other customers who’ve had this same experience.

    I think a plan towards that goal would not only be the ethical thing to do, it would be repaid with customer loyalty and retention.

    We are probably all familiar with that Verizon commercial with the employees of your network facing the competitor’s network, where the competitor’s network is comprised of cardboard cutouts. I think you need to reinforce to your current and prospective costumers that there is substance and depth behind your company to match that portrayal; reinforce that it is more than just a facade.

    Finally, in case anyone was wondering, I am not the slightest bit anti-corporate. I understand that business and competition are the foundations of what make our system work. I sincerely hope this experience helps improve your business, and helps you continue to provide a valuable service to your customers. In my opinion, whether or not this whole experience ultimately moves you toward that goal or away from it is based solely on how you address these concerns.

    But then again what do I know, I am just a guy – just 1 guy. Take it or leave it.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. CaptainRoin says:

    *sheds a little tear*

    good work. hopefully they listen.

  2. Dave Metzener says:

    Oh… My… God!
    George, you are a freaken’ saint! I would have lasted about 3 minutes before I started blowing up. Man, how can someone be so freaking stupid! Why is it that customer service people are so freaking stupid. Wow.

    I’m really glad that you got this problem resolved.

    I had some problems with the carrier I use here and after 6 months, countless calls and my wife taking over for me due to the fact that I was going to go postal on these cell phone poeple, we finally got our account set.

    Thanks for sharing that incredible story!

  3. tkdga says:

    As an employee of Verizon Wireless and also a HUGE Consumerist fan, I just wanted to let you know that Consumerist and Blogging in general does work. As of today (12-13-06), at 9:15 ET, Verizon has released a job aid to all employees explaining the difference between cents and dollars. I do agree with everyone here that it’s sad that we have to do it in the first place, but at least now there is a uniform, consistant answer.

  4. Steve_Holt says:

    Reading through all the previous posts, I never realized why Verizon would have quoted such a confusing rate for data. After reading George’s letter, it is now clear. If anyone with any intelligence saw $2/MB as the rate, they would not go near it. Verizon tries to make it seem like a reasonable deal by using smaller units, and hopes that people who are misquoted or accept $.002 (point zero-zero-two cents?), will just ignore it when they end up getting charged $70 for data use. I bet they’ll come down a bit on that rate now.

    Imagine if that was what you got charged for you LAN connection?

  5. tkdga, can you post this “job aid?” I’d love to post it on my blog. I think it would serve Verizon as well – show that they have actually responded vs. just lip service.


  6. tkdga says:

    To GeorgeVaccaro:

    I’d love to, but being that it is private and proprietary information belonging only to Verizon Wireless and for fear of someone finding out and me getting fired, I would rather not post it or distribute it. I do like my job and wish to keep it for some time. Again, love to, but can’t. I did point out the job aid to some co-workers. They thought it was completely random until I showed them the Consumerist article. Trust me, this blog is getting around.