Verizon Knows More About What You Watch On FiOS Than You Do

Verizon isn’t a cable company. Its FiOS product doesn’t spring from decades of guaranteed local monopolies, which means most FiOS customers can, if they get annoyed enough, jump ship to a competitor. But you leaving is bad news for Verizon. They want to keep their subscribers. And they have an enormous mountain of highly personalized data on hand to try to do it with.

Quartz points us to a presentation a Verizon executive gave this week at a conference of, basically, data nerds.

Data is great! It’s cool! It tells you all sorts of things that you can then use to improve your business and how it operates. But there’s a line somewhere, a border separating “useful” from “creepy.” That line is “privacy,” and Verizon’s customer behavior tracking at the very least seems to tap-dance right along that line.

When you call FiOS to complain, downgrade, or cancel, the rep on the other end of the line can now argue back at you with all of your own data: how much you download in a month, what channels you watch, how many hours you spend watching, and more.

So, for example, let’s say money’s tight and you want to cut back. You call and ask for a smaller, less expensive bundle of channels. “I never really watch them anyway,” you say. But the Verizon rep on the other end of the phone can see that you watch a solid 30 channels in any given month, and that you spend 8 hours a week watching premium channel content. You probably enjoy that content. Perhaps they can entice you to stay on board for another year if they give you HBO and Starz for free?

Or perhaps you’re more into broadband than TV. You use a lot of data in a given month — and because you rely on cloud storage or peer-to-peer file sharing, you have a fairly high volume of uploaded data, too, not just downloaded. Maybe the way for Verizon to keep you on board is to offer a small broadband discount and to remind you very strongly that their network is symmetrical, so your upload speeds will continue to match your download speeds.

Armed with that level of personalized data, there are thousands of ways Verizon customer service agents can personalize their pitch to convince you to cancel or switch providers.

Verizon executive Mahmoud El Assir told Quartz that giving CSRs all of that data when the customer calls in certainly works out in Verizon’s favor. “Customers are four times more likely to upgrade their DVR boxes to newer versions that record more shows when we bring up the data on recording conflicts,” El Assir told Quartz.

Praising the personalization of data, El Assir called it “a more educated conversation with the customer.”

“Now when an agent gets a call, instead of blindly resizing customers cable packages, agents can tell them how they might lose these two channels and how often they watch them,” El Assir said.

Verizon also monitors customer service calls for certain key words and can have supervisors leap in to save the day if they hear certain things — like, for example, “Cablevision,” “Time Warner,” or “Comcast,” competitors frustrated subscribers are likely to say they will switch to.

All the personal data that Verizon FiOS uses to keep you from canceling [Quartz]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.