The Service Dilemma: When is Bad, Bad Enough?

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I recently had a friend who resides in the states complain to me about their cable provider.   Why?  Because as someone who spends most of my time implementing optimized field service management software, he either figured I would be appalled, or do something about it.  As he recounted the details of what transpired between him and his provider, Verizon, I couldn’t help but wonder, why, in 2012, this level of service still exists, and furthermore, how these giant companies manage to stay in business.  Even more so, I wondered why these companies had not properly invested in a field service management solution that would reduce, if not, eliminate, these types of customer experiences.

My friend’s story goes like this; he had recently upgraded his package with the service provider Verizon to include home phone service, however the lines were not working.    Because Verizon wouldn’t just let him schedule an appointment online, he had to call their customer service via Skype because his cell phone has no reception in his house.  After being transferred several times, he managed to reach a representative that insisted he conduct a line test to diagnose the problem, even though my friend already knew it was an issue with the lines, not the service.  After my friend insisted that would cut him off (the testing disturbed the home’s internet connection) the representative performed the test anyway, disconnecting my friend so that he was forced to call back.  And when he called back, it happened AGAIN.  FINALLY he was able to get a representative to schedule an appointment to come to the house by calling again from WORK.

Verizon gave my friend an 11-2p.m. time window of when they would arrive.  The night before they sent an email requiring that he CONFIRMED the appointment in order for them to show up.  So, he worked from home, which he was fortunate enough to have the liberty of doing, and waited during his HUGE 3 hour appointment window, right in the middle of the day.  At 1:45 p.m. with no engineer in sight, he called Verizon for an update.  They told my friend that the engineer had been called and he was on his way, less than five minutes away.  My friend waited.  As 5:00 p.m. rolled around, he called Verizon again, extremely frustrated.  He asked why no engineer had showed up when he was given an 11-2p.m. window.  The response?  The representative told him that even though the email states 11-2 p.m. it actually means 11-5 p.m. because there is an undisclosed “extended service window.” WHAT?  When the engineer FINALLY showed up at 5:15 p.m., my friend enquired what the deal was, considering the fact that a Verizon representative had told him at 1:45 p.m. that the engineer was five minutes away.   The engineer looked at my friend and said; “Sir, I was assigned this job ten minutes ago.  No one has called me.  They must have lied to you.”

How did this happen and why is my friend still a Verizon customer?   He is locked into a two-year contract that reduces what he pays monthly.  Worse still, Verizon’s number one competitor, Comcast, isn’t much better, he explains.  I still don’t understand.  We live in a world where the possibility of a one-hour appointment window exists, smart phones and handheld devices allow customer contact centers to reach engineers immediately, and Facebook appointment scheduling is easily integrated with a business’s other systems.  So how does Verizon get away with such poor customer service?  Is it by keeping customer costs low with contracts that cost a lot to break?  Is it because the competition does the same?  Either way, there comes a point when bad is bad enough.  It may not have been for my friend, but companies that continue to lead by poor customer service example will start to see a hit in new customers and customer loyalty.  After all the average dissatisfied customer tells 9-15 people about their experience.  It’s time businesses, especially enterprise businesses, wake up and invest in field service management technology that will help their bottom line while keeping their customers happy.  Verizon uses their own field service management software; it’s publicized on their website.  But one thing is for sure…it doesn’t work.

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