As I reflected on the events of yesterday afternoon I concluded I was in a Seinfeld episode and someone forgot to tell me about it. Yesterday I spent over 1.5 hours in a Verizon store in Florence, AL. Just that statement alone should tell you how the customer service experience went for me while in there. The first 45+ minutes were spent waiting to see someone to discuss my phone issues. Verizon used to have a separate department in their stores for service problems and sales, but someone got the bright idea to combine them into one central command center where waiting has become an expectation.
When you come into the store you are greeted by a greeter who has you go to computer screen to register. This is simply a high-tech way of having a numbering system. You remember you used to get a tab of paper with a number on it and wait until your number was called. This system puts your name up on a screen like at the airport standby list.
When I arrived I was second on list so I thought this won’t be too bad. They had four people working at the counter. Over 30 minutes pass and I have been next for most of that time. Finally I get hope that I might get service when a gentleman finishes up with his customer, but noooooooooo, it is his lunch break so he departs. By now there are around 7 people on waiting list.
Eventually this guy who has been working the accessories counter and basically doing nothing the whole time I had been there comes up to me after 45 minutes of waiting and ask what I was there for. I explained to him the problem with my phone and he said he could help me with that.
What I am still wondering is why it took him 45 minutes to come ask me that?
I spent the next 45 minutes trying to either get my phone fixed or a replacement. They could not fix the phone and they had none in stock. The best they could do is FedEx one overnight to me, but they wanted to charge me around $10 for that. I successfully argued that it is not my fault you are out of stock why are you charging me? I should have charged them for my time waiting in there. Eventually they eliminated the fee.
I then asked them if they could provide a loaner replacement of any kind until my phone came in. My phone is my lifeline to the business I manage and we operate 24/7 so I need a working phone in case of emergencies during off hours. The person who was waiting on me said no they could not do anything like that. After a lengthy fruitless discussion I asked to speak to a manager. He went to get one and after he came back to me 2 or 3 times explaining different reasons why they couldn’t help me she finally came out to discuss the issue with me after 15 minutes of back and forth.
In the end I got the same answer from her as I did from the ‘customer service’ agent. A resounding, NO!
This caused me to question if you are a police officer, EMT, doctor or some other profession where you have to be reached immediately in the case of emergencies and your phone goes out is this the service you will get?
What about the CEO of Verizon? If his phone goes dead and he can’t be reached, will he have to wait 24hrs to have one shipped in?
What about the store manager of the store I was in, if her phone goes down and there is none in stock do you mean to tell me she has to wait 24hrs for a replacement?
I asked the manager at one point, “You mean I am standing in a store full of phones and you can’t provide a replacement for 24 hrs?” No, she said. I went on to say,”It can be any phone, a $29.95 phone, just something I know will ring and I can dial out on.” Again, No.
No was the answer of the day. This is a much different image than Verizon paints for itself in the commercials where you have all those people standing behind you as a customer to serve you, to help you when you need it, to solve your problems, to help you overcome any issue you might have. But when you come to the store and actually need help you spend 1.5 hours and get the answer, NO I can’t help you!
This experience caused me to reflect on what the leadership culture at Verizon must be like and lessons we could learn to make sure we provide better customer service than they provided me yesterday.
Empower you leadership team to make decisions. It was obvious to me as I walked through this experience that this team of employees was not empowered to make decisions. They were simply following a rule book that someone at Corporate in Verizon wrote up and did not have to live by themselves. It was not written with the customer in mind, but instead was driven by P&L statements and cost considerations. Organizations need to empower their team members to make good decisions that make sense and enhance the customer experience, not diminish it.
Put your team members in a position to be successful. There were numerous negative issues going on in this store. When I left there were 11 people’s names on the board and that is after I saw 5 or 6 depart without being waited on.
What if each of those represented a sale that went to another provider?
It took nearly the entire 90 minutes I was there to service one customer. There is either a system, training or competence issue if it takes that long to change out a person’s phone.
Poor Management Response. There were at least two managers in the back and one customer service rep on lunch break and the store was busting at the seams. A good manager would step in and work to resolve the issue by either waiting on people themselves or getting more help involved to solve the situation. The manager I spoke with seemed oblivious to the situation. When I told her how long I had been in the store she did not even respond with an apology for the long wait.
During my wait I had plenty of time to talk to the greeter, who was very friendly and had a great deal of anxiety of all the waiting all of us were having to do. She told me it was actually much worse the day before. She commented that we need to hire more people to handle this business but they won’t listen and do it.
Here you have a front line employee access the troubling situation as she watches customers grow weary of doing business with Verizon and many potential customers walk out the door and no one else seems to care except her.
Arrogance leads to down fall. It appears to me that Verizon has fallen into the trap of many large corporations where they get greedy and forget about the customers that made them big to begin with. Jim Collins details in his book, How the Mighty Fall, that hubris (outrageous arrogance) is the first step of the downfall of companies that have failed. My little encounter with Verizon yesterday causes me to believe they have begun to walk down this path.