August 5th, 2005

Spiraling Customer Service Costs for Wireless Carriers

I wasn’t just short of blog fodder when I phoned Verizon Wireless customer service earlier this week. I had accidentally deleted one of my favorite games (Zuma) while driving and trying to manage my personal profiles. I was trying to stop my subscription to Running of the Bulls now that it’s August, and I hit the wrong button. As much as I like Glu, I wasn’t ready to pony up a second time for the game. I also wanted to get web service so that I could check out some location services and some photo/mobile blogging services.

I dial Verizon Customer service. (one of two programmed speed dials on my phone.)

Customer Service “How can I help you?”
Julie “Well, I have a list …”
CS (Still in a friendly voice) “What can I help you with?”
Julie “First, I deleted one of my favorite games. Can you give me a credit on my bill so that I can buy it again without having to pay twice?”

Over the course of the next 10 to 12 minutes, he reviews my relationship with them, looks back through all of my charges for the first half of 2005 to see if there is indeed a charge in the $6 to $8 range (the name of the game never showed on my bill – just a random generic term that indicates I bought “something”), makes the decision to give me credit, and processes it. Phew … I won’t be double-booked for $7.50.

I thanked him. Initially I had no idea what to expect, but I was really pleased that they gave me the benefit of the doubt. I was wondering though a) how many calls just like this they get b) cost of the calls due to length and c) how much revenue they forgo for refunds.

Julie: “I’d like to turn on my web access.”
CS: “Ok.”
(Five minutes or so)
CS: “Did you know that Vcast is available in San Francisco? If you sign up for that service, you can have web access as part of the bundle.”
Julie: “Do I get two months for free?”
CS: “No, just one these days.”
Julie: “That’s not fair, but ok. Actually, I didn’t realize the Verizon had rolled out its EVDO service to SF.”
CS: “My materials show that it is ‘in and around San Francisco and San Jose.”
Julie “My phone just has a 1X symbol on it.”

About 20 minutes go by. I’m asked to turn my phone off and on. I’m asked to try to launch video services, etc. After help from a supervisor, he finally concludes that there is no EVDO in San Francisco – well, at least not Verizon’s.

Now I want to try out Intercasting’s Rabble service, but I can not find the getMESSAGING menu item or Rabble on my phone menu.

Julie: “Can you help me to find Rabble on my phone?”
CS: “Rabble?”
Julie: “Rabble. R-a-b-b-l-e. Rabble”
CS: “What is it? Can you forward me the press release?”

I honestly feel bad for this guy and the customer service folks at this point. A proliferation of handsets, varying availability of applications, varying degrees of 3G coverage – must be driving the cost of customer service through the roof.

My call lasted 42 minutes.

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