Saturday, February 28, 2009

Customer Service? Et tu Verizon?

Once upon a time, you could walk into a Verizon Wireless phone store and be greeted at the door or very shortly after arrival. You could walk around and look at the phones and then ask a salesperson for more information about features and calling plans. We got our first mobile phone back in 1994. It was what they called a bag phone. It looked as if someone had taken an office desk phone, hooked it up to a huge, heavy battery and wrapped it all up in a leatherette case, about one third the size of an attache case! That phone came from either Nynex Mobile or Bell Atlantic Mobile, both of which later merged and changed its name to Verizon.

We’re currently off our obligatory two year contract with Verizon, but paying our bills each month. Chuck and I have been doing a lot of research online about the Apple iPhone (available only through Verizon’s competitor AT&T) and the BlackBerry Storm, exclusive to Verizon. Because we’ve had all our cell phones with Verizon for 15 years and been happy with their service, we figured the iPhone was off the table. We went into the Verizon store tonight wanting to handle the BlackBerry phones and get a better feel for which one we wanted to purchase. That purchase would effectively lock us into another two year contract with Verizon.

A few years ago, we went to a Verizon store and purchased three phones, two to replace existing phones and the third was a new one for my Mom in Rhode Island. Two different employees worked with us ‘til just past closing in order to get my Mom’s phone a Rhode Island area code of 401. Everyone was knowledgeable, friendly and totally got the concept of customer service.

Tonight, we walked into the very same Verizon Wireless store, where there must been more than ten employees behind three different desks and counters. There were only four to six other customers, mostly in pairs or family groups, at any given time while we were there. Not one employee approached us. We looked at the BlackBerry Storm and the BlackBerry Curve. We also made a circuit of the whole store and looked briefly at all the other cell phones.

I finally walked up to the counter where there were six people standing and sitting. I asked who we could speak to, to ask a question. Blank stares. One gal said: “Umm what kind of question?” I said we had a few questions about the Storm and the Curve. More blank stares. Then a couple of employees volunteered a gal who walked toward us. We moved over to the display with the Curve and the Storm. She stood a few feet away and answered our questions crisply. She never once volunteered so much as a smidge of information. Through the entire, albeit brief, conversation she never, ever stopped drumming her fingernails on a nearby shelf.

Drum, drum, drum...
Drum, drum, drum...
Drum, drum, drum...
Drummed us right out of the store she did.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lee,

When I recently went into the AT&T store, I had a similar experience.

"Oh, can I pay my bill here while I'm at it?"

"Yes, the kiosk is over there. If I do it, there's a charge."

We go over to the kiosk.

"Hey, how do you work this thing?"
(I can be a smart-ass at times!)

Why do they make it so oppressive for 'older' folks? Ask them a question about a phone and they get techno-geeky at breakneck speed on you. Don't get me started!

"Guided by the Ancestors"

dancingmorganmouse said...

You lean across with a concerned little look on your face and whisper, "you have a little mo", signalling to your upper lip.

barbie2be said...

i used to have cingular... then they got bought up by at&t. i have had a hate/hate relationship with at&t for a while now.

i have t-mobile for a reason. they have always treated me with respect. been helpful and knowledgable and gone out of their way to help me.

the last time was a year ago. my phone would not charge. i was 15 months into my 2 year contract. i needed to get a new phone but it would have cost me more than someone walking in for the first time. i was stunned. but when i asked the manager what could be done, without question she gave me a price that was even lower than the new customer price, and when they didn't have the right tools to get my numbers out of the phone and back onto the sim card she gave me the name and address of a place that could do it.

Sue said...

That's shocking!! People have no respect for their jobs anymore, it's as if they're doing you a favour by being there, not visa versa... Hope you find someone decent to help you soon!

Pink Granite said...

Hi George -
The reason we did so much "homework" before we went in was so we wouldn't feel overwhelmed by an avalanche of information from the salesperson as you described. Who knew she would be so tight lipped and disinterested in our custom!

At some point the tidal wave of technological advances may overtake our advancing age - but I will be going down fighting!
- Lee

Hi DMM -
I think you may be braver than I am!
And that's before I even know what a "mo" is!?
- Lee

Hi B2B -
Your description of your history with T-Mobile gives me hope! And it's similar to what we've experienced in the past with Verizon. I sure hope this was just a fluke and not a trend!
- Lee

Hi Sue -
I kept thinking how I would have responded to a customer back when I was in retail sales. Even if I had been tired or cranky or whatever, I still would have put a smile on my face and done my job.

And not to sound conceited, but Chuck and I can be pretty fun customers!
- Lee

dancingmorganmouse said...

Moustache :)

Pink Granite said...

Thank you!