Laura got a new cell phone for her birthday and I, gadget geek that I am, was browsing through the various menus and options when I noticed that the phone was in roaming mode. In fact, the phone seemed to always be in roaming mode, regardless of where we were: at home, at Laura’s mother’s house, or 50 feet from the Verizon store where we picked up the phone a week ago. Concerned that Laura might be racking up a mountain of roaming charges, I suggested we return to the Verizon store and inquire about the matter. Laura hadn’t gotten a stunning impression of the Verizon representative in the Willoughby store, so we decided to go to the Mentor store this morning.
The store was, much to our surprise, at least three times bigger than the one nearest our house, and at least 20 times busier. On our way to the Customer Service counter, we were advised that we would have to check in at the kiosk near the door and wait to be served. I explained the issue to the greeter and she advised me to select “Technical Support” as my service request, though I was fairly certain there was nothing wrong with the phone itself. The technician we talked to a few minutes later seemed to confirm my suspicions, but she ushered us to the technicians’ counter nonetheless.
When we arrived at the counter, two other customers were engaged with technicians. On our right, a customer was questioning a 15-cent text message charge on his phone, a phone that—to his knowledge—did not have text messaging capabilities. After a lengthy call with the Customer Care center, the technician informed the customer that the text message did not originate from Verizon. The customer agreed to pay the charge, but asked that text messaging be disabled on his account to prevent further unwanted charges, something the technician—had she been paying attention to his original request—could likely have accomplished in five minutes and without needing to involve Customer Care.
The customer ultimately left the store satisfied, but I was utterly floored to hear the technician immediately begin bad-mouthing him once he was gone, completely unmindful that Laura and I and two other customers could hear everything she said. Yes, the amount of the charge in question was small, but the customer’s primary concern was that he was seeing unexpected charges and wanted to ensure that it didn’t happen in the future. Nonetheless, the technician openly mocked his concern over what she clearly felt was an insignificant charge to anyone who might care to listen, and several who might not. Laura and I have both worked in customer service and we were equally appalled by this attitude. While those comments may be acceptable in a break room surrounded by co-workers and well away from customers, they certainly have no place at the service counter.
Speaking of the break room, that’s where the cookies that the technicians were only too happy to munch on while at the counter belonged, too. As Laura commented, “I can’t imagine there’s anything in the Verizon customer service manual that says it’s okay for employees to eat cookies at the counter.” Yet the package was there, and passing employees as well as those serving customers seemed to have no compunctions whatsoever when it came to popping one into their mouth while customers watched from across the counter.
Meanwhile, on our left, another customer was seeking technical assistance because the screen on his phone had stopped functioning. He could still make and receive calls, so it was clear that the only issue was the non-functional screen. The tech informed him that because his phone was “so thin”, it could only store about 40 text messages; he had clearly overloaded the phone’s memory and the screen had “crashed out”. Never mind that the customer had recently checked the memory of the phone and found that he had plenty of free space, or that he had deleted all of his text messages prior to the screen failure; the thin phone had very obviously crashed out and would have to be replaced—at cost to the customer.
Let’s be realistic: we live in an age where even the most simplistic of phones takes photos, plays MP3 files, and can download games, ringtones and other whizbangery over the air. Even Laura’s Motorola W385—the cheapest, bottom-of-the-barrel cell phone Verizon would sell us—has all of those functions and more. To assert that there is a 40-message cap on storing text message is not just patently absurd, it insults the customer’s intelligence. To his credit, the fellow did make a half-hearted attempt to call bullshit, but the technician again insisted that this incredibly thin phone simply couldn’t handle the sheer volume of text messages he was attempting to store. Even if this were a real capacity limit, to suggest that the display would simply stop working as opposed to, say, prompting the user to delete some old messages is ludicrous.
Alas, we weren’t faring much better ourselves. Rather than attempt to check the details of Laura’s service plan or in any way determine why the phone was constantly in roaming mode, our technician immediately declared that the phone would need to be replaced. Disappearing into the back room, she returned a moment later with a brand new Motorola W385 and proceeded to transfer Laura’s account and contact list. Imagine my complete lack of surprise when, 10 minutes later, a frown creased the technician’s forehead. After fiddling with the phone for a few more minutes, the technician announced that the new phone was displaying the same oddity as the “old” one: the icon indicating roaming mode appeared in the status bar.
Having clearly reached the limitations of her technical prowess, the technician enlisted the aid of a customer service representative at another counter. This representative accomplished in two short minutes what the technician could not in fifteen: she checked the status of Laura’s account and verified that no roaming charges had been incurred. She assured us that Laura would incur no actual roaming charges while in the state of Ohio and also advised us to monitor the monthly statements; any roaming charges could be credited after a call to customer service. While it wasn’t the resolution we were hoping for, it was nice to encounter a competent, professional customer service representative after having been surrounded by the exact opposite ever since we first set foot in the store.