I’ve been a customer of Verizon for 10 years. Ever since i got my first mobile phone. Ah, i remember the days when that first phone was shiny and new, and the world opened up just a little more. Wait – it wasn’t shiny, it was black plastic. But still!
Since then, i’ve been through several phones, and have generally had good customer service experiences with Verizon. Today, however, our relationship hit a little bump.
I wanted to upgrade my phones – BOTH phones on my plan. Lance’s phone, which he got in May of last year, has flaked out. It works fine for calls, but often throws tantrums when trying to text. It presses its own buttons (and mine and Lance’s in the process). And at least once a week, i get a ghost phone call from Lance’s phone.
So clearly, the phone needs to be replaced. It’s past the 1-year warranty period, but is not eligible for an upgrade, until April. Which means, basically, he has to find a used phone, or buy a new phone at full price. Funnily though, MY phone, which i got in September of least year (READ: 6 months LATER than when Lance got his), is somehow eligible for an upgrade.
(Why this strange upgrade structure? Well, according to them, it has something to do with priority being given to the primary line. This is Bull. Shit. It’s because they know if they upgrade one line early, then they lock the family into another 2-year contract, leaving the secondary line stuck until it can finally upgrade, which then locks the family into another 2-year contract, rinse, repeat. Whatever. I know it’s a game, and i signed up to play. But we’re going to play hardball.)
I first talked to them two weeks ago and heard the news that Lance’s phone was screwed, but i was told i could apply my primary’ phone’s upgrade to his phone, further confusing the issue. I said i’d get back to them. Today i called back with my proposal – let’s upgrade BOTH phones to shiny new smartphones, we’ll sign a new 2-yr contract, upgrade our plans and be done with it. And i had a phone in mind, the Droid 2, which has a special Buy 1 Get 1 offer right now.
The first rep i talked to, Everett, was very polite and nice. But very salesman-y. He explained that only one phone was eligible for the upgrade. I was not prepared to be turned down – my solution seemed win-win to me. But he told me the Marketing department had been trying to get me on the phone, and maybe they could give me a special offer.
I called Marketing and talked to Monisha. I was more prepared for resistance this time. The only special offer she had for me was an early upgrade (see parenthetical paragraph above). I repeated my wishes to her at length, but she was a bit “attitudinal” with me. She condescendingly explained that since i had taken advantage of the promotional prices for my past phones and signed a contract, only one phone was eligible for an upgrade at this time. And of course, the only reason that phone was even eligible was because Verizon was benevolently offering me the special early upgrade.
I hung up, feeling defeated. Was i really being unreasonable? Maybe Monisha is right. Except… I want to sign up for another 2-years! With a much fancier plan, btw, which would certainly be to their benefit as i’m probably signing up for much more than we’ll use. And it’s not like we’ve always signed up for a new phone the minute we were eligible, so we’re not just trying to get the most out of them that we can. The whole experience made me want to just find Lance a used phone for the interim and wait out the current contract, which ends next September. Or even break the contract, paying the fee, and going somewhere else. Not attractive choices, and i’d just be trading one evil phone company for another, but as a consumer, what other options are there?
I decided to try once more with Verizon. I called, got a rep named Jesse, and asked for the Customer Retention department. Jesse said “Well sure, but are you sure there isn’t something i can help you with?” Jesse sounded young and was very unpolished and inarticulate – i had to ask him to repeat things sometimes. He gave me some of the same lines i’d heard before, but this time i pointed out three things that i hadn’t specifically said on the other calls. 1) I’m planning to spend more money, and will be locked in to that for 2 years. 2) I’ve been a customer for over 10 years. 3) I’ll leave as soon as my contract runs out if not sooner if i can’t get some satisfactory result here.
What did Jesse do? He put me on hold for 30 seconds and went to do an amazing thing – he asked his manager. She said yes, and 5 minutes later i had the deal that i wanted. So, in 3 days we will both have shiny new phones.
I learned a few things:
- The process Jesse went through (that the first two reps ignored) is called a manual upgrade. They do this all the time. I didn’t know what to ask for, but it turns out, verbal confirmation from the manager was all that was needed.
- Mentioning your length of time as a customer and good payment history will go a long way. Jesse mentioned this as one of the reasons he went the extra step to even bother the manager.
- Having the research done in advance makes a difference. Knowing the policies, knowing what you want, knowing what promotions are available and what the prices are – all these things make it less likely that you’ll get blown off as just another caller.
- Call and talk to different representatives. If you didn’t have all the research done in advance with the first person, you’ll certainly know more of their “rules” after talking to a few reps.
- Be persistent. They might try to make you feel like you’re unreasonable (and maybe you are) but then again they might say yes.