This is one of my favorite stories I like to share with friends, and there are two takeaways from it. I’ve been a Verizon Wireless customer since 1994 or 1995. For years, I would never say I was a happy customer, but I was always fairly satisfied with the customer support and phone service I received. I had phone issues from time to time, and I hated waiting on line for tech support in-store, but there was nothing really major.
Sometime around 2002, I had major issues with a new LG phone, and I knew a couple of friends who had similar issues. For whatever reason, the local stores wouldn’t take it back, and I was going to have to buy a new phone, in the middle of my contract, meaning I would have to pay full price. I was irritated and angry. I couldn’t understand why Verizon wouldn’t take care of a long-time customer, and I was frustrated that I would have to pay a few hundred dollars for a new phone (a lot of money for a grad student), or pay to cancel my contract and switch providers.
Using my search engine skills, I spent a few hours late one night trying to find the email contact information for any Marketing Executive at VZW who would could commiserate with my troubles. I found the name of an Executive, and I wrote a long email describing the troubles I was having. I apologized that I was contacting him since it wasn’t a marketing issue, but I told him that as a student of Marketing, I knew it ultimately was hurting his brand if the customer service lacked.
This email was going to be my last resort, and if it failed to work or didn’t illicit a response, I was going to have to decide whether or not to sever my 7 year relationship with Verizon. Not knowing the Executive’s email address, I sent it to as many variations @verizonwireless.com as I could create. First Name.Last Name, Last Name, First initial.Last Name, FirstNameLastName…etc – probably 10-15+ emails. Nearly all bounced except one – success at 12:34 am! I went to bed feeling like I had given this a good effort.
At 7:40 the next morning, an hour or so before I woke up, an email arrived in my NYU inbox:
“Thanks for taking the time to write me re: your frustrations with your phone. Let me assure you that your lack of satisfaction is my business, whether it’s a marketing issue or not. Your allowing us the chance to make it right is fully appreciated.
I’ve copied [Name Redacted] our VP of Wireless Devices, on this message. I’ve asked have someone contact you directly to resolve this problem as soon as possible. You’ll hear from us within 24 hours.
Thanks again for your message. I hope we can rapidly restore your confidence in Verizon Wireless.”
Within just a few hours, I was in touch with the VP of Wireless Devices, who had already reached out to the local store, where I had been previously turned down. By mid-afternoon, I had a brand new phone and I was a very happy customer.
It’s been seven years since this incident, and I am a very happy customer of Verizon Wireless. Not only have I upgraded to a Blackberry with unlimited data and 900 minutes (up from a phone with 400+/- minutes), but my account has three other phones on it as well, and I am enrolled in the VIP program. On my phone alone, I’ve spent over $5,000 with Verizon. I was not surprised to hear that this Marketing Executive is now the Chief Marketing Officer of the entire company.
I think there are two lessons that can be learned here:
1) If you feel that you are not being treated as well as you should by a company, as a last resort, contact company executives and calmly explain the problem you are having. Don’t expect an answer, but hope for the best. If you don’t know the proper email address, do what you can to find it, and you are bound to be successful.
2) If you are a company executive, no matter how good your marketing strategy is, your customer service is equally important. If the sales process is great but a customer has a problem with even one customer service representative, your marketing dollars are wasted. You need to look at every company representative as a marketer. Every customer touchpoint should provide an equally good experience. Sometimes people who aren’t marketers need to think like marketers. It can take years to cultivate a good customer/brand relationship, but it can take just seconds to destroy it.
My relationship with Verizon probably would have ended seven years ago if it was not for great customer care from the top of the organization.