CRM has come a long way in the past decade. Most companies have made great strides in recognizing valuable customers and providing them with a superior experience, thanks to customer focused strategies supported by better customer information and analytics. Despite these advances, however, organizational dynamics and dysfunctional processes still get in the way of of smooth, seamless customer experiences. This story is based on my experience, as a customer, with Verizon Wireless over the past weekend.
I have been a valuable Verizon wireless customer for many years. I know I am valuable because of the size of the bill of the bill I get every month as well as the fact that they always pick up the phone quickly and greet me by telling me I am a valuable customer. Not that I call very often. Sometimes a year goes by and I don’t call, because I have no need to, despite the fact that I have three voice lines, including Blackberry service, and a pure broadband data line.
My daughter became a teenager recently and, to keep a promise made years ago, I needed to add her to my family plan. My wife has an old phone which needed replacement. Verizon was running a promotion where you if you bought a phone you got a second one free. I figured I would go online and take care of both the women in my life at one go.
That is where my problems started. Verizon had some deals that were only available online, but I could not add a line or get a new phone on the website, despite the fact that I am registered online. After I went through the process, it said I needed to call customer service. So I called customer service. Well, guess what, the new line addition needed to be handled by a sales rep whereas the new phone for my wife needed to be handled by a customer service rep, even though they both had access to the same information about my account. So the customer service person had to transfer me to a sales rep. A few minutes on hold. When the sales rep came on, he first had to check my credit history, which took a couple of minutes. He was initially reluctant to give me the online price since I was calling the call center. I had to convince him that I had first tried to do all this online and it was a problem with their website, not my technical abilities. Once the sales rep had agreed to give me online pricing the next hurdle was that he was not authorized to give me the second phone free because my wife was already a customer (although she was eligible for a discount phone, since she had not upgraded in years). He had to put me on hold for several minutes, talk to the customer service rep and get authorization to provide the second phone free.
The good news? I was recognized as a valuable customer. The sales rep and customer service rep were both very courteous and helpful. They worked with each other and did not make me call a different number to handle each problem. That was impressive. However, I felt like I had to work hard to get what I wanted and that they two reps had to work around the system to do their jobs. I wish Verizon would make it even more seamless and easier both for their customers and their employees, by letting a single person handle upgrades as well as new lines. Why treat an existing customer like a prospect, particularly when that customer wants to broaden an already existing relationship?
Having worked with many large companies on these issues, I suspect this has to do with internal compensation mechanisms and organizational alignment, not technology or information. Those are the rocks on which good customer experiences typically founder.