Confessions of a Verizon wireless International Roamer

Written December 17th, 2009 by
Categories: CEO's Blog
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I can write about this now that my nightmare is over.

Back in October, I was planning to travel to Budapest for b2b2dot0’s annual corporate retreat.  Aside from the excitement of working and touring for a week in a new place with my partners Joe and Adrian, I had another special treat to look forward to.  This was going to be my maiden overseas voyage with my brand spanking new GSM equipped Blackberry Tour.

I couldn’t wait to get off the plane in Europe and simply turn on and use my Blackberry.  I’ve heard about it.  I’ve read about it.  I’ve even traveled with people who experienced it.  But I personally never tasted such luxurious convenience.

And oh how luxurious that experience turned out to be!

Once I landed in Budapest, it all worked as advertised.  I turned on the phone and voila. I texted Adrian who was traveling in from Zurich that we had arrived.  I called our taxi driver to confirm our pickup time.  I emailed my safe arrival to my wife who was still sleeping in North Carolina.  I posted a photo to Facebook and prepared Google Maps to follow our journey to our apartment for the week.  Google Maps was a particularly useful application as we toured around the city in search of attractions and restaurants.

A week after I returned to North Carolina I received my invoice for the month…which was to include a prearranged week’s prorated Global Roaming and International Access fee.  I knew that signing up with Verizon wasn’t the absolute cheapest way to go, but I figured the convenience was worth a few extra bucks.

Imagine my shock at learning that it was $1300 extra! That comes to about $200 per day for the phone.  About as expensive as my roundtrip airline ticket and twice as expensive as our apartment for the week!

To make a long story short, 7 phone calls and 8 weeks later, Verizon owned up to their billing mistake and credited my account.  But what a nightmare those 8 weeks were!  I was caught in Customer Service Hell!  Here are some of the things that I learned about customer service during the process:

  1. If you promise a customer that you are going to research something and call them back, call them back.  Every customer service agent promised to get back to me and none…not a one…did.
  2. I dealt with seven different agents and three of their managers over the course of 8 weeks.  I basically had to start all over with every call.  Seems as if the notes that were accumulating in my file weren’t capturing the essence of my troubles.  At some point, I would think it would be more efficient for everyone if they assigned a single case manager to a customer.
  3. One agent I spoke with actually laughed when she read my file.  She said that she just finished resolving a $12K Blackberry bill and couldn’t believe how screwed up the Verizon billing system was.  They really aren’t ready for the onslaught of smartphones, especially if they’re going to be used overseas.
  4. The on hold music with its melodious “we’re here to serve you” and “you are very important to us” might work for the person waiting to add a new service to their line or inquire about increasing the number of minutes on their plan, but it is UNBELIEVABLY INFLAMMATORY to the person calling in for the 7th time on the same issue over the course of 8 weeks.
  5. When the case finally resolves, call the customer to apologize and offer them something for their troubles.  Maybe this way they won’t feel compelled to vent their spleen on their blog for the rest of the world to see.

I still love my Blackberry Tour and unfortunately I’m stuck with Verizon because they are the only network that has coverage at my lake house.  The moral of this story is do whatever you have to do not to deal with Verizon’s customer service.

Next month I have to be in Scotland and England for a week.  I’m wondering if my Blackberry is going to make the trip with me 🙁

Sam