Editor’s Corner: I don't think Verizon should cut customer service

Linda Hardesty editor's corner

Verizon held a meeting with its customer service employees yesterday notifying them of upcoming changes that will result in customer service layoffs, according to The Verge, which broke the story.

According to some people on Reddit, Verizon will rely more on outsourcing customer service to overseas contractors.

In response to a request for comment from Fierce Wireless Verizon said, "Verizon is constantly looking for ways to better serve our customers with innovative products and services. From time to time, we make adjustments in our workforce to meet the changing needs of our customers."

My first reaction to seeing The Verge’s headline “Verizon warns customer service employees of impending layoffs” was: Seriously? This is Verizon’s answer to solving the problem of subscriber losses? Less customer service?

In many ways it’s becoming more difficult for the big three U.S. wireless carriers to differentiate themselves from each other. Yes, we in the trade press write about their different spectrum bands, the disaggregation of their network hardware from software, their varied approaches to marketing, etc. But the average consumer doesn’t care about any of this stuff. The average consumer is looking for the best deal and decent customer service when they have an issue.

When a product or service becomes commoditized, you could argue that customer service is the only differentiating factor.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard stories of terrible customer service experiences recently at all three of the U.S. carriers. Things took a turn for the worse during Covid when many wireless retail stores closed, and they’ve never really come back to their former level of service.

Personally, I’ve had bad customer service experiences with my own provider, which I will decline to name. When I churned from one provider to another, the billing was a complete mess. The first bill I received was much higher than what the customer service rep said it would be. Trying to get help over the phone was a non-starter. Ultimately, I had to use social media for a clunky back-and-forth chat to straighten everything out.

Note to carriers — no one wants to talk to your AI chat bots. They’re not very smart or helpful.

Wave7 Research analyst Jeff Moore reported in February that Verizon’s store locator presents the same 1-800 number for all corporate stores, making it nearly impossible to simply call a local store in your own area.

Changes at Verizon Consumer Group

Verizon has had significant leadership turn-over at its Consumer Group.

Ronan Dunne led the group for five years from 2016 to 2021. He was then replaced in January 2022 by Manon Brouillette, who only lasted less than a year, departing in December 2022. Then in March, Verizon announced that Sowmyanarayan Sampath would lead Verizon Consumer Group.

Sampath has been quick to make some changes. This month Verizon unveiled its new myPlan offerings, which cut down on the number of plans that customers must choose from, simplifying the buying process. Once the customer chooses which network plan they want, they can pick the perks they want. Each perk is $10, and they can choose from Disney+, Apple TV, Walmart+ and others.

556 Ventures analyst Bill Ho said, “They’re framing it in the scope of simplicity.”  Customers have two major plans they can choose from, and then they can tweak their perks at will.

But do people really want to constantly be tweaking their perks? And if they run into problems, will there be any customer service support to help them?

Uber as role model

I read a great article in the Wall Street Journal recently about Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi who decided to drive for the company on weekends to get a feel for what was really going on. He discovered all kinds of annoying things about the company’s app, which made life difficult for drivers as well as customers.

For example, when he first started driving, he struggled with Uber’s sign-up process. And he did not like Uber’s policy of not letting drivers see drop-off locations and estimated pay before they accepted a trip. Also, some riders were rude to him, and that was hard to take.

Ultimately, the experiment convinced Khosrowshahi that having loyal and happy drivers makes Uber more competitive.

Just a thought for the wireless carriers.

Editor's Corners are opinion columns written by Fierce Wireless editors.