Verizon: “Is there some reason you’re looking at me?”

In which Paul suffers a broken phone and gets satisfaction from the warranty while simultaneously getting rudeness from a store employee; a missive to the CEO

Mr. Denny Strigl
CEO
Verizon Wireless
Via fax: 908-306/4388
Re: VZW account XXXXXXX
July 3, 2003
Dear Mr. Strigl:
I’m writing this letter to tell you about my most recent visit to your Verizon Wireless store in Maumee, Ohio. I’ve been a Verizon customer since the spring of 2000, when I was so enchanted with the Kyocera 6035 smartphone that I dumped my perfectly good Powertel service and switched. Although I had problems with the local switch (Athens, AL), the good people in the Athens store were unfailingly helpful, and we eventually ironed out the switch problems and got the phone working reliably. I had nothing but praise for Verizon’s service and employees.
Since moving to Ohio, I’ve had occasion to stop at the Maumee store a number of times. Recently, I decided that it was time for a new phone. I’d decided to buy a Bluetooth-capable phone and a new PDA, but after my research, the Kyocera 7135 looked better and better.
I went to the Maumee store in mid-May to buy one. When I arrived, about 6pm, there was no one on the sales floor except for an employee named Bob who was manning the small side kiosk. I waited patiently in line as he dealt with another customer. When that customer was done, I stepped forward, only to hear Bob say “Sorry, we’re closed” and walk off. I left the store fuming, but eventually decided to chalk it up to a bad day on Bob’s part—after all, at the end of a long day, who isn’t sometimes frustrated and snappish?
I went back to the store on June 11th to buy a 7135 before the rebate expired. Ted did a good job of selling me the phone; he was professional, direct, and efficient.
My phone died last night; the digitizer failed, so neither the PDA nor phone functions could be used. I showed up at the store at 9:10 this morning; when I arrived, there were four employees at the sales counter and one, Tiffany, at the customer service counter. Tiffany had several people in line already, so I joined the line, standing facing toward the sales counter. I was treated to the spectacle of your employees chatting with each other (notwithstanding the one lady who was actually helping a customer) while ignoring the people in line at customer service.
After about 15 minutes of this, Bob walked toward the back of the store. He approached me and rudely said “Is there some reason you’re looking at me?” Not “May I help you?” Not “Can I help you with something?” Not even the minimally polite “Are you being helped?” Instead, I get a Travis Bickle imitation: “You lookin’ at me?”
“Yes,” I answered calmly. “The expensive, business-critical phone I bought” (pointing to the dead 7135) “is broken. I’d like someone to help me get a replacement, and Tiffany is busy. Perhaps some of y’all could help.”
Instead of offering his help, or even commiserating, Bob shrugged, sniffed, and walked to the back of the store, never to return. Seeing this, Stephen, one of the other reps at the counter, came over to ask someone in line behind me if he could help them, leaving me to wait in line.
Tiffany labored on, and after another 20 minutes or so it was my turn. She quickly verified that my phone was broken, got a new one from stock, programmed it, and got me on my way.
So, what’s the problem here? It’s threefold:
1. There’s no reason in the world why customers should be queuing for a single employee when there are other employees available. This is such a fundamental principle of retail sales that I’m amazed that your employees apparently don’t know it.
2. When I deal with Verizon, I expect to be treated, at a minimum, with courtesy and respect. I don’t expect your employees to ID me as a long-time good customer on sight, but I certainly will not tolerate them being intentionally rude—and not because I’m a good customer, but because I am a human being. I extend that courtesy and respect to the people I deal with, and I expect it in return, particularly from my business partners and vendors.
3. When I asked Tiffany for the store manager’s name, she gave me his card; unfortunately, he’s managing another store today. Splitting management between stores leads to exactly this kind of inattention and insolence.
I’m writing you this letter because you’re the CEO, and because this store is probably salvageable with some hands-on attention from your office. I’d like an apology from the store manager and a written commitment that he will work to improve the customer service experience in his store and the customer focus, and attitude, of his employees.
Respectfully,
Paul Robichaux
419/873 8308 w
cc: Steve Johnston, via fax: 419/897-9640

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