Tuesday, August 09, 2011

An Open Letter to Lowell McAdam, Verizon CEO

Dear Lowell McAdam, Verizon CEO,

I saw your ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer today and wanted to offer you a few suggestions. Most of these will be relevant for the next time you are in this situation, as the ship has sailed for them this time around.

Your ad, in my view, was aimed at the general public, trying to show what a great company Verizon is. No offense here but the general public, by and large, does not give you any money. Current Verizon customers do, and potential new customers do. Potential customers are more likely to seek out the opinions of friends and neighbors than remember an ad in the paper.

The ad took up a full page in the paper and probably cost a good amount of money. I think there would have been better ways to spend it. Right now many of your technicians and customer service representatives are on strike and you seem worried about how people will view the company. You should be more concerned with how that strike will affect people who are or want to be your customers. Here’s what you could have done when it was clear that the contract might end without a new one in place:

1) Have a contingent of temporary customer service representatives ready and trained. Either make arrangements with a temp firm or find a company whose customer service workers are in the slow part of their annual cycle. Companies do sometimes share workers if their seasonal workflows are opposite (they are busy when you are not and vice versa). Make sure these people understand your products and can speak English off script and understand idiomatic English. A lot of people are out of work right now and might be very interested in a temporary job.

Have deals thought out and ready to go. Here are some suggestions:

1) Contact people who had scheduled new Verizon hookups and offer them one or two months free service if they are willing to delay their installation for a week or two until things settle down. Not everyone would take it but perhaps enough would that the technicians you do have in the field can handle new installations in a timely fashion.

2) Check to see if current customers who are having connectivity problems are also Verizon wireless customers. If so, offer to let them use their Verizon cell phones to create temporary “hot spots” to ensure as much connectivity as possible until your few technicians in the field can get to them. Hot spots are normally a for fee service. Offer it free with unlimited usage until regular service can be restored. Again, that won’t work for everyone but some people will take you up on it and allow you some breathing room to get the labor dispute settled and experienced technicians in the field.

3) Temporarily remove that really annoying phone tree and make sure when people call they get a real person on the phone who has a good command of English (with people who speak other languages on hand or accessible if needed) can immediately route their calls to the appropriate department.

4) Take out a newspaper ad announcing these and other measures you are taking to ensure current and new customers are happy with their service. Tell people you know they might be inconvenienced and you appreciate their patience, and that delivering a good service with problems handled promptly and correctly is your top priority.

What you absolutely don’t want is to have people who want to buy your service, and current customers with service problems, sitting around waiting for technicians who never arrive or for promised callbacks which never happen. You don’t want people waiting for nearly 20 minutes on the phone to talk to customer service and then get cut off before they are connected. You don’t want one customer service rep telling customers one thing will happen and another customer service rep that something else will happen. You don’t want your company represented by people who appear to be working from a script and can’t respond to questions that don’t follow the script.

I’ve read in a number of places that you make over $50,000 a day. That’s a lot of money; you must be extraordinarily smart and have tiptop organizational skills. So I’m kind of surprised that your top priority at the moment is taking out an ad talking about what a great deal your employees have. Shouldn’t you be focused on customers right now?

Anyway, I hope these suggestions help during the next strike. Or, hey, you could just not ask your workers to accept reduced pay and increased benefits costs. Or, if you do, lead by example and take out an ad telling everyone that you reduced your own pay and increased what you personally pay for benefits. That might go further in raising the company’s public perception than the ad you ran today.

Good luck in all your endeavors,


[posted with borrowed wireless from my neighbor, as I haven't had home Internet service in over a week]

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