Sometimes it’s the little things that trip up a new business strategy and we all know the devil is always in the details. I experienced this on a personal level just this week. Some background:
When we moved to our new condo it was wired for Verizon’s FIOS service and we signed up. The phone, TV and Internet services are terrific, although it turns out that up load speeds on the Internet are far slower than downloads. Since I mainly download information, this was no big deal.
A few weeks later we switched our wireless services to Verizon. Better coverage and having a single supplier made good sense, although I’m sure there will be minor cost savings. Maybe a few dollars. I also decided to receive electronic monthly bills for both services and to pay for the services through an electronic debit option that Verizon offered. I noted at the time that the FIOS services and the wireless services had independent web sites that were only loosely coupled. This was a premiere of things to come.
Every thing was going well and I received a promotion from Verizon to receive one integrated bill for both my FIOS and wireless services. Great, I signed up and then the problems emerged. I received my first integrated bill and the combined costs exceeded $300 for one month. I had already paid separate bills from FIOS and wireless, so I was shocked at the bill. I called Verizon to figure out what had happened.
The FIOS customer service representative was terrific and went to work trying to get things straighten out. Here is what we discovered. The way the consolidated bill works is that the wireless company bills the FIOS company for their services and a consolidated bill is then generated by FIOS. As an aside, the combined bill was 15 pages long and quite confusing. Sounds OK so far.
Using round numbers, the wireless company sent FIOS their first bill for around $300. After doing so the wireless company received my first payment for $300. So their systems, which are not integrated, showed that I owed FIOS $300 and had a credit of $300 with the wireless company. The simple solution seemed to be for the wireless company to send the credit to FIOS.
No way! In turned out there wasn’t a “Verizon” company but in fact FIOS and wireless operate as completely separate companies. With both parties now on the phone call, wireless said there was nothing they could do because I still had an active wireless account. They couldn’t and wouldn’t transfer my credit balance with them to FIOS. I was told the next billing cycle would reflect the credit but it was unclear that it wouldn’t take several months to work off the credit with the wireless company. In the mean time my only option was to pay in full the FIOS bill (i.e., overpay my FIOS bill by $300).
We explored many options to correct the problem. FIOS was willing to acknowledge the dispute in their system but their system would still show the $300 as past due. This created another wrinkle. FIOS had a promotion for a free computer if your account was current for two months. So this strategy, while saving me the overpayment, would cause me to forfeit my free computer. The wireless company offered that I could cancel my service and get my credit refunded immediately. Not a great option and an incredible suggest from the customer’s perspective.
In the end the only solution that worked was to pay my FIOS bill and hope that my credit would appear in the next month’s bill???
What this story surfaces are clear disconnects within Verizon. They want to present themselves to their customers as an integrated company but in fact they are not. The friction between FIOS and the wireless company was obvious during the call and the simple solution of immediately transferring my credit balance with wireless to FIOS was not a possibility. The business rule that wireless can’t issue a credit as long as you have active cell phone services is ridiculous. Most discouraging to me was that my interests as a customer were not important.
In my humble opinion, Verizon should pull back from presenting their FIOS and wireless services as an integrated (voice, TV, Internet and wireless) set until they can support it through a single web site, common business rules that are customer focused, and properly integrated or better still common billing and accounting systems. Their loosely coupled approach is not working.